25 ways to squat

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. 

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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: 

25 ways to squat

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? 

xoxo

Gina

Similar:

10 ways to lunge

Ways to plank

Ways to pushup

Ways to burpee

20 things to do with a stability ball

Take your leg workout to the next level

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Comments

  1. The move I love to hate. Thanks, G$!

  2. I love squats!! One of my favorite lower body moves!

  3. I wish I could be a squat-lover. But alas, I am not. You said that you recommend 2x a week. How many should be done in each session?

    • Fitnessista says:

      it depends on the results you’re looking for and what the rest of your workout looks like. i would try two squat variations each time (3 sets of 10-15) and see how that feels!

  4. Awesome roundup girl! I’m always scared of doing too many squats and growing a ghetto booty. I stick to the classic & plié squats but not much variation other than that.

  5. I love squatting! I just attempted the single leg TRX for the first time a couple of days ago and it was so hard to find my balance to get started! Once I found it though the burn is awesome 🙂

  6. I love squats but I just have to say: squatting below parallel is perfectly NATURAL! Think about small children… and people all around the world that rest in a deep squat position or do their business in one. Please reconsider your recommendation!

    http://www.leanitup.com/are-full-barbell-squats-bad-for-your-knees/
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-rippetoe/squats-lifting-knees_b_4490749.html
    http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/let-me-know-if-youve-heard-this-one-before-a-personal-trainer-walks-into-a-bar-and-says-squatting-below-parallel-is-bad-for-the-knees/
    http://www.examiner.com/article/are-deep-squats-good-for-your-knees

    • Fitnessista says:

      i agree that it is natural, especially as a child, but not for the deconditioned adult. if you’ve been working out consistently and you feel comfortable squatting below parallel, go for it– that’s all i was saying.
      if someone’s strength around the knee joint and flexibility aren’t there, it can cause more harm than good, which is why i suggest caution

  7. Love squats! My favorite varieties are of the single-leg kind, because so often we need to fix imbalances between dominate legs and weaker legs. I don’t do strength training on my legs two days in a row, but because of the classes I teach, I definitely get bodyweight work in the legs nearly every day of the week. Seems okay though!

  8. Wow, this is A List. I recently did what you call split squats for the first time and loved that version! Now, to conquer the rest.

  9. Put my hands upon my hips, when you squat, I squat, we squat.

  10. SQUATS! My bane of existence, but with a lot of stretching and mobility work I get to it and yesterday at benchmark week (CrossFit) I reached a PR of 138lbs. I still love the simple Plie air squats the most! Even with a jump 🙂

  11. I love squats but they hurt me so bad! I just did a leg workout that had me walking like a zombie yesterday! I’m hoping to stretch it out with pilates tonight!

  12. Great tips, GIna! Squatting is an awesome way to build strength.

  13. I’m blown away by the amount of variations! Wow!

  14. i love squats! Other squat variations I am think of that you didn’t mention are diamond squat and Bulgarian split squat.

    Also, your cues for a barbell front squat are incorrect. You should absolutely NOT keep your elbows beneath the bar, elbows need to be up, as close to parallel to the ground as you can get them, you should barely be holding on to the bar. Please look up a video on how to do a proper barbell front squat.

  15. Amber Schumann says:

    When my daughter was an infant, and wanting to be held CONSTANTLY, I would squat with her just break up the monotony of holding her. I call it “Baby Mama Squat”. Sometimes it even lulled her to sleep.

    These days (she’s 2 now), she loves following along with squat jumps while I’m exercising in front of her (she’s a big fan of your Winter/Summer Shape Up videos and tries to follow along. It’s ridiculously adorable).

  16. Love this post. I’ve been meaning to look for variations of squats and this is perfect. Thanks Gina!

  17. Wow…I knew about a few squat variations but didn’t realize how many there truly were. A great reminder to keep switching up my workout with different versions to keep challenging my body and keep it guessing and constantly adapting. I work legs anywhere from 1-2x a week max. Usually 1 heavy day and 1 day where I focus more on plyos.

  18. I haven’t done squat walks in forever – I completely forgot about them but they definitely work!

    I love squats – my favorite are front squats in a squat rack. Another type I like not on your list is box squats

  19. I love/hate squats. What I typically do is some days I’ll use HEAVY weights and low reps, and other days I’ll use lighter or no weights and more reps…not sure if that’s recommended, but it seems to work for me.

    • Also, thanks for the ideas on other squat variations! I’ll have to pin this so I have something to do when I get bored of the same old thing all the time 🙂

  20. Thanks for all the squat ideas! Today my trainer had me do squats while standing on the flat side of a bosu with weights in each hand to do a shoulder press on the up side of the squat. It took a long time before I could do this one – the balance part is hard!

  21. Yaara Leve says:

    Did you teach bodypump and 2 barre classes yesterday?? Rockstar!!! How do you get your energy–lol

  22. I love, love, love squats! I mix up the type, weight, amount, all the time. Thanks for adding some more into the mix for me! I’ve been working on trying to do a pistol squat. I’m starting with both legs on the ground and have my heels on a balance disk to lift them a bit. This allows me to go deeper into the squat and can help you transition to deeper squats as your calves get more range of motion (mine are a buit tight, especially the Achilles).

  23. I do the hardest squat combinations in my HIIT workouts, like the explosive jumping ones yoy mentionned. 🙂 try the tuck jump butler followed by squat jacks! It a monstrous.

  24. Great round up! I love squatting so I’m always looking for ways to mix things up!

  25. Squats are finally getting better for me after I have worked out some bad form habits I had picked up. I’ve tried all of the variations you listed except the body bar one, but my favorites are split squats and plié squats.

    For ones you didn’t list, I also really like pistol squats and single leg squats off the edge of a box/bench.
    – For the pistol squats (single leg), I hold on to the TRX straps at chest level (when standing) to help balance when going down or for help if needed when going up. I don’t normally use these with tension (like leaning back into the squat) – just have the straps there if needed. This has helped a ton and allows me to work on weaknesses in each leg individually.
    – For the single leg squats (similar to this step down, but on a higher platform – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgTKgtV1ltk), I stand on a box or bench with the arch of my foot running parallel to the side edge (so big toe and inside of heel also on edge). Then, you squat down and tap the heel of the opposite foot on the floor and come back up. This really helps to work the inside of the knee as well, where a lot of females tend to be weak and get injuries.

  26. Squats for a booty!

  27. Alexandra says:

    Great post! I love (hate) squats and am excited to try out some of these new variations! Thank you!

  28. Woo!! So many squats!

  29. I loveeee all these variations! My favorite is adding in holds and pulses. Squat walks with weight are always a killer but equally fun to me 😉

  30. Awesome roundup! Getting Pinned for sure. I have one more for you – a killer. Punisher Squats. Learned them from Craig Ballantyne. You do regular squats for 20 seconds with good form and then HOLD at the bottom for 10 seconds! Yikes. It’s part of a sequence but I supposed it could be done in sets too.

  31. Another variation I love is curtsy squats. For a challenge I bring the leg that’s crossing behind up and lift the knee after squatting.

  32. I love the variation! Plie squats are my favorite but I like to call them sumo squats because they remind me of a sumo wrestler 🙂

  33. Drop it like a squat! Just did a leg work out my legs are dying today, but its worth it!

  34. Great list of squat variations…racking my brains to think of another squat but I think you’ve nailed it!

  35. Love all these variations!! Burpee squats and jump squats are some of my favorites.

  36. Who knew there were so many different way to squat?! LOL I’ve been squatting for years (ever since my butt fell off after having a baby) and I think I finally perfected my squat forms a few months ago.

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