17 Squat Variations That Will Seriously Work Your Butt

The almighty squat is in so many workouts for a reason—for many reasons, actually. It’s an effective lower-body exercise that works a bunch of muscles at once, including the glutes, quads, and core. You don’t need any equipment to do a squat in its most basic form—your weight and gravity give you all the resistance you need—but you can easily add free weights or resistance bands if you want to challenge yourself and continue developing muscle mass and strength. The squat is a very functional exercise, which means it trains a movement pattern that you use in everyday life (you should be squatting when you try to lift something heavy off the floor).

Different squats serve different purposes.

There are many different types of squats, which means there are many variations you can try to find some that work well for your body and your goals.

While all squats are considered lower-body exercises, different types of squats target muscles slightly differently. For example, when your legs are farther apart in a squat, you’ll work your inner thighs and glutes a little more than your quads. If a squat variation includes an upper-body movement, like an overhead press, you’ll be adding some shoulder and arm work. Squat variations that include a plyometric component—like a jump—will get your heart rate high quickly, making them great for cardio in addition to strengthening your lower body.

When it comes to adding equipment, squats are really versatile. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or resistance bands. It really comes down to what you’re most comfortable with and maybe even what’s available in your gym.

Let’s talk about good squat form.

In terms of how low you should squat, there really is no definitive answer. That’s because how deeply you can squat will depend on many variables, including your hip and ankle mobility. While squatting deeper will engage more muscles than squatting just an inch or two, it’s best to think about squatting as deeply as your mobility will allow. If your heels begin to lift off the floor or your torso begins to round forward, that’s a good place to stop. If you can’t bring your hips down enough to get your thighs parallel to the floor, that’s OK. You’re definitely still working your legs and butt muscles and core, and as you get stronger and move through this motion more often, you’ll likely be able to start squatting lower over time.

So if you can lower your body until your thighs are approximately parallel to the floor, great. If not, don’t force it. It’s always better to maintain good form over reaching a certain depth.

Speaking of good form. It’s really important, when squatting, to think about bending your torso forward from your hips (called a hip hinge) and pushing your butt back toward the wall behind you as you bend your knees and lower. This way, you’ll put the majority of your weight into your heels, which will help take the stress off your knees. If your weight is too far forward, you can end up feeling it in your knees, which isn’t what you want. You want to feel it in your glutes and quads. When you hinge forward, keep your core super engaged so that your back is flat and doesn’t arch or round forward.

Another important note: Avoid letting your knees cave inward, on both the down and up portion of the squat. That’s another good way to end up with achy knees. If you can, watch yourself in the mirror for a few reps. Your knees should remain approximately in line with the second toe on each foot. If your knees collapse in at all, try pressing them out just a little bit as you bend and extend them. Also, if you’re having trouble with keeping your knees from moving inward, put down the weights and stick to body squats until you’re able to do so.

Here are 17 squats to try during your next workout.

Before we dive into all the squat variations below, just know that this is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty more squat variations out there, but these are just some to get you started. Also, most of these different types of squats can be done with or without weights, depending on what you’re feeling. (Just be cautious when adding weights to any of the jumping squats—that’s only something you should do if you’re an advanced exerciser, and even then, you definitely don’t want to be holding a heavy load when you’re already putting impact on your joints by jumping.)

Also, we’re not suggesting you do all of these squats all at once. You’d be pretty dang sore if you did. The best way to add these to your routine will vary depending on your goals. For example, if you’re trying to add some cardio to an otherwise strength-focused workout, do one of the jumping squat variations in between other moves. If you’re just looking to build strength in your lower body, choose the squat that sounds best to you (under each description, you’ll find a list of the muscles that variation targets) and sub it for whatever kind of squat your workout calls for. If you want to just burn out your glutes at the end of your workout, try combining a nonjumping squat with a jumping squat. Do 10 to 15 reps of each back to back, then repeat two or three times.

Demoing the moves below are Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Teresa Hui, a native New Yorker who has run over 150 road races, including 16 full marathons; Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records; Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; Amanda Gilliam, a super heavyweight athlete competing in both open and masters divisions of Olympic weightlifting and founder of Big Girl Barbell, a fat-positive, body-positive space in strength sports; Rosimer Suarez, a special education teacher from New York City who lives in Oklahoma City and loves to do strength training and HIIT workouts to feel strong and in control of her thyroid condition; and Alyssa Marsh, a senior club manager at Blink Fitness, Flywheel Sports instructor, and USA Boxing amateur fighter based in Philadelphia.

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