The standard free or Smith barbell squat can get quite dull after awhile, and when motivation sinks, so do results.
You may even know a few squat variations and think that’s all there is, such as pointing the feet outward or doing squats lunge-style under the barbell.
But that’s only the beginning. Just wait till you read what can be derived from the basic squatting motion!
The Many Variations Of Squats
It’s a well-known fact that the squat is one of the best exercises for hypertrophy, fat-burning, strength and toning, but even the king of kings can get boring sooner or later.
1. Sumo Squat
This shifts some muscle fiber recruitment to the inner thighs. The weight load determines if the result will be toning or building.
Benefit: A good exercise for those wishing to tone the inner thighs, though regular use of heavy weights will build the inner thighs.
Place feet very far apart and point them outward as much as possible, then proceed with the exercise.
A lighter weight than what you use for standard squats is necessary, since the inner thigh muscles aren’t as strong as the quadriceps.
2. Lunge Squat
Legs are positioned lunge-style for this, and a sub-variation would be to switch forward and back legs with each repetition.
Benefit: Great for people who love lunges, and one of the targeted areas is where the buttocks (gluteus maximus) ties into the hamstring group of muscles, the so-called “glute-ham tie-in.”
3. Free Barbell Squat Holding Weight In Front Of Body
Hold barbell with straight arms before yourself, then lower your body. As you do so, arms will need to bend to accommodate the barbell; biceps will get hit with this, especially if you go past 90 degrees.
This type of squatting requires quite a bit of arm and shoulder work.
4. Flat-Side BOSU Ball
The BOSU ball or board is that blue half ball with a black flat undersurface. Place the device flat-side up and stand on it.
Some people will struggle to do just body weight squats, especially deep, while others will quickly adapt. This can be done with a barbell across the back or while holding dumbbells at one’s sides.
Benefit: Hones balance skills and offers a fun diversion from the more usual routines.
5. Dumbbell Squats
The weights can be held at one’s sides with straight arms, or in front, which requires an arm bend as one lowers. A sub-variation would be to maintain the arm curl as you come up.
Benefit: Also works shoulders, and biceps if the dumbbells are held in front of body.
6. Smith Machine Foot Placement
Place feet much further out than usual for a different pattern of fiber recruitment.
Benefit: Offers a variation in the pattern of muscle fiber recruitment, and thus, a different feel for the trainee.
7. Tempo And Holding Points
Squats can be varied by speeding up or slowing the reps.
Benefit: There are different benefits, depending on what is done.
The addition of a cardio component is one benefit, if the trainee does the following: Load the Smith bar with what you think would be your 25 rep max.
Now work this as rapidly as possible, making sure you hit 90-degrees each time, and no pausing at the top.
Do 20-25 reps, rest only 45 seconds, then go again—do five sets like this with only 45 seconds in between.
This takes 5-6 minutes and will leave you pummeled…a super way to conclude heavy weight training at the squat rack.
Another derivation would be to hold the squat position for a 3-count, or go up more slowly than usual.
The benefit here is that this can help one bust past a weight-load plateau.
From the bottom of the movement, go up just several inches and then back down; pulse up and down with just a several-inch range of motion for a time-based period or rep-quantity.
Benefit: Great for warming up, cooling down, or for those who prefer lighter-weight squats.
This can be done with a Smith machine or stability ball against a wall.
Benefit: Targets more of the gluteus maximus (main buttocks muscle).
Other variations with barbell squats (though these can also be done with dumbbells) include going up on the toes at the top of the movement for some calve work, or adding a small jump at the top of the movement—which would require using a much lighter weight load.
The jump style works much better with dumbbells.
Another variant would be to add a good-morning at the top of every repetition—which, again, would require a much lighter barbell than usual.
Finally, at the top of every rep, step onto a plyometric stool and back down while still supporting the weight. This, too, will necessitate a lighter resistance.
For those seeking to build huge muscles, you won’t want to focus on squat variations that require a much lighter weight, but the benefits of these modifications include:
- Serving well as warm-ups
- Drills in between normally super-heavy squats
- Tack-ons after heavy sets for a superset
- Upper body involvement
- Cool-down sets at the end of a brutal standard squat or deadlift workout.
- A refreshing change from a monotonous regimen
Beginners or individuals seeking a toned look rather than very hypertrophied can get away with putting more time into these kinds of routines.
This is because the novice body is very quick to respond to lighter-weight compound exercises, and a toned appearance does not require significantly heavy weights.
Other Variations Of Squats
1. Bulgarian Split Squat Variation
This is a stationary lunge done with the back foot up on a bench or stool. It can be done with body weight only, holding dumbbells or using a barbell across the back.
Benefit: Appealing to those who do lunges.
2. Body Weight Squats
Simply squat using just your body weight—as easy as that sounds, this is difficult for some novices, such as older de-conditioned people, and even younger individuals who are in poor physical condition will struggle with these beyond 12 reps.
If getting down to a 90-degree bend is difficult, face the edge of an open door, place hands on either side of the door knob, arms almost straight, and perform the exercise.
Don’t lean back with straight arms, as this is cheating. Hold the door knob only for balance.
Benefit: The body weight style is ideal for people with compromised squatting ability, and this actually includes young, healthy people who’ve led a sedentary life. It’s also a popular cool-down.
3. Jumping Squats
Also known as squat jumps, the top portion of the movement is a jump off the floor. Land softly and smoothly transition back down into the squat.
Deep jumping squats are nasty on the quads, but the benefit is that this exercise is a great superset to standard squats, deadlifts or leg presses, and helps develop power.
For a complete battery of lower body routines that will build muscle and slash fat, you’ll like No-Nonsense Muscle Building Program by Vince DelMonte.
This is a complete training guide for beginners and intermediate/advanced men and women who want to build lean muscle mass.
The book covers all major muscle groups and also provides meal plans to complement your training.
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