Some will love em’, some will hate em’, some just do them because they read in a magazine that they are good to do…
Ah the wonderful full bodied exercise that gets me errrr somewhat cringing when I step up to the barbell and am ready to perform a barbell back squat.
But WHAT Jess?! You’re not allowed to say that…you’re a Personal Trainer/Coach and should like every single exercise that you do..
Well I hate to break it to you guys, but barbell back squats are not necessarily my forte and quite frankly one of MY weaknesses. One of the exercises where I don’t feel as strong in, one of the exercises where my quads feel like they are on fire when I put a heavy load on my back (and haven’t even started yet), and just overall not my fav. Yup, there I said it.
Just because you are a Trainer or a Fitness Coach and believe that a certain movement is crucial to do, (which in this case is squats and I believe are such an amazing exercise)…does NOT mean that you have to be limited to one variation OF that exercise.
SO, while I just went on my rant about not being the biggest fan of Barbell Back Squats, does not mean that I dislike squats in general. In fact, I am such a big fan on mixing it up with squats that’s why I wanted to share with you many other variations to try out and see if there is one in there that you prefer!
Here are 8 Squat Variations To Try Out (and maybe, just maybe… you will like 1 or 2 of them 😉 ) Let me know if there is one listed below that is your fav or if you have one that I didn’t mention!!
- Bodyweight Squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. You can place your hands out front or above your head.
- Begin the movement bracing your abs, thinking about maintaining a neutral spine, and by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips.
- Then you will lower your glutes down to an appropriate depth and then reverse the motion until you return to the starting position.
- Make sure you squeeze your glutes when you finish!
- Prisoner Squat
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and by placing your hands behind your head.
- You will then begin the movement by flexing your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips.
- Continue to lower down until you get to an appropriate depth for yourself.
- You will then reverse the motion until you return to the starting position. As you squat, keep your head and chest up and push your knees out, think about tracking along your second toe.
- Jump Squat
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Next you will start by doing a regular squat, engaging your core and will both feet planted firmly into the ground jump up explosively.
- Your arms will swing back as you jump up explosively and you will let out a good exhale.
- When you land, lower your body back into the squat position and inhale your breath. Try to land as quietly as possible.
4. Goblet Squat
- You will start this exercise by standing up, holding a kettlebell by the horns close to your chest, and elbows tucked in. This will be your starting position.
- Next you will squat down, with the kettlebell in front of your chest, elbows tucked in, close to the inside of your knees. Keep your chest and head up and your back straight.
- At the bottom position, pause and use your elbows to push your knees out.
- You will then reverse the motion to come back up to the starting position where you will squeeze your glutes.
5. Double Kettlebell Front Squat
- First start out by cleaning two kettlebells to your shoulders. Clean the kettlebells to your shoulders by extending through the legs and hips as you pull the kettlebells towards your shoulders. Rotate your wrists as you do so.
- Next by keeping your spine/neck in a neutral position-look straight ahead or a little downward at all times, squat as low as you can and pause at the bottom. As you squat down, push your knees out.
- Try to work on keeping an upright torso, with your chest up and neutral spine.
- Reverse the motion back up by driving through your heels and repeat.
6. Barbell Front Squat
- This is an awesome exercise to do and often times gets neglected because of the big bad barbell back squat. The barbell front squat is a multi-joint exercise that really works on strengthening the quads and core more.
- If you have never tried this exercise before- it would be safer to try it inside a squat rack and make sure the bar is at a correct height for yourself. (Also I think the Double KB Front Squat is safer to start with too 😉 )
- You will then face the bar and then slide your arms/elbows up under the bar so that your palms/wrists are facing up toward the ceiling. You will then rest the bar along your anterior deltoids (the shoulder muscles in front of your body) and work on keeping your elbows up (like you are pointing your elbows out at the wall in front of you) You can either 1- position both hands under the bar with supinated grip or 2- cross your arms-one over the other (over the bar) kinda like “I dream of Jeannie”
- Next lift the bar off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.
- Then step away from the rack and position your legs using a shoulder width stance with the toes slightly pointed out. Keep your head up (or in a good neutral position- I tend to look slightly downward) This will be your starting position.
- Next begin to slowly lower the bar by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until the angle between the upper leg and the calves becomes slightly less than 90-degrees (which is the point in which the upper legs are below parallel to the floor). Inhale as you perform this part of the movement.
- Then begin to raise the bar as you exhale by pushing your feet into the floor mainly with the mid part of your foot as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position.
7. Barbell Back Squat
- Begin with the barbell supported on top of the traps- not your neck!
- Your chest will be in an upright position (but depending on where the bar is located on your back may make you have more of an upright chest than the other- but that is for another discussion!) Your head/eyes will be facing forward.
- You can position your feet into a hip-width or shoulder width stance with the feet turned out as needed. Depends on what feels more comfortable for you.
- Descend by flexing the knees and sitting back into your squat. Think about as you squat down to center the weight over your midfoot.
- Continue all the way down, keeping the weight over the midfoot. Once you are at a good squat depth for yourself, you will then reverse the motion, driving the weight upward. Make sure when you return to the starting position you squeeze your glutes and reinforce good hip extension.
8. Bulgarian Split Squat
- The Bulgarian split squat is a single-leg strength exercise that targets mostly the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. You can perform this exercise with bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell.
- Start by placing a bench, or couch,or box behind you. You will then place the top of your foot over that box and then bring your other leg/foot out at a good distance. One where your knee won’t go too far over your toes.
- You will then start by simultaneously bending that hind leg ( the knee) down toward the floor, inhaling your breath and your front leg will receive more of the weight and will be the quad area that you will be feeling as you bend it to a 90 degree angle. Make sure your abs are braced.
- Once you go to your desired depth, you will then exhale as you return your body back up to the starting position.
There you have it, 8 squat variations to try out! Let me know if I listed one you love or you absolutely love one that I did not mention. Would love to hear from you 🙂