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Squat Variations

by Alexandra Parren
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squat variations

Squats lie at the heart of any good workout routine. Whether you are looking to lose weight, get fit, or train for a specific sport, you should be incorporating squats into your training. It's always good to mix up your training so that you can be sure you're working your muscles thoroughly, so try some of these squat variations to keep your workouts interesting and work your body in a different way to get better results.

Jumping squats

Adding plyometrics to any routine sends your heart rate through the roof and super-sizes your calorie burn. In it's simplest sense, plyometric training is any movement that involves jumping.

How to do jumping squats

Start in a regular squat position with your feet just outside shoulder width. Sink your weight back into your heels ready to perform your squat, sink your bum back as low as you can but instead of driving up as normal, jump. Explode upwards using all your strength and then land softly. As soon as you land, sink into your next squat and continue the momentum.

jumping squat

Pistol squats

Pistol squats are a 3 in 1 exercise, training strength, balance, and mobility all in one killer exercise. Pistol squats are also great for eliminating imbalances. Naturally, we have one leg stronger than the other and what tends to happen when we squat is that the stronger leg takes charge and puts in more work than the weaker one. Isolating each leg individually in exercises like this one not only increases the intensity of the exercise but promotes a balance in strength as the legs learn to work independently of one another in the lift.

How to do pistol squats

Stand on one leg and extend the other leg out in front of you, keeping it straight. Now, maintaining your balance, extend your arms out in front of you and sink down into a squat on the supporting leg. Your arms and leg should be out in front of you as your hamstring touches your calves at the bottom of your squat. Driving off your supporting leg, stand back up, without using any help from your arms. This can be made easier by performing half reps onto a bench, sitting on the bench being the bottom of the movement, or by holding onto a TRX suspension trainer.

Pistol Squat with TRX

Pause squats

Pause squats utilise the isometric principle of holding a movement and keeping the muscles under tension for longer periods of time. By pausing at the bottom of a squat, you will not be able to bounce out of the bottom of the movement and therefore have to work your glutes and legs much harder. It also gives your body a little longer to develop lactic acid which will promote faster muscle growth.

How to do pause squats

Set up the barbell and rack for a regular squat. When you reach full depth, pause and hold in this position before returning to the start. Beginners should pause for 2 seconds and work their way up to pausing for as long as 10 seconds. If you have only recently started exercising, do this movement with no weight to begin with and just use body weight.

Barbell overhead squats

Taking the bar over your head requires a strong core, good shoulder flexibility, and exceptional mobility. The overhead squat is also good as a corrective exercise for those with tight pecs and over-extended shoulders as in order to perform the lift correctly, you’re required to stretch and work on the flexibility and strength of these areas. It's also a great tool to mobilise your thoracic spine, ankles, and hips, and will help you feel more comfortable at the very bottom of a squat, front squat, or snatch. This is a very advanced move and is difficult to execute, so start with a very low weight before you attempt anything heavier,

How to do an overhead squat

Take a wide grip of the bar so that your hands are right near the end. Take the bar overhead so it's in line with your heels, extending your shoulders and pushing your chest forward. Imagine the bar is an elastic band and stretch it as tightly as possible above your head by pulling your hands apart as they hold the bar. Pulling at the bar forces you to stretch out your arms and lock the elbows. Your squat form doesn’t change from that of a body weight squat, however now you have a weight overhead to focus on. As you sink into your squat, don’t let the bar move forward or behind your heels and make sure you still reach below parallel before you rise back up to full extension.

overhead barbell squat

Box Jumps

Box jumps take plyometric jumps and add a height target. Box jumps improve your speed, power, and strength. The only problem with box jumps is that they require something to jump on. Though, this isn’t limited to your gym's plyometric box stack, you can use a gym or even park bench and even stairs if need be.

How to do box jumps

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Sink into your squat to load the legs into a quarter squat, use your arms to add momentum and launch yourself up onto the bench/box/step. Bend the knees to cushion your landing and squat before then jumping or stepping backwards off the bench and onto the floor, again landing softly.

Wall Sit

A wall sit is an isometric exercise which means your muscles are under tension while not moving. This builds up lots of lactic acid and will condition your legs to have better endurance.

How to do wall sits

Push your back against a wall in a seated position and hold your arms out in front of you. Hold the position for as long as possible, a beginner would do well to hold for 30 seconds.

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