5 Squat Variations

Switch-ups to Sculpt the Lower Body

If you’re getting bored with regular squats— don’t worry! There are SO many variations to keep you busy and keep working on building up those legs and booty. Use these tips to break through a plateau and keep things progressing in the gym!

5 Squat Variations

1. Hack squat

If you have access to the machine…great! I love the hack squat machine. If you don’t, using a barbell behind your body works great, too, but is tricky to get comfortable with. Rack the barbell in the squat rack at the appropriate height so that you can back up to it and grab the bar with your arms at your sides. Your palms should be facing backward and grip is shoulder-width. Carefully lift the bar off the rack and hold it there behind your thighs. Keeping your chest lifted, squat down with an upright torso as low as you can safely go. START LIGHT and keep practicing.

2. Kneeling squat

The kneeling squat is an awesome glute activation and building exercise. Not only does it work on the hip extension you need to improve your regular squats and deadlifts, but it also takes your hamstrings and quads out of the movement so you can focus on using your glutes. To set it up, use a pad on the floor for your knees and set the bar (you can do these in a Smith machine or regular squat rack) just below your shoulders from standing up on your knees. Place the bar on your upper back and engage your glutes while you move your booty back and lower with control. When your butt just barely touches your lower legs or heels, move your hips forward while squeezing your glutes.

3. Jefferson squat

I won’t lie to you— this one is REALLY difficult to get right. But, practice makes perfect— the more you do them, the better and more comfortable you get. Dedicate some time to these, and you’ll discover glute and adductor development you didn’t know about!

I like to start with the barbell on the floor. Don’t add any weight just yet— get used to the movement first and then graduate to adding weight— little by little. Take a wide stance, with the bar between your legs. Squat down and grasp the bar with one hand in front and the other hand behind you (the bar will be between your legs). With your chest lifted, squeeze your glutes, keep your knees from collapsing inward and rise up out of the squat position with the barbell, without locking out at the top. Try to keep your glutes contracted the entire movement and get LOW in this squat.

4. Double pulse squats

The purpose of practicing double pulses during any squat is the time your muscles are under tension. The more time, the more tension, the more damage to your muscles, the more growth and change! Pick any squat and any stance you like and instead of just squatting down all the way and rising up for one rep, you’ll squat down, rise up about halfway, go back down all the way, then rise up to equal one rep. You’ll hate me, but I look forward to your new booty!

5. Dumbbell overhead squat

I firmly believe that the exercises you despise the most are the ones you need to be practicing. It gets you out of your comfort zone, makes the gym exciting, adds a bit of anxiety to keep you on your toes, and works on your weaknesses. The overhead squat is one of those for me. I see incredible women and men performing these with a barbell and they make it look so easy! Not only does it take strength, but great balance and coordination as well. A squat is one thing, but adding this extra element to it WHILE SQUATTING WITH PERFECT FORM is where the challenge lies. I don’t have the best shoulder mobility, so I prefer to practice these using dumbbells— which can actually be more taxing than using a barbell. With dumbbells, you are holding the weight in each arm individually, requiring more core stability and more energy from more muscles being recruited to work.

Start in a standing position with light dumbbells (I start with 10 pounds) and press the dumbbells directly up overhead, with your thumbs slightly pointed inward toward your face. Anytime you’re doing a squat with the load above your head, the dynamics of the movement change substantially, so get ready! Keep an erect spine and squat down into a traditional squat position, with your knees not traveling too far forward beyond your toes and rise back up. You should feel this EVERYWHERE— shoulders, core, back, legs and glutes!

Jessie Hilgenberg

Jessie is an IFBB Figure Pro, Team NLA for Her & Bodybuilding.com Athlete, registered yoga instructor, health & fitness coach, bootcamp director and fitness model. Her goal is to inspire others and illustrate that a healthy lifestyle of training with intensity, staying consistent and eating clean can truly change your life!

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