Squats are one of the best exercises you can do because it strengthens the body as a unit by working the largest muscles in the body. It is also one of the few exercises that involve the use of almost all the muscles in your body.
In addition to activating the traditional leg muscles (e.g. hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus maximi), squats allow for considerable core and upper back activation to maintain the weight on your shoulders (with barbell variations). Therefore, having a heavy arsenal of squat variations is essential to keeping your squat routines fresh and effective.
Here are my top 7 favorite squat variations:
1. Kettlebell Squat (Goblet)
First on our list is the versatile Goblet Squat. This exercise can be performed using anything you can grab a hold of, such as a kettlebell or dumbbell. For the avid traveller, a backpack or luggage can be a great alternative to getting your squats in a home workout.
2. Bodyweight Jump (Squat)
Next on our list is the athletic Bodyweight Jump Squat. This is a great exercise that allows you to combine the great benefits of a squat with the explosive burst needed in sports such as basketball or football.
3. Barbell Squat (Front)
The Front Squat is the most upright version of a squat, and has an emphasis on quadriceps development. This variation is great for people who tend to excessively lean forward or for those who experience back discomfort from the traditional Barbell Squat.
The only downside is that front squats require good flexibility in your wrists and shoulders to avoid excessive strain in these joints. If you lack this mobility, Kettlebell Squats (Goblet) are a great alternative.
4. Barbell Squat (Overhead)
The Overhead Squat is the best full body version of the squat that tests the mobility of your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. If you can overhead squat with good form, it is almost guaranteed that you will be able to perform any squat variation with good form.
In addition to the usual muscles worked in a Barbell Squat, the Overhead Squat incorporates the deltoids and upper back muscles (Trapezius, rhomboids). Overhead Squats also require more core stability than the traditional squat.
5. Barbell Squat (Assisted)
For those that have trouble getting deep enough in the squat, Assisted Barbell Squats (a.k.a. Box Squats) are a great way to safely ensure you are going deep enough without falling backwards. It is also a great way to help the lifter get used to sitting back and keeping the weight on the heels to mid-sole when squatting.
6. Barbell Squat
The Barbell Back Squat is the free weight exercise where you will be able to lift the most weight and therefore build the most muscle. With Barbell Back Squats, the weight you can lift is not limited by your ability to keep the weight in front of or above you as in Front, Goblet, or Overhead squats.
The Barbell sits comfortably and securely on trapezius. However, it requires great hip and ankle mobility as well as hip flexor flexibility.
7. Plate Loaded Leg press (Guided)
With a leg press machine, you will be able to push more weight than with a traditional squat due to the angle of the load as well as the stability that machine exercises provide.
Although not recommended over free-weight squats, leg press machines can be a great alternative to free-weight exercises if you are recovering from a sore back, abs, or anything in your upper body that hinders you from performing a free weight squat.
So next time you are the gym and looking to change up your squat routines, take a quick look at this list and keep on squatting!Andrew, a Bay Area native, has been involved in bodybuilding and powerlifting for the past seven years. He grew up in Oakland, CA and graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology. He was involved in the creation of Fitness Buddy in 2011, creating workouts and demonstrating exercises as the first fitness model in the app. He is currently a writer for Azumio and is also a medical student with an interest in Sports Medicine at Touro University, California.
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