Give Your Leg Day A Boost With These Variations On Weightlifting Squats
Any exercise requires a solid foundation on an integral principle of weightlifting: proper form. If you go through an exercise with improper form, you risk seriously injuring yourself. We recommend that before you try any of these squat variations, take some time to truly master the fundamentals of traditional weightlifting squats first. Our “Weightlifting 101” blog series covers the basics of the traditional squat.
1) Front Squat
Now that you’ve perfected the traditional back squat, you can simply move the barbell to the front of the body for a different exercise. Don’t be deceived! It may seem like a simple switch, however it can actually increase the difficulty of the squat, so be cautious.
Here are a few pointers on proper form for the front squat:
- Place the barbell across your shoulder and hold it in place with a clean grip.
- Keep your elbows pointed up and forward throughout the movement.
- Your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Squat while keeping your weight on your heels.
- Keep your chest up.
- Do not let your knees go past your toes.
Front squats are outstanding exercises as they place more emphasis on your quadriceps, upper back, and core than the traditional back squat. Just remember to go slow, focus on your form, and add weight gradually.
2) Goblet Squat
This a great exercise for strength and conditioning training. Plenty of fitness experts agree that goblet squats improve your squat mobility and your postural performance, in addition to other benefits, thus helping you improve your regular weightlifting squats.
When performing the goblet squat, keep these pointers in mind:
- Position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and flare your feet out 30 to 45 degrees.
- Hold your kettlebell by the “horns” and keep it close to your body, but not touching.
- Actively push your knees out, especially as your come out of the bottom of the squat.
- When squatting, try to get your hips below your knees, if possible.
The goblet squat focuses in on your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
3) Bulgarian Split Squat
A personal favorite of our personal trainer, Ashlee Van Buskirk, the Bulgarian split squat is a great alternative for weightlifting squats. This exercise requires great balance, control, and stability, due to the fact your back foot is elevated. The split squat takes your back leg and lower back out of the lift, so all the weight goes directly into your hips.
When trying out the Bulgarian split squat remember to:
- Place one foot a few feet behind you on a raised platform.
- Keep your torso upright and begin by pushing your hips back, like in a traditional squat.
- Allow your back leg to bend.
- Descend until your front leg becomes parallel or your back knee touches the ground.
This exercise targets your glutes, core, and hamstrings. It is difficult to master as it requires strong joint stability and a good range of motion. Just be patient and develop the balance first before adding weights. Check out this video example of a Bulgarian split squat.
4) One-Legged Squat
Also known as the pistol squat, the one-legged squat truly tests your lower body strength. This alternative to traditional weightlifting squats requires mastery over your balance and, once you’re proficient at this exercise, it’s a great way to build strength throughout your lower body.
Thanks to its difficulty, it is best to approach this exercise as a long-term project. Your first sets should utilize a high box or bench to squat to, being cautious and lowering yourself with complete control. As you progress, tack on weight and start to remove the bench.
Try to keep these pointers in mind when performing one-legged squats:
- Have your arms extended for balance as you descend.
- Keep your weight centered over the ball of your foot.
- Retain a straight back and erect body throughout the exercise.
- Do not extend your knee beyond your toes.
The one-legged squat hits your quads, core, hamstrings, and glutes.
5) Overhead Squat
This variation of weightlifting squats is difficult to perform correctly. This exercise is not for everyone because when performed incorrectly, you’re at an increased risk for injury. If you’re serious about weightlifting, you should master this exercise because it helps build the strength necessary for other challenging weightlifting exercises, like the power clean.
When performing the overhead squat, keep the following tips in mind:
- Press the barbell overhead.
- While maintaining the barbell over your center of gravity, perform your traditional squat.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lock your arms in place.
- Maintain a wide grip and aim your hands towards the ceiling.
- Do not drive the weight back.
- Allow your head to poke through your arms — this helps keep the weight in line with your shoulders, hips, and heels.
The focus here should not be on your leg muscles, but rather on your hip mobility. Don’t worry if the weight isn’t heavy enough to challenge your legs. This exercise is designed to improve your mobility and hit every muscle in the body.
Improve Your Weightlifting Squats with Whole Intent
Whether you’re an experienced lifter or entirely new to the gym scene, we can all benefit from a little guidance from time to time. Our expert personal trainer has years of experience in the bodybuilding industry and understands the minute differences between various exercises, including squats and variations.
If you’re looking to jumpstart your fitness or add variety to your routine of weightlifting squats, Whole Intent is the right place for you. Transform your weightlifting routine with the help of an expert personal trainer from Whole Intent today.