Squats are fundamental exercises that should not be left out in your training program. As simple as it may look in its most basic forms, squats actually work out several muscle groups simultaneously. In other words, they are essential for both body sculpting and strengthening.
Many neophyte gym-goers often overlook the importance of doing squats. They are so excited to use the numerous exercise machines lying around, that what they view as mere kid stuff routines a waste of their precious gym time.
But the truth is there are several variations of squats with different levels of difficulties and complexities.
And by adding free weights to the equation and doing the exercises properly, you actually get better results in increasing the amount of your muscle growth hormones during and after a workout. And as a bonus to men, so does your testosterone level.
There are no less than 50 variations of squats, but we will discuss just 10 that you can easily include in your fitness program. They are divided into three categories, namely, Bodyweight Squats, Plyometric Squats, and Weighted Squats.
Bodyweight squats are performed without employing free weights, exercise machines, or other devices.
The forces of resistance needed for strengthening and building your muscles are provided solely by your own body mass, while the stress-and-tension aspect of the training comes from the repetitive flexion movements.
# 1 – The Basic Squat
Start by standing tall as you can with arms on your side, your legs slightly apart, and your feet flat on the ground with toes pointing forward.
Lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your posterior backward while raising both arms forward with palms down until they are parallel with the ground.
Go as low as your thighs are horizontally on the same level or a bit lower than your knee joints. Hold for at least 3-5 seconds then return to the starting position.
Do at least 3 sets with 15 reps each.
# 2 – The Oblique Squat
This exercise will also work out your oblique muscles along with your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Stand upright with legs slightly apart and your hands placed at the back of your head.
Do the first sequence of basic squat but before completely returning to upright position as you go up, raise your left leg and bend your body until your left elbow touches your left knee.
Repeat the cycle, but this time let your right elbow touch your right knee before going back to starting position.
Continue this alternating sequence until you accomplished 8 reps on each side. Do at least 3 sets per workout session.
# 3 – The Pistol Squat
This exercise is a bit more difficult and calls for a little balancing act. Starting with the basic squat stance, stretch out both of your arms in front until they are parallel to the floor.
Lift one leg forward without bending it, and then lower your whole body by bending the other knee until your thigh is almost the same height as your kneecap.
The lifted leg must be completely outstretched and not touching the floor during this sequence. Hold for a few seconds then return to starting position. Repeat the process with your other leg.
Continue alternating your legs until you did 5 – 6 reps per side to complete 1 set. Repeat the set at least two more times.
# 4 – The Split Squat
Start this exercise with one leg forward and the other backward, as if you are making a stride. The foot on the forward leg should be flat on the ground, while the foot on the backward leg is like in a tiptoe position.
You can place your hands across your chest, on your hips, or at the back of your head.
It will be like doing lunges except both your feet stayed on the same spots during the whole sequence.
Lower your body until the knee of your backward leg hovers just a couple of inches from the floor, and the thigh of your forward leg is almost at a horizontal level.
Hold for a few seconds then return to starting position. Repeat 8 – 10 times then switch legs and do an equal number of reps to complete 1 set. Reprise the whole set at least 2 more times.
Plyometric simply means “jump training” or an exercise wherein you make your body momentarily airborne several times through intense physical exertion.
By incorporating plyometric to squat sequences you are actually adding an aerobic component to a primary resistance training.
# 5 – The Jump Squat
This is a modified version of basic squat wherein you will jump as high as you can as you recover from the squatting position.
In effect, the parts wherein you bend your knees and push back your buttocks to lower your upper body merely become a preparation stage for the jump.
To give more power to the jump, join your hands together in front of your chest as you squat, and then swing them down to your sides with a slight jerk as you leap.
Repeat the entire sequence 15 times to complete 1 set. Perform at least 3 sets as part of your warm-up routine.
# 6 – The Frog Squat
Begin with a squatted position with your legs widely apart that your thighs almost aligned horizontally. Your arms, on the other hand, are extended out with your forearms pointing up.
Remember the lying position of that poor critter you dissected in high school biology and how its limbs are spread out? Your body should form that way at the starting point.
Then leap as high as you can while stretching out all your limbs downward during the jump. Land back to the starting position then hold on for a few seconds before rebounding. Do at least 3 sets with 15 reps each.
# 7 – The Surfer Squat
Start by standing upright with legs apart and arms down. Lower your body on a wide squat stance while extending your arms sideward as if you are balancing on top a surfboard.
Leap as high as you can then twist your body sideward as you land, with arms all spread out and knees bent.
Your end pose should look like you are riding the waves, with one foot forward and the other backward.
Hold on for a few seconds then return to starting position. Repeat the sequence 16 times, alternately twisting to the left then to the right. Do at least 3 sets.
Done with the aid of barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, and other basic gym equipment, weighted squats make for the ultimate compound exercises.
Besides getting a more intense lower body workout, the free weights will also do wonders for your arms, shoulders and entire core.
There are always two ways to do weighted squats. You can work with light barbells or dumbbells and do 12 – 15 reps per set, or pump heavy weights at 6 – 8 reps.
The former builds more stamina and muscle definition, while the latter helps you to gain more lean muscle mass.
Either way, you will definitely get stronger and fitter with both exercise types, so I suggest that you get a program for each one.
Moreover, if you are new at this, start with loads that you can aptly manage and do just 3 sets initially. Gradually add weights and number of sets as you progress with your fitness program.
# 8 – The Back Squat
Many bodybuilding gurus consider this the king of compounds. Not only that it’s the best workout for developing lower body mass, it is also great for strength building.
An upgraded version of the basic squat, it involves carrying a barbell across your shoulders and upper back as you do the routine.
Your upper limbs likewise support the barbell, with arms bent at a 45-degree angle and hands firmly gripping the bar. This exercise is usually done in the gym, as you would need a squat rack for this one.
# 9 – The Front Squat
This has a bit higher level of difficulty than the Back Squat as the barbell is placed across your front shoulder, which is relatively weaker than your back muscles.
Your arms are placed close to your body with your fingers pushed back towards your body to support the bar.
Your elbows, on the other hand, are pointed forward as you do the squats. This move is rapidly gaining popularity with athletes today, as it puts more emphasis on the quads.
# 10 – The Shoulder Press Squat
This exercise is actually a superset wherein you integrate Standing Shoulder Press with the rudiments of the Front Squat, except your forearms are placed a bit farther from your torso.
To start, lift the barbell or a pair of dumbbells until they are at the same level as your shoulders and your wrists facing forward.
Upon doing the customary squat sequence, lift the barbell or dumbbells over your head. Hold for a few seconds, and then back to the starting position. Do 3 sets with 12- 15 reps, or 6- 8 reps when lifting heavy weights.
Including squats in your workout is not subject to debate if you are indeed looking to meet your fitness objectives faster. You can start inserting above discussed squat exercises to your workout program.
Use at least one kind each of bodyweight squats and plyometric squats in your warm-up and cool-down session, and at least one kind of weighted squats in your main workout. If this information was helpful in enhancing your workout, feel free to leave a comment or share it!