12 Squat Variations You Have to Try on Leg Day
Squats are the key to lean, strong legs and a nice, firm butt.
Quads, glutes, hamstrings and even your core get involved when you squat. Because all these muscle groups come along to the squat party, you burn many more calories than if you were to do isolated exercises targeting each of those muscles.
And, squatting is much more functional than isolated exercises (i.e. quad extensions or hamstring curls). The simultaneous recruitment of many different muscle groups helps to prevent injury and improve performance (whether you’re a runner, biker or just want a great behind).
Talk about more bang for your buck for your leg day workout!
Now, before we get started with these 12 squat variations, quickly check out this video to ensure you are performing the basic bodyweight squat properly and safely:
If you’re like me and leg day is your favorite workout of the week, then you’re going to love these squat variations!
These are all bodyweight squat variations, but feel free to add weights to some of these if you want to.
1. Squat and Walk
Begin with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Squat down nice and low into a squat position. Keep your chest up and core engaged. Walk four steps forward and four steps back for one repetition. Try to make these big steps while maintaining a low squat position.
2. PliÉ Squat + Heel Raises
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing outward. Squat down nice and low. Lift your right heel up and down, and then your left heel. Now, push through the heels to come back up to start. Tighten your glutes again at the top.
3. Squat Kickback
Begin with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Perform a squat and as you come up, kick your right leg back like you’re trying to push open a door behind you. As always, be sure to keep that core engaged for balance and control. Bring the right leg down as you lower back down into a squat position. Now, perform a kickback on the left side.
4. Frog Squat
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing outward. Squat down nice and low until your fingertips touch the ground while maintaining a flat black. Then reach your arms up overhead and jump up towards the sky. Land with soft knees in a loaded squat position, fingers touching the ground. Note: if your fingertips cannot reach down to the floor without an excessive forward lean, don’t go all the way to the floor. Work within your limits and just reach down as far as you can!
5. 3-Way Jump Squat
Begin with your feet close together, toes pointing forward, knees not touching. Squat down into a narrow squat position. Then jump up into the air and land with soft knees in a regular squat position. Again, jump up into the air and land with soft knees in a plié squat (feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing outward). Then jump squat your way back to the regular squat and then back to the narrow squat.
6. Burpee Squat Hold
Start in a standing position. Place your hands on the ground and jump your feet back into a high plank position on your hands. Be sure that your back doesn’t arch when you jump back into a plank position. Then jump your feet forward outside your hands with your toes pointing outward. Stay low in the plié squat position and only lift up your upper body. Place your hands back down on the ground in between your feet and repeat!
7. Squat with Side Leg Lift
Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes parallel or slightly outward. Perform a squat and as you come up, lift your left leg up to the side and make sure to squeeze the outer part of your glutes. As you step back lower yourself into a squat again. Repeat with the right leg. If you want to make it even more dynamic, do a side kick instead of a lift!
8. Side Step Squat
Begin with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Squat down until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Keep your chest up and core engaged. Now take a step with the right foot to the side. Make sure to keep your thighs parallel and don’t break your squat form. Now step with the left leg towards you so that you are back in a squat. You can switch sides or do 3 steps in one direction and then 3 in the other.
9. Box Squat
The Box Squat is a great way to learn how to squat properly. You can do it with a chair. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back and lower yourself down until your butt touches the box. Don’t sit on the box. Push the ground with your heels to lift yourself back up.
10. Surrender Squat
Start kneeling with both knees on the floor. Cross your hands behind your head. Now step into a kneel with one knee up. Push the heel of the front leg to the ground and bring the other leg up and do a squat.
11. Single Leg Squat
Start with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forward and your arms in front of you. Bend the knee of one leg and lift it off the ground. Push your hips back and bend the knee of the standing leg to slowly lower yourself down. Make sure to keep your hips leveled. Go down as low as you can while keeping your form and do not let your other foot touch the ground. Now push back up from the standing leg. Repeat on the other side.
12. Cossack Squat
Start with your feet in wide stance and your toes pointing outwards to the side. Shift your weight to one side and squat down, going as low as you can without lifting the heel of the squatting leg off the ground. Push the heel of the squatting leg to the ground and get back up to the wide starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Now, let’s talk about how to incorporate these exercises into your next leg day workout.
You can choose one or two and add them to your current routine. Or, you can use all of them for a full circuit-style leg day workout. Perform 10-20 repetitions (depending on your fitness level) of each exercise with little rest in between. Rest at the end of the final exercise for 2-3 minutes and repeat for 3 rounds.
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