January 13, 2022 9 min read

The squat is a very functional exercise, which means it trains a movement pattern that you use in everyday life. You don't need any equipment to do a basic squat because your weight and gravity will provide all the resistance you need, but you can easily add free weights or resistance bands if you want to make things harder. This article will outline some of the best squat variations to help you build the levels of strength you have been dreaming of.

Types of Squats

The squat is an effective lower-body exercise that works lots of muscle groups at once, such as the glutes and quads in your legs, and even your core muscles. While all squats are considered lower-body exercises, there are many different types of squats that each target slightly different muscle groups.

For example, when your legs are farther apart in a squat, you will be working your inner thighs and glutes a little more than your quads. If a squat variation includes an upper-body movement, like an overhead press, you will be adding some shoulder and arm work. Squat variations that include a plyometric component such as a jump can also be good cardio exercises.

When it comes to adding equipment,squats are versatile. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or resistance bands. It really comes down to what you are most comfortable with and maybe even what is available to you in your gym. Squats can be done with heavy loads or training volumes to help produce some impressive overall muscle and strength gains. 

To allow your lower back enough time to recover, you should rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups. A good way to add extra bulk and power is to try our  Mass Stack T-Boosted Strength & Lean Muscle Builder in combination with weightlifting and possibly even with the help of a personal trainer.

Practicing Proper Squat Form

In terms of how low you should squat, there really is no set answer. The depth of your squat will depend on many variables, including your hip and ankle mobility.  Squatting deeper will engage more muscles than squatting just an inch or two, so your goal is to eventually squat as deep as you can. If your heels begin to lift off the floor or your torso begins to round forward, that's a good place to stop. If you can't bring your hips down enough to get your thighs parallel to the floor, then just go as far as you can without straining. 

You will still be working your legs and all of your core muscles, and as you get stronger and move through this range of motion more often, you can start squatting lower over time. So if you can lower your body until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, great. If not, don't force it until you have built up more lower body strength. It's always better to maintain good form rather than to reach a certain depth.

It's really important when you are squatting to try and bend your torso forward from your hips (called a hip hinge) and push your rear end behind you as you bend your knees and go lower. This puts most of your weight on your heels, which will help take the stress off your knees. If your weight is too far forward, you might feel it in your knees, which you don’t want. You want to feel it in your glutes and quads. When you hinge forward, keep your core engaged so that your back is flat and does not arch or round forward.

Also, never let your knees cave inward. This applies during both the down and up portion of the squat. If you can, watch yourself in the mirror for a few reps. Your knees should remain in line with the second toe on each of your feet. If your knees collapse in at all, try pressing them out just a little bit as you bend and extend them. Also, if you have any trouble with keeping your knees from moving inward, put down the weights and just keep doing body squats until you can control your knees a little more. Once you can do that, here are 10 squat variations that you can try during your next workout.

Best Squat Variation #1: Bodyweight Squat

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, arms at your sides, palms in.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and your back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position. 
  3. Bend your elbows and bring your palms together in front of your chest.
  4. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #2: Jump Squat

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out and your hands in front of your chest.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
  3. Jump as high as you can and swing your arms down by your sides for momentum. Keep your back straight and chest lifted.
  4. Land with soft knees for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #3: Sumo Squat

 

In this variation, your legs will be placed wider and your toes will be more turned out, which is a position that works your inner thighs and glutes a bit more than a standard squat.

  1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned out, your arms by your sides, and your palms in.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position. 
  3. Bend your elbows and bring your palms together in front of your chest.
  4. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #4: Dumbbell Front Squat

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out, a weight in each hand on the tops of your shoulders, and your palms in.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
  3. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #5: Squat Jack

 

  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  3. Push your feet out so that they are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
  5. Push through your heels to stand and jump your feet back together, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #6: Goblet Squat

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out and a weight held in both hands in front of you so it hangs vertically.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
  3. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #7: Squat with Lateral Leg Raise

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out, a weight in each of your hands at the tops of your shoulders, and your palms in.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
  3. Drive through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top. Then lift your right leg out to the side, flexing your foot and keeping your leg straight and toes forward. You might have to put more weight onto your left leg, but always be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged.
  4. Lower your right leg for one rep. Do your desired number of reps and then switch sides and repeat.

Best Squat Variation #8: Kettlebell Squat

 

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out, holding a kettlebell by the handle with both hands in front of you, with your palms in and your elbows bent.
  2. Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
  3. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #9: Barbell Front Squat

 

  1. Stand directly underneath a barbell inside a squat rack with your feet parallel, so that the bar rests on your collarbone and gently presses against your throat.
  2. Grab the bar with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, with your elbows forward and your palms up.
  3. Stand tall, unrack the barbell, and step back. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and turn your toes out 20 to 30 degrees.
  4. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat as you push your knees slightly out to the sides. Keep your chest upright.
  5. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Best Squat Variation #10: Barbell Back Squat

 

  1. Grab a barbell inside a squat rack with your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Duck underneath the bar and push your upper back against it.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades to create a muscular “shelf” for the bar to rest on.
  4. Stand tall, unrack the barbell, and step back. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and turn your toes out at about 20 to 30 degrees.
  5. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat as you push your knees slightly out to the sides.
  6. Push through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for one rep.

Deadlifts 

 

In terms of the type of exercise, you will find that deadlifts are similar to squats in that they activate your back, your hamstrings, your quadriceps, your glutes, and all of the muscles in your hips. You can work up to doing deadlifts with a stack of heavy weights if you are trying to produce major strength gains through powerlifting. 

When you are doing deadlifts, the back muscles do not contribute directly to your range of motion, but they do help keep your spine safe. Take your starting position and follow the steps below to do a deadlift. Choose  three or four exercises and divide your training sets equally. Set it up with an equal number of vertical pulls to horizontal pulls.

  1. Your standing position will be in front of a loaded barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart, your hips back, and your back flat. 
  2. Bend your knees slightly to grip the bar tightly slightly wider than your shoulder blades. 
  3. Keep your back flat and your chest up and tighten your back muscles. 
  4. Straighten your arms as you load the pull. 
  5. Push your legs into the floor and pull your chest and shoulders upwards as you compound lift the bar up to your hips.

Some Other Important Tips

The best way to add all of these squats to your routine will probably vary depending on your personal goals. For example, if you would like to add some cardio exercises to an otherwise strength-focused workout, do one of the jumping squat variations in between some of your other moves. Squats are some of the best exercises to lose weight, and if you want to start losing even more body fat, you might want to also use a supplement like our Ultimate Shred Stack Fat Loss & T-Boosted Lean Muscle Builder.

If you mostly want to build strength in your lower body, choose one of the above squats that sounds most interesting to you and try it instead of regular squats. If you want to just work your glutes at the end of your workout, try combining a squat that doesn’t require jumping with one that does. Do up to 15 reps of each type, and then repeat the motion two or three times.

Warming Up Before and After Squatting

If you plan to do squats regularly, always remember to warm up correctly before and after each workout session. This helps reduce your risk of experiencing back pain or other injuries. Always include proper warm-ups, a lot of rest, and a good nutrition program in your overall bodybuilding regimen. Your results will always be based on these few variables, and also on how well you can recover from your workouts.