9 Squat Variations to Spice Up Your Bodyweight Workouts
It’s the holiday season, which means you might be away from home, your gym might be shut or you just want to use the time off to get an exercise regime in place. Here, Tanya Poppett gives you plenty of ways to try an exercise you can do just about anywhere: the squat.
Commonly dubbed the ‘King’ of all exercises, the squat is a compound movement that strengthens some of the biggest muscle groups in the body; the Quadriceps, the Glutes and the Core.
While there are many ways to switch up the squat using weights and other equipment, I thought I would share some creative ways to get more out of this popular movement using just your bodyweight. You can use these variations to add variety to your workout regime this holiday season.
Staggered Stance Squat
This variation offers a great opportunity to work on hip stability and increase load through one leg. When performing this exercise, it is key that the majority of your weight is going through the front leg and the back leg is merely there to offer a little support like a kickstand.
This is a great progression for your basic squat, as it allows you to increase the load going through one leg, without having to add any weight.
Isometric or “static” exercises force you to hold the movement where the prime muscle groups are typically at their weakest. This makes the muscles work overtime, holding up your bodyweight and increasing their overall time under tension.
In the case of the squat hold, our quads and glutes are put into overdrive as they work to support your bodyweight in their lengthened state. To perform this exercise safely, make sure you keep your ribs pulled down, your chin tucked and knees pressed out against an imaginary resistance.
Want a quick way to light up those quads? This variation is for you. Frog squats focus on the movement of the knee joint – working through flexion and extension. These partial reps again help keep tension in the muscle throughout the movement, which is why they burn like hell.
If you want to get the most out of this exercise, create your own resistance by pressing your elbows against your knees and knees against your elbows. If you are struggling to get the depth, perform the movement with your heels elevated on a bumper plate or thick textbook.
1 ¼ Squats
This variation may also be referred to as pulsing squats; again using the power of partial reps to keep the tension in the bottom of the rep. The pulse is also a great opportunity to focus on your form in the bottom of your squat and make sure you are staying active throughout the movement.
To get the benefit of the partial rep, it is important to stay in control of the movement and not just bounce your way out of the bottom of the squat.
Combining mobility and strength, the Cossack squat is one of my favourite bodyweight exercises. This challenging movement allows you to transfer more load and increase the range of motion on a single leg.
To practice this movement safely, reduce the depth and keep the foot of the straight leg planted.
The Prisoner Squat is a basic squat performed with your hands above your head. This seemingly little adjustment makes it challenging for your core as you now have to fight the urge to extend through the lower back as you move.
When performing this variation, it is important to keep those ribs pulled down with a slight tuck of the pelvis. You will also need to make sure you are not pushing your head down with your hands. Keep that neck long and chin tucked.
A hinge and a squat all in one, this is one of my favourite warm-up exercises. It encourages that mind-to-muscles connection and helps mobilise through a few key joints; hips, knees and ankles.
Start the movement by folding at the hips with soft knees. Once you feel a light pull on the hamstrings, you can then bend at the knees bringing your hips past parallel.
Still need something with a little more intensity? The Squat Jump is for you. High impact and high intensity, the squat jump is great for building strength and power in the quads, glutes and hamstrings.
The landing is everything in the squat jump; the key is to focus, keeping your landing as quiet and as soft as possible.
Single Leg Squat
Now you’ve got your basic squat down pat, you are ready to level up and take on the single leg squat. This squat will challenge your single leg stability and strength.
It is perfect for runners looking to improve their running stride and help reduce the risk of injury. A great way to build up to this variation is to squat down to a chair, reducing the range of motion.
Squats are just one of many exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home. Check out more home workouts from a slew of professionals in My Muscle Chef's Move with MYMC series below.