Hi! How’s your morning going? Hope you’re having a great one so far! Lately, it’s been squat-stravaganza around here. From Bodypump to barre, there has been a ton of leg work happening.
I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite squat variations today. There are so many squats in the proverbial sea, and it’s a great way to change up your workout routine. Not only do squats help build round and perky glutes, but more importantly, they’re one of my favorite functional exercises. Think about how many times we go from a seated to standing position throughout the day; we want to keep these muscles strong to support this movement throughout life. Also, squats help to build hamstring, quad, glute and core strength, which can all help dramatically in increasing fitness, whether it’s through through running faster, jumping higher, or lifting more weight.
Some of my fave squats:
The classic. The classic never dies. For your regular ol’ squat, make sure your feet are underneath your shoulders (hip width or slightly wider is good) and toes slightly turned out. Focus on sitting back, while keeping your chest lifted and a tight core. Inhale to lower, exhale to rise. Make sure that your knees go towards your toes, but not far past your toes. Sink your hips as low as your flexibility allows, whether it’s a small squat, or to hips just above knee level. You can squat lower than knee level if it works for you, but generally it’s not something that I recommend.
Single-leg. For this version, the basic squat is still the starting point, but one leg is elevated. You can place it on a bench in front of you, or on a stability ball. Experiment with small squats before progressing to the full version.
Wider squat (not quite a plie squat, yet wider than the classic). You’ll step one step wider than your usual squat stance, and make sure to push your knees OUT (so they don’t collapse in) as you sink down low.
Split squat. Place one leg on a bench or physioball that is behind you (around 3 feet). Make sure that as you squat (this really looks more like a lunge), that your front knee doesn’t extend past your toes. Try to get your front thigh parallel to the floor.
Squat tempo variations. Change the tempo of your squats. Instead of a smooth 2-2 squat, try lowering for 3, rising for 1. I also like to hold a squat for 5 seconds and pulse for 5 seconds.
Change the emphasis. Instead of focusing on the “down” portion of the movement, emphasize the UP. As you rise, squeeze every muscle in your legs, and focus on your glutes contracting to perform the exercise.
Balance transfer with body bar. Hold a body bar in front of you (with hands just outside your thighs). Now “walk” your hands to one side of the body bar, so that it’s unequal; you’ll have more weight on one side. Perform your squat set like this, before moving your hands to the opposite side of the bar.
Plie squat. For this squat variation, you’ll take a SUPER wide stance and turn your toes out. As you sink down, keep your chest lifted and endeavor to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Make sure your knees extend towards your toes but not past your toes.
Squat jump. Come into a squat before using your legs to jump (or tuck jump!). Be sure to land softly, with slightly bent knees, before springing back up again.
Plie squat jump. Same as the above, but you’ll start in a wide plie squat stance. Sink down loan before springing up (reaching towards the ceiling). As you land, touch the floor and squat, then repeat.
Squat walk forward. Come into a squat position, and “walk” in the low squat across the room. If people in the gym look at you, it’s just because they’re going to do this in their next workout 😉
Squat walk to the side. Same thing, but you’ll walk side to side. For extra excitement, add a resistance band.
Squat walk backwards. Make sure you have a clear path first! Also I find that it’s better to “toe heel” as I walk back.
Barbell squat. You can either do a front squat (with the bar at your collarbone and heels of your hands pressing into it (elbows underneath the bar) or a back squat with the barbell placed in the meaty part of your back. Since your have weight on your upper body, make sure to keep a straight spine, lifted chest and braced core.
Goblet squat. Hold a dumbbell under your chin, perpendicular to the floor as you perform a classic squat.
Prisoner squat. Place both hands on your head, elbows out, and perform your squat from here.
Braced squat. Hold a flat weight at your chest, and then “press” the weight forward so arms are almost straight (keeping a small bend in the elbows). Hold the weight here as you perform your squat.
Squat jacks. Come into your squat position, and “jack” by jumping your feet in (keeping hips low) and back out to your squat position. Low impact variation: walk your feet in and out.
Plie squat jacks. Same as the above, but start in a plie squat position.
Add a calf raise. After your squat, come up onto your toes (to your highest point) before lowering your heels and repeating.
Wall squat. Stand with your back next to a wall, and walk your feet out in front of you, 1-2 feet-ish, depending on your height. Sink your hips down (sliding them against the wall), and make sure that your legs make a 90 degree angle and your knees are stacked over your ankles. (If you can tell that your knees may extend past your toes, walk your feet out farther.) Hold this wall squat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Squat press. Hold a flat weight at your chest as you squat. As you rise from your squat, press the plate overhead, keeping a lifted chest.
Bench squat. Stand in front of a bench. Sit back into your squat and tap your booty to the bench before standing up. This is also a great one to try with single leg squats.
Squat burpee. Start in a squat position and bring your hands to the floor. Pop your feet back into a plank position (or walk back for low impact) and jump or walk your feet back to your hands. Pop up into squat position (instead of jumping up, like a traditional burpee). Challenge option: add a pushup or tuck jump in there.
Single leg TRX squat. This is a tricky variation, and I only recommend trying this one if you’re comfortable with the split squat and using a TRX. You’ll perform a split squat, placing the back leg into a TRX strap.
Any of your favorite squat variations that I missed?? How often do you work out your legs? (<— I recommend 2x a week max on non-consecutive days)
Any fellow fitness instructor friends currently working legs back to back?