Often neglected or forgotten, several variations of the squat exist, each with unique benefits and targeted muscles. Like the back squat, other squat techniques mimic movement patterns we use daily; they train the body to work optimally for both sport and life. Incorporating squat variations into your training plan is key to making improvements to your body and athleticism, avoiding plateaus, and keeping things interesting. Read on to find three awesome alternatives to your favorite exercise.

5 Reasons to Switch Up Your Squats

1. You want to build or define other muscles. Some squat variations can more effectively isolate the quads, hams, calves and core better than the back squat.
You’ve hit a plateau. If you religiously work on your back squat every week, your muscles have likely started to adapt to the exercise. Adding some variety is key to making improvements in your strength and physique.
3. You don’t like them. Hey, they’re not for everyone. But the squat is still among the top exercises to perform for overall physical health, so find a couple of variations that you enjoy.
4. Improve muscle imbalances and mobility. Training with a variety of movement patterns improves flexibility and strengthens weaker muscle groups, which in turn can help repair injuries and correct muscle imbalances.
5. There’s a line-up for the squat rack. Not every squat exercise requires a barbell. Have a few effective variations in your back pocket for when the equipment you need is occupied.

Pistol Squat
(bodyweight or weighted)

Set Up:Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest or just place your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Shift your weight into one foot, and extend your other leg in front with your foot flexed.
Action: Keeping your extended leg straight, bend your standing leg and push your hips back and down to lower, aiming to make your thigh parallel to the ground. Press through your heel to return to standing and repeat.
Perform 3-4 sets of 8 reps per leg.
Tip: Do you struggle with this advanced move?
Here’s how to practice: Place a bench or box behind you. Sit on it (gently, not using your full bodyweight) when you squat down. Push off of it to raise back up.

Zercher Squat

Set Up: Place a barbell (loaded or unloaded) inside your elbows and hold it with your arms bent in front of your chest. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly.
Action: Bend your knees and hips to lower into a deep squat, until your hips are just below your knees. Press through your heels and extend your legs to return to standing. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Tip: As you lower, keep your chest lifted and spine neutral. There should be a natural arch in your spine. If not, do not squat as deeply.

Braced Squat

Set Up: Grab a weight plate and stand holding it straight out in front of you with arms straight, feet placed shoulder-width apart.
Action: Keeping your arms extended, bend your knees to lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Press through your heels to return to standing.
Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Tip: Avoid letting your shoulders come up as you squat. Keep your shoulder blades back and down.
For 5 more squat variations check out the March/April issue of STRONG Fitness Magazine.

Written by Amanda Kotel, B.Sc Exercise Science, CPT Photography by Paul Buceta
Model Tiffani Lee Chase  | Hair & Makeup by Monica Kalra

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