Squats Explained In Detail + 6 Variation To Try

Squats are a staple in just about every strength training routine out there. They are a compound, functional exercise that mainly targets your lower body, working your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, calves, and core.

How To Do Basic Squats

Before we jump into any of our squat variations, let’s look at how to do basic bodyweight squats with the correct technique and posture. 

Bodyweight squat.

Bodyweight Squats

  1. Stand tall with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.  
  2. Engage your core, keep your chest up and proud, and look ahead with your hands clasped together at your chest.
  3. Bend at the knees and hips as you sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  4. Using your glutes, push yourself back up into your initial standing position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time.

Here are a few tips to ensure you are using the correct technique while performing your squats: 

  • Do not allow your knees to cave inward. To achieve this, you must be mindful of constantly pushing your knees outward during all phases of the squat.
  • Keep your shoulders back and relaxed and your back straight, with your torso leaning slightly forward. 
  • Keep your gaze straight ahead.
  • Distribute your weight evenly between both feet.
  • If your lower back begins to round at any time during the descent of your squat, return to the point where your back is still straight. That will be your individual squatting point. Each of our bodies has different variations in its structure; therefore, some will be able to lower down further while maintaining the correct posture than others.

Let’s check out the reasons why we should add squats into our strength training workouts with our long list of benefits.

Benefits Of Squats 

Our list of benefits just scratches the surface of what squats can do for you and your health. Most people assume that squats are performed by athletes exclusively, but this is just not the case. Everyone can benefit from adding squats into their routine; now, let’s see why.

Squats: 

  • Are convenient and can be performed just about anywhere as they require very little space, and there are many variations using your body weight solely.
  • Strengthen your entire lower body, core, and even your upper body when performing certain variations. 
  • Increase stability as they strengthen the muscles surrounding key joints, such as your knees. 
  • Improve athletic performance.

As with most exercises, squats have many variations available to keep your workouts exciting and target a large variety of muscles to ensure you are switching it up and getting well-rounded workouts. 

We have chosen six of our favorite squat variations to share with you:

6 Squat Variations

#1: Kettlebell Goblet Squat 

This squat variation increases the difficulty of the bodyweight version because we add weight to the movement. You can add just about anything to this goblet squat such as a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, medicine ball, weighted vest, or even a gallon jug of water! 

Just ensure that whatever you choose to lift, you can still maintain the proper technique with the challenge of adding extra weight.

  1. Stand tall with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
  2. Hold the kettlebell or weight of your choice to your chest, keeping your elbows together, shoulders back, chest up and look straight ahead.  
  3. Engage your core, and bend at the knees and hips as you sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  4. Using your glutes, push yourself back up into your initial standing position. 
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time.

#2: Calf Raise Squat 

For this variation, we are really adding a twist.

Not only will you be holding the squat in an isometric position, but you will also be working your calf muscles to the limit. 

  1. Stand tall with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
  2. Engage your core, keep your chest up and proud, and look ahead with your hands clasped together at your chest.
  3. Bend at the knees and hips as you sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  4. Instead of coming right back up as you would in a basic bodyweight squat, hold yourself in an isometric squat position.
  5. Begin to do calf raises while maintaining yourself in the lowered squat position. 
  6. Do 8 calf raises or as many reps as you would like.
  7. Using your glutes, push yourself back up into your initial standing position. 
  8. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time.

#3: Bulgarian Split Squat

This squat variation is a unilateral exercise, meaning we will work one side at a time.

One of the most essential benefits of unilateral exercises is that they work each side, in this case, each leg, separately, correcting muscle imbalances in your body.

When performing exercises unilaterally or one side at a time, you don’t have the help of your dominant leg to compensate for a potential lack of strength in your non-dominant leg. This way, you can work on evening out the strength in each by performing unilateral exercises such as these Bulgarian Split Squats.

You will need a bench or a step to place behind you for this squat variation:

  1. Place the instep or flexed toes on the step behind you, whichever position is more comfortable. 
  2. Lower the knee of your back leg until it just about touches the floor.
  3. Your front leg should be at 90 degrees in front of you in a lunge position. Most of your weight should be on your front foot.
  4. Extend your back knee lifting yourself back up from the floor. 
  5. Drop back down into the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time. 
  7. Then, repeat on the other side. 

Note: Once you have mastered this move using your body weight, you can add resistance, such as kettlebells or dumbbells, to increase the difficulty and gain even more strength. 

#4: Jump Squat 

Now, on to some plyometrics! This squat variation will not only provide you with all of our basic squat benefits, but it will also get your heart rate up for an intense cardio workout.

When performing a high-impact exercise such as a jump squat, or any other plyometric move, be sure to land softly on the balls of your feet, so you do not cause any damage to your joints. 

Also, never sacrifice form and technique for speed. Perform the exercise as quickly and explosively as possible while maintaining perfect posture and form at all times.

  1. Lower down into a basic squat position.
  2. As you extend your knees and hips, launch yourself off the ground bringing your arms back behind you.
  3. Land softly and repeat just as your feet hit the ground.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time. 

#5: Squat Thruster 

Try this squat variation on for size for a total-body compound exercise. It’s a mix between a squat and a push press. 

You will need a set of dumbbells for this one. 

  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, bend your elbows at 90 degrees, palms facing one another, and hands directly in front of your shoulders. 
  2. Lower down into a basic squat position, keeping the dumbbells in place.
  3. As you extend your knees and hips, returning to your standing position, simultaneously push the dumbbells up overhead, extending your elbows.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time.

#6: Lateral Squat Walk 

This variation is significant to work your glutes and hip muscles, which are often overlooked as we tend to focus more on quads.

As seen in the video, you can perform this variation using only your body weight or by adding a resistance band just above your knees to add a bit more difficulty. This will work your glutes even more, as you must work extra hard to keep your knees from caving inward. 

  1. Begin in a basic squat starting position, standing tall.
  2. Lower into a basic squat position and take 4 steps toward your right side, ensuring your knees remain in position and do not collapse inward. 
  3. Then, take 4 steps to the left side. 
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps or amount of time.

There you have it! 

All you need to know about the all-famous squat exercise and some of its best variations for your next trip to the gym. 

Check out some of our other exercise guides to add even more variety to your workouts: 

The Plank Explained In Detail + 6 Variations 

The Glute Bridge Explained In Detail + 6 Variations 

The Wall Sit Explained + 8 Variations

Squats Explained In Detail + 6 Variation To Try 1
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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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