Whether you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, Strongman, or CrossFitter, you know that squats have a special place in your workouts.
Squats are considered one of the big four exercises in fitness. They activate several major muscle groups including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. For those who are muscle bound, squats have been shown to trigger a greater release of testosterone and support a higher degree of fat burning.
The problem is that most people will focus on one type of squat: the barbell back squat. Now there’s nothing wrong with the back squat, but adding some variety to your leg workouts can help you achieve better results. Let’s take a look at the top 10 squat variations for more strength, power, and muscle.
1. JUMP SQUAT
Jump squats seem easy on paper, but they are anything but. Activating your fast-twitch muscle fibers, jump squats are a form of plyometrics used by athletes. Helping to improve performance such as your vertical jump, this type of squat can help you generate more force production while increasing endurance.
2. FRONT SQUAT
Give your back a break for a change with the front squat. Balancing the barbell across your front deltoids with a squat pad and performing a parallel or deep squat, you’ll shift the activation away from the glutes and hamstrings, putting it directly on the quadriceps. Front squats also take away pressure from the lower back and reduce the chance of butt wink, making this variation ideal for those with prior injures or surgeries.
3. SUMO SQUAT
The sumo squat takes a wide stance and points the toes out. You’ll still be hitting the same muscle groups as before, but now you are targeting the inner thighs or hip adductors as well. For people who naturally have a larger build, the sumo stance squat is a welcome variety allowing for greater depth without lower back pain.
4. ELEVATED BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
A personal favorite is the elevated Bulgarian split squat. In this exercise you are isolating each leg, helping to eliminate any potential issues with overcompensation. The split squat can help with quadriceps separation, ensuring you achieve that tear drop look. It is a killer glute exercise, and it can dramatically improve your balance. Not bad, eh?
5. HEX BAR SQUAT
For those who love squats, but aren’t able to perform a traditional barbell squat due to a prior injury or physical limitation, the hex bar squat is for you. Standing inside of a hexagonal-shaped bar, you’ll have even weight distribution that is centered with your body. The hex bar squat eliminates any risk of forward or back lean while eliminating the pressure and impact from a loaded barbell on your back.
6. FROG SQUAT
This one looks a bit funny, but it’s a must if you want to challenge yourself and increase your results. The frog stance brings your feet close together, ensuring a high level of activation of the outer quadriceps. Next, you’ll point your toes out. This will engage the hip adductors and demand a lot from your balance. If you want to add more width to your legs, be sure to add this exercise to your routine.
7. JEFFERSON SQUAT
Popularized by Kai Greene while training for the Mr. Olympia, the Jefferson squat is an ego-free lift that takes a few tries to get comfortable with. Stradling the barbell, one foot goes in front and the other is back and turned out. Grab the barbell in front of you and behind you, and begin squatting. Something of a combination of a sumo squat with a hex bar squat, the Jefferson squat challenges balance, endurance, and strength.
8. PISTOL SQUAT
If you want to show off your athletic prowess at parties, the pistol squat is the way to do it. This single legged squat variation is no easy feat to pull off, but practice makes perfect. As an isolation exercise, the pistol squat can help to eliminate any over compensation issues, bringing your weakest links up to speed. By eliminating any potential weaknesses, you’ll find that when you return to the barbell back squat, you’ll be much stronger.
9. SISSY SQUAT
Don’t let the name fool you, this squat variation is anything but a sissy exercise. Locking your feet into a sissy squat bench or holding on to a Smith Machine barbell, you sit back and go deep. Now drive your hips forward as you try to stand back up. With the bench, you’ll naturally be leaning back, activating your quadriceps to an insane degree. This is another exercise that is a must if you want to carve out those teardrop quadriceps.
10. WALL SQUAT
Let’s finish up this list with a squat variation that everyone loves to hate: the wall squat. Leaning up against a wall, you drop down into a parallel squat position. Now hold it…for as long as you can. This exercise is no joke. It’s been shown to activate both types of muscle tissue, helping to increase muscle mass as much as strength and endurance. If you really want to bring on the pain, try holding a plate or dumbbell across your lap. For those with prior knee issues, consider wearing a knee sleeve.