The barbell back squat has long been lauded as the king of lower-body lifts, commandeering the muscles in your quads, glutes and hamstrings, as well as your back and core, as you brace to prevent your body folding like origami under the heft of a loaded bar. By recruiting multiple muscles – particularly larger ones such as your glutes (and we mean no offence) – squats can quickly contribute towards a bigger calorie burn, too. In other words, if you’re really serious about getting functionally fit while giving your metabolic rate a bump, you’d be unwise to skip out on leg day.
But, of course, barbell back squats are merely one flavour in the spectrum – squats may be important, but there are several ways that you can weave them into your workouts. Whether you’re looking to boost strength and athleticism, or improve mobility for daily life or post-injury rehab, there’s a variation to suit your purposes – and skill level. Let’s get deep into it…
01/ Barbell Front Squat
Let’s kick off with the classics. Position a barbell across your shoulders and lift your elbows high (A). Push your hips back, bending your knees until your thighs pass parallel (B). Drive through your feet to stand.
02/ Barbell Back Squat
Holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders, stand tall and breathe deeply (A). Maintaining an upright posture, push your hips back, bending to just past parallel again (B). Stand explosively.
03/ Overhead Squat
A true test of mobility. Press a bar over your head, locking your arms out, your feet just wider than your shoulders (A). Push your hips back and drop down (B). Keep your torso upright. Push back up.
04/ Goblet Squat
Hold a dumbbell close to your chest, with a strong upright posture (A). Sink your hips back and descend into a squat (B), your elbows in between your knees. Drive back up explosively and repeat.
05/ Spanish Squat
Loop a resistance band around a rack and step into it, so it rests around the back of your knees. Walk back to build tension (A). With your feet in a narrow stance, drop into a squat, pause, then push up explosively.
06/ Cossack Squat
Easy to do poorly, hard to do well. Stand tall in a wide stance (A), shift your weight to your right foot, squatting while keeping your left leg straight (B). Push off the right leg to stand. Alternate sides each rep.
07/ Pistol Squat
Things are getting sticky. Stand tall, lifting one leg (A), bend the other knee and squat, keeping your lifted leg raised. Once the crease of your hip is below your knee, pause (B) and drive up. Use a band if you need.
08/ Rear Foot Elevated
Split squats build your core and take stress off your lower back. Stand tall with your right foot on a bench (A). Bend your left knee, slowly lowering (B). Drive up through your left foot. Do reps on one side, then swap.
09/ Split Squat Jump
Brace your core and step one foot back, sinking into a lunge, with your rear knee just touching the floor. Drive up, switching legs mid-air (A) to land in a lunge with the other leg forward (B). Alternate legs each rep.
10/ Landmine Hack Squat
Wedge a barbell into a corner. Load weights on one side, lift the bar on to your shoulder and face away from it. Step forward and brace your core (A). Push your hips back and drop into a squat (B). Explode up and repeat.
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