Whether your goal is to improve your performance or your body composition, the squat is an essential tool for success. Don’t be fooled! Though typically considered a lower body exercise, this “bang for your buck” move offers total-body benefits.
Squatting not only strengthens and develops your leg muscles (most notably your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings), but also the muscles of your anterior core, lower legs, and even your feet. In terms of performance, the squat has a positive carryover to sports performance, your performance in the gym, and your ability to conquer basic daily tasks. And because you’re working with your whole body, squats are also a key element of any fat loss-oriented strength training program.
The barbell back squat is often seen as the king of all squat exercises, but it isn’t always the best option for every individual. Due to limitations in mobility, strength, technical ability, structural differences (for instance, longer femurs), or perhaps a history of injuries, some people are better off skipping the back squat, and opting for variations that align better with their unique requirements.
If this is the case for you (or if you’re an avid barbell back squatter and just want to mix things up), below are three of my favorite squat variations you probably have tried yet. These variations can feel just as empowering as the back squat and will also deliver results.
The Landmine squat is a fantastic bilateral squat variation that strengthens and develops your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and anterior core, and to a lesser degree, your upper body. This is a great option if you’re not able to perform back or front squats with a barbell. If you’re working on improving explosiveness, this set-up is much safer and less technically demanding for performing jump squats than performing them with a barbell on your back. It also allows you to use significantly more weight than holding dumbbells.
You can make this exercise easier by using less resistance, or by performing a box squat variation in which you sit down to a box or bench.
You can make this exercise more challenging by adding more weight plates, chains, or by using band resistance. You can also perform negative reps and take three to five seconds to lower yourself down, or you can perform jump squats.
The band-resisted negative 1.5-rep goblet squat strengthens and develops your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and anterior core. This double squat variation is a great option when you have minimal equipment, or want to give your glutes a little extra work. While the 1.5 rep negative goblet squat is tough enough, add some more resistance with a band and you will be blown away by how much more you feel your quads and glutes working.
You will need a dumbbell or kettlebell and a resistance band to perform this exercise.
You can make this exercise easier by performing it as a bodyweight squat with no resistance band, or by using a lighter resistance band. You can also perform regular goblet squats without the negative half-rep.
You can make this exercise more challenging by using a thicker resistance band, or by using a heavier kettlebell or dumbbell.
This exercise strengthens your lower body, most notably your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. The single-leg squat is a fantastic option if you are working out at home or in a hotel and don’t have access to a gym. While the single-leg squat is a challenging exercise itself, adding the band resistance ups the ante in a major way, lighting your quads and glutes on fire.
You will need a resistance band to perform this exercise. The thicker the band, the more challenging the exercise will be. You can perform this exercise in a squat rack or in a doorway.
You can make this exercise easier by using no band resistance, and by using more upper body assistance.
You can make this exercise more challenging by using less upper body assistance, or using a thicker band. You can also perform negative reps taking three to five seconds to descend into the squat, or you can perform a pause squat variation pausing at the bottom three to five seconds. Lastly, you can perform 1.5 repetitions by squatting all the way down, standing halfway up, squatting back down and then returning to a full standing position.
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