We’ve all heard of ‘leg day’ and the notorious physical impact it has on the most experienced of gym-goers. Just that phrase fills most people with dread, simply because the recovery period after exercising legs can be longer and more painful than perhaps, upper body exercises.
Whatever your training goals, whether your aiming to improve performance, lose weight or build muscle, then squatting is so much more of a functional exercise that gives further benefits than relying purely on isolated movements. Squat variations can be built into any workout plan, read on to discover a wide variation that can boost your behind in no time!
Here is a list of Squat Variations you can add your workout:
- Bodyweight Squat
- Box Squat
- Jump Squat
- Sumo Squat
- Surrender Squat
- 3-Way Jump Squat
We discuss each exercise further below
This classic and traditional bodyweight squat will be the foundation for all types of squats to come. If you can perfect this staple movement then you will have a good base to build from.
Standing with your feet at shoulder width, arms at your side and toes turned out slightly. Keep your chest high and your core tense as you slowly bend your knees as if you were sitting on an invisible chair. Hold your hands out in front of your chest as you keep your eyes focused out front, push your hips back and slowly lower your body down. Once your thighs are parallel with the floor squeeze your quads and use your firmly planted feet to push back up to standing position. That’s one 1 rep, do 8 to 10 before resting.
The box squat is a great support if your finding the bodyweight squat above difficult. Replace the “invisible” chair above with an actual chair or box at the gym.
Again standing with your feet shoulderwidth apart, push your hips back and lower yourself down until your bum touches the box or chair. But do not sit down, that’s cheating! As soon as you feel the touch of the box or chair drive into the ground through your heels and push back up to standing position.
Again using the principles above, either with or without the box during the “explosion” phase of the movement, continue into a jump so your feet leave the floor. Slowly lower you bum down, hips back and when you feel the touch of the box or your thighs are parallel to the floor, push your heels into the ground push up into a complete jump.
Jump as high as you can, swinging your arms down by your sides for momentum. Keep your back straight and chest lifted, when you land that is 1 rep before starting again. This “burner” exercise is called that for a reason, burning the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core.
Now, with your feet wider than shoulder width apart in the stance of a sumo wrestler. With your toes pointed out this exercise will strengthen and tone your inner thighs and glutes more specifically than the standard squat above.
Using the standard squat principles, eyes facing forwards, chest high, in a sumo position now lower your bum to the floor, hips back and back straight. Keeping the weight of your body on your heels and bending your knees you can then push the ground with your heels to stand back up to standing/starting position. Squeezing your glutes at the top, that’s one rep, now give me 9 more.
This variation is a great way to approach a squat differently, but still benefiting from the squat principles. You start in the kneeling position on the floor, with your hands behind your head, as if you were surrendering! Step one leg up so you are now kneeling on one knee. Then repeat with the other leg so you find yourself in a deep squat position.
Once in this position, don’t stand up go back to the kneeling position one leg at a time. That is one rep, keep the reps slow and controlled as this exercise is hard work. It engages all core muscles, quads, hamstrings plus more, and can be performed whilst watching X factor in the comfort of your own home.
3-Way Jump Squat
This one really gets the blood pumping. Using your usual jump squat technique, put your feet closer together this time, perform a ‘narrow’ jump squat. Jump out of the squat and land with your feet shoulder width apart. Then, without rest perform another jump squat and land in the sumo squat position, with feet outside of shoulder width. Then jump squat your way back to the regular squat and then back to the narrow squat. This 3-way jump squat will burn your core and all muscle groups in your lower body.
These squat variations can be added to your usual workout routines. They can be performed at home, or in a gym setting; you can use your bodyweight initially, and once perfected then start to add some weight via a kettlebell or dumbbell.
Perform between 8 to 12 reps of each exercise with little rest in between. If this becomes ‘too easy’ then add some weight so anything above 8 reps becomes difficult.
Wrapping it up
Leg exercises can be more taxing than most upper body exercises because they recruit and depend on a wider range of muscles to function. In which case, this recruitment of multiple muscles demands a wider range of exercises to effectively exercise and strengthen them.
The squat movement has long been the ‘go-to’ exercise for training your legs. However, back in the day there was only two ways of performing the squat, ‘properly’ and ‘badly’. Although with the transformation in sport science and a deeper understanding of how the largest muscle group in your body function there are now a wide variation of squats that can drastically improve the size, shape and performance of your legs.
For guys the theme is usually big strong legs to provide a foundation to a big strong body. Without suitable “wheels” then it can be argued that the rest of the body is limited in terms of how well it can perform. For the ladies’ squat variations are key to lean, defined legs and a firm bum.
The traditional squat exercise recruits the quads, glutes, hamstrings and even your core muscles to perform the exercise correctly. And, because all of these larger muscles are required your body burns many more calories than if you were to do isolated exercises targeting each of those muscles one at a time. Therefore, the squat is a no-brainer!