October 25, 2013
The body-weight squat is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the lower body—the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. Squats are considered an essential exercise to anyone’s strength routine, both for increasing the size of the legs and glutes as well as developing strength and power. Squats, when performed correctly, offer numerous benefits and should be considered a whole-body exercise. Here are just a few reasons why the squat should be included in your workout routine:
- Enhanced performance in any sports activity: Strong, powerful glutes help you jump higher and run faster.
- To prevent injuries: Besides strengthening the muscles in the lower body, squats also strengthen tendons, bones and ligaments. Strong connective tissue will help you stay injury free.
- Application to real-world activities: Promoting mobility and balance, squats are a great functional exercise to keep you performing daily activities such as walking and moving from a seated to a standing position.
There are many exercise variations of the squat, utilizing everything from a barbell to dumbbells, stability balls to BOSU’s. The beauty of the squat is that you can reap the benefits of this exercise without having to use fitness equipment. Supercharge the squat with these variations that challenge movement, speed and core stability.
This is a four-part squat. Begin with feet together.
- Lower down into a narrow squat.
- Stay in the squat position and step your right leg out to the side. Make sure to distribute your weight equally between both legs.
- Continue to stay in the squat position and close the left leg to the right.
- Stand up.
Repeat by stepping out to the side with the left leg.
Challenge this squat variation by holding onto hand weights at shoulder level or a weighted bar behind the back.
This is a two-part squat. Begin with feet together. This variation should be a smooth transition from glute to glute.
- Shift your weight into your right glute as you step the left leg out to the side.
- In a smooth motion, lower down into a squat while shifting your weight into the left glute.
- Close the legs together and stand up.
Repeat while moving in the opposite direction.
Challenge this squat variation by holding onto a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest level.
This is a three-part squat. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding dumbbells in the front of the thighs.
- Hinge at the hips, sliding the dumbbells down the front of the legs, stopping at the kneecaps.
- Bend the knees, drop the hips and lower down into a squat. Shift the dumbbells to the sides of the body.
- Stand up.
Challenge this squat variation by increasing the depth of the squat or increasing the load.
Squat With a 3-point Push
This is an eight-part squat. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, holding one dumbbell at chest level.
- Lower down into the squat (1).
- Hold the squat position and push the dumbbell, from chest level, to the right corner (2). Return to center (3).
- Push the dumbbell straight out from the chest (4). Return to center (5).
- Push the dumbbell to the left corner (6). Return to center (7).
- Stand up (8).
Challenge this squat variation by holding onto a heaver weight or kettlebell at chest level.
This is a two-part squat. With feet together, lower down into the squat position and hold until all reps are complete
- Jump both legs out.
- Jump both legs in.
Perform this exercise for 15 to 20 seconds. Your legs should move quickly in and out without lifting the body out of the squat position.
Challenge this squat variation by increasing the depth of the squat, increasing the time to 30 seconds or by increasing the pace of the jumps.
Stephanie Thielen Contributor
Stephanie Thielen, BS, has a fitness career that spans over 24 years with experience in group fitness training and management in the community, corporate and collegiate setting. As an ACE Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, two-time IDEA Presenter, NETA trainer, AEA Trainer, and BOSU National Master Trainer, Stephanie provides land and aquatic workshops that teach logical methods for class construction, providing the “tools of the trade” to assist fitness professionals develop their teaching skills. Find Stephanie on Facebook at Stephanie Thielen Fitness, LLC.More Blogs by Stephanie Thielen »