The squat is a pivotal exercise for progress and is recognised as the go-to movement for most people. We highlight a few variations that you may or may not have heard of.
The squat is what we call the king of exercises. However, a lot of people only know one version of the squat, which is the back squat. When I ask people how much they back squat they give me a confused look. This is because they have only ever heard of one squat, and it is usually the back squat but they just don’t know it. The squat should be part of everyone’s programme whether it is a runner’s or someone looking to improve the way they look and feel. I know from personal experience that training needs to be varied and keep the body guessing at all times, so your mind doesn’t get fried from boredom. I am going to explain all the variations of squats that you can work up to and add into your programmes.
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be back squatting. What I am saying is that there are other variations other than the traditional back squat. Firstly, you need to be able to do a bodyweight squat to a good standard before you think about adding any weight. This includes being able to squat to at least parallel. This will ensure that you are hitting all the desired muscle groups. The main problem that I see in the gym on a daily occurrence is the depth of the squat. There is no point in squatting heavy if you are only going four inches deep. Believe me this happens a lot! I see men doing it quite often, usually more than women. Let’s drop the ego and focus on form. No one gives a shit that you can squat 140kg by only going four inches deep. Believe me that is NOT a squat. You will benefit more by lowering the weight and doing it probably. Plus your glutes will thank you as well. I mean who doesn’t want a good ass! Get working on your mobility before anything else. Then progress to doing a good amount of quality bodyweight squats. Once you have achieved that then you can start adding weight. You will progress fast if you do it properly. I have trained people who have never trained in their lives with limited strength and mobility. Three months later with the correct training and form they have increased their squat to 60kg. The back squat out of all the squats is the true test of strength. This is the one that you will be able to lift the most weight with and it’s a great move all round.
The front squat is also a great test of strength like the back squat. However, it requires a little more mobility than its cousin. The mobility side of it doesn’t actually come in terms of the legs. The shoulder and wrist mobility has to be good for you to successfully complete a front squat. There are other variations of the front squat which are still worth doing as one of the huge benefits of doing these is that it hits your core harder than a back squat does. With the bar being in front of you, your core has to work harder to stabilise the weight. I wouldn’t worry about mobility for the lower body with these. From my experience with clients if you can back squat to a good level then front squats won’t be an issue. You generally find that front squats allow you to go deeper than the back squat as they are not as stressful on the lower back. For myself these are ideal as I suffer with lower back disc issues and still manage to front squat heavy. These are ideal for anyone with lower back issues or wanting to progress from their back squats.
Now this is where things get interesting. This is arguably the hardest squat of them all. It is a break down of the snatch. For those thinking what the hell is one of them? Check it out on YouTube. It is an Olympic lifting move. The snatch is described as one of the hardest moves to execute in sport so that gives you an indication of the difficulty of this move. Hence the reason the overhead squat is possibly the hardest variation of them all. It is something that everyone should aim to do in their training programme. It is a test of strength, balance, mobility, and the core is working overtime. Now this is completely different to the first two squats and will require a lot more patience to master. Start light and work your way up slowly. If you are after a strong core then look no further. Say goodbye to them pointless sit-ups you have been doing for years. Invest some time in learning this functional and skilful move.
Now this doesn’t require any introduction. This version of the squat is the easiest out of them all and is something that everyone on the planet can do from home. I mean babies and toddlers can do it why can’t we? It is because we get side tracked with sitting down all day worrying about work and family commitments and we often forget about the fundamentals we should be able to do with ease. I couldn’t tell you the amount of clients that I have trained who couldn’t do a bodyweight squat. Without sounding too harsh, it’s embarrassing that we let ourselves get this way. You don’t even need to get to a gym to enjoy the benefit of these. Invest some time into yourself and get squatting at home. Simple yet effective. Try doing 3 sets of 20 reps for starters. Once you have got to grips with this then move onto more reps and sets. You can get great results with bodyweight alone! Have faith.
One legged squat
This is the one I’m most enjoying at the minute. Ankle mobility plays a huge part in achieving this. Being completely honest I can do these but I’m still working hard at achieving a good clean set of ten. Challenges are good to have in front of you as it makes it better when you achieve them. I have upped my yoga sessions to three a week and stretching every day so I can achieve this. I think out of all the squat variations this one looks the coolest. The beauty of this one is that is can be done anywhere like the bodyweight squat. If you have got a good strength base and balance then give them a go. My advice would be to start on the TRX first or hold onto something like the wall to make sure you are achieving adequate depth. I haven’t had one client in seven years who can do these so don’t kick yourself if you cannot achieve them straight away. Work hard and it will come with time.
I know I haven’t told you how to do these exercises. However, that wasn’t the aim of the blog. The aim was to educate you of the benefits of different types of squats that you can add to your training rountine. Take some time to look at these online and if you are still not confident enough then employ someone who is. Most of all enjoy your training and keep making progress.