Get Better Legs With 13 Squat Variations

Think there’s only one way to do a squat? Think again! Get-Fit Guy has 13 squat variations to work your lower body, boost performance, and improve strength.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #90

Get Better Legs With 13 Squat Variations

When you think about the squat exercise, which I introduced in How To Squat Safely, you typically think of the back squat, in which you place a barbell on your back, or the body weight squat, which is the popular “air” squat you might do in a cardio class, fitness boot camp, or body weight workout. But there are many other squat variations you can do to get better hips, butt, and thighs or develop more athletic strength and power. In this episode, you’ll get 13 different variations of the squat exercise, along with tips for how to do each one.

13 Squat Variations

Depending on how you do a squat, you may work your low back more than your quads, or your hamstrings more than your low back. By knowing different squat variations, you can not only target a body part or movement more efficiently, but you can also have an option to turn to if your favorite piece of exercise equipment is getting monopolized at the gym, or you just can’t make it to the gym!

Here are 13 variations of the squat, with video links to each:

  1. Back Squat. In a back squat, the weight (typically a barbell) is placed across the back of your shoulders and upper back. Since it gives you a very good mechanical advantage, the back squat is good for lifting heavy weights and working your quads, butt, low back, and abs.

  2. Front Squat. Perform a front squat by holding, or “racking” a barbell on the front of your shoulders, then squatting. Compared to the back squat, the front squat is better for strengthening the low back, and can be easier on the knees.

  3. Lateral Squat. The lateral squat, as the name implies, involves moving towards one side or the other as you squat, and is good for improving hip mobility and your side-to-side movement strength.

  4. Goblet Squat. The goblet squat is a perfect movement for learning how to squat, and to do it, you simply hold a weight (such as a dumbbell or med ball) close to your chest as you squat.

  5. Split Squat. To simultaneously improve stability and single leg strength, nothing beats the split squat, also known as the “Bulgarian” squat. To do it, put one foot in front of your body, and the other foot behind you, then squat in a lunging position. You can also do a split squat with your back leg elevated on a chair, step or bench.

  6. Drop Squat. A drop squat is very good for training athletes how to properly land, and can also be a great cardio workout. To do it, explosively “drop” into a squat position while simultaneously pushing your arms out in front of you. Then stand up and do it again.

  7. Isometric Squat. Isometric squats can “isolate” a specific section of the squat and strengthen that part of the movement only, and are also good if you want to build quad and butt strength but have bad knees or can’t move through full range of motion. Simply hold a squat position, preferably at close to 90-degree bend in the knees. You can also do isometric squats with your back against the wall.

  8. Stability Ball Squat. Similar to the goblet squat, the stability ball squat is good for learning how to squat properly, since you’re leaning against and guiding a stability ball up and down a wall as you do the movement. This move is also good if you’re coming back from an injury and need to do a squat motion with low stress on the legs.

  9. Jump Squat. As the name implies, the jump squat is simply an explosive version of the squat, in which you jump and your feet leave the ground. The jump squat is typically performed with body weight or a lighter weight than a regular squat, and is excellent for improving power and explosiveness. It is also a great cardio workout! And if you’re not holding a weight, you can swing your arms overhead as you jump and back down when you land.

  10. Hack Squat. The hack squat is performed by holding a barbell behind your body, then squatting and touching the weight to the ground, before standing again. It places very little stress on the low back, while primarily strengthening the quadriceps (the front of your legs).

  11. Single Leg Squat. The single leg squat can be tough, but is great for getting better balance, improving your side-to-side stability, boosting athletic performance, and teaching your legs how to generate strength in isolation. Be sure to keep your back and knees in proper alignment while doing this squat, even if that means you need to put a hand out and touch a wall or rail for balance.

  12.  Overhead Squat. There’s nothing like an overhead squat to challenge your mobility or identify a tight spot in your body. To perform this version of the squat, hold a barbell, broomstick, or other weight overhead as you squat. This requires excellent shoulder range-of-motion and good balance too, which is why it can be used to identify flexibility or balance deficits.

  13.  Sissy Squat. Yes, I’ve saved what I consider to be the best name for last. But it’s not what you think—in fact, sissies would have a pretty tough time performing this type of squat. Similar to the hack squat, the sissy squat really does a good job isolating your quads. It can also make you very strong, very fast. To do a sissy squat, keep your hips and waist straight, then bend your knees to allow your body to fall backwards as your knees come forward. Lower your body until your knees are almost fully flexed or near the floor, then stand back up to your starting position. You may want to watch the video before trying this one!

If you have more questions about how to do squat variations, or your own squat variations to add, then share them in Comments or on the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page!

Squat image from Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.