10 squat variations {bodyweight squat variations that can be done anywhere}

When it comes to fitness, legs are often under-worked and neglected. Think about it, generally most people will spend a day at the gym focusing on chest and biceps, then another whole day dedicated to back and triceps, but just one day for legs, which contain the largest muscles in our body.  Wait, what? Yes…have you ever seen those muscle men at the gym that have HUGE upper bodies and toothpicks for legs? Yeah-not attractive. Squats are so important, particularly important to be done with proper form to prevent unnecessary strain on the lower back, or injury in general.  I often see people at the gym packing on the weight for a back squat, then only squatting down four inches.  Squats are functional movements that can be transformed into movements for everyday life at any age. 

Here are 10 squat variations that can be done all in one workout for one killer strength session, or you can choose just one or more of these to add to your workout routine.  I suggest mastering the basic air squat before moving on to the next squat variation. 

1. air squat

Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.  Sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat as low as possible, keeping your heels on the ground, without letting your knees move in front of your toes and maintaining proper form.  Your goal is to get your thighs parallel to the ground. 

2. sumo squat

Begin with your feet wider than shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.  Sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat as low as possible, keeping your heels on the ground, without letting your knees move in front of your toes and maintaining proper form.  Your goal is to get your thighs parallel to the ground.  This exercise is generally done with weight.  Once you can do the movement with proper form then add a light pair of dumbbells.  Hold the dumbbells in your hands and bring them down to the floor between your legs as you squat down.  It is important to continue to keep your core tight and chest up to protect your lower back.

3. plié squat

Begin with your feet in a wide stance and toes pointed out.  Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, while maintaining proper form.  Keep your chest up and remember to keep that lumbar curve and do not round your back.

4. frog squat

Begin with feet winder than shoulder width and toes slightly turned out.  Squat back until your thighs are parallel to the ground or below.  Keep your elbows on the inside of your knees and push your hips up while keeping a flat back and neutral spine. 

5. squat kick back

Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.  Sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat as low as possible, keeping your heels on the ground, without letting your knees move in front of your toes and maintaining proper form. As you come up, keeping your hips square, squeeze your glutes and kick your leg back behind you. Alternate legs after each squat.

6. jump squat

Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.  Sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat as low as possible, keeping your heels on the ground, without letting your knees move in front of your toes and maintaining proper form. As you come up, jump up explosively, lifting your feet off the ground.  As you land, move immediately into a squat and repeat the movement.

7. prisoner squat

Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.  Place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows back, sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat as low as possible, keeping your heels on the ground, without letting your knees move in front of your toes and maintaining proper form.

8. narrow squat

Begin with your feet in a narrow stance almost completely together, toes pointing forward. Sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat until your thighs are just above parallel, keep your heels on the ground and be sure not to let your knees move in front of your toes.

9. figure-four squat

Begin with your feet comfortably below your hips.  Cross one leg over your planted leg so that the outside of your ankle is on your thigh.  Sit back like you are sitting in a chair, keep your chest up and be sure to maintain your natural lumbar curve (don’t round your back).  Squat as low as possible, keeping the heel of your planted leg on the ground, without letting your knee move in front of your toe and maintaining proper form. 

10. pistol squat

Begin with your feet comfortably below your hips.  Lift one foot off the ground, extending it out in front of you.  Slowly squat down by flexing at the knee and hip.   Squat as low as your flexibility allows, then drive weight through your heel and squat up.  This exercise requires balance and mobility as well as strength, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get this movement right away. Check out 5-steps to a pistol squat for progressive exercises to master this movement.  

Bethany DavisComment