Did you know that squatting is a fundamental human movement pattern that involves nearly every muscle in the body? Squatting improves fitness, performance, and mobility for daily-life tasks. But do you always do the same type of squat? You shouldn’t and here’s why:
Have you ever noticed that when you do an exercise you haven’t performed in a few weeks, you experience a much more intense delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for two or three days afterwards? Well that is because your muscles are moving in a slightly different plane of motion than what they are used to and they’ve become unaccustomed to this newly reintroduced movement. Don’t get stuck doing the same exercises each and every week! Change it up so that you can wake up muscles that may not be getting used if you are continually doing the same exercises week after week.
When you add variations into your workouts you can add strength faster and see more development and changes to your physique. Try new exercise movements, add extra weight or perform more sets and reps each workout. It’s all about the variation. Variations also help keeps you mentally stimulated and non-stagnant in your workout regime. This keeps the workouts fun and exciting as well as challenging. When you add variation exercises to your program you will hit the muscles from different angles, helping to stimulate more muscle fibers and create a nice, fully rounded muscle that really pops. Add variation – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Try these examples of variations for squats that can be built into your current training program. Remember to engage the mind-muscle connection and focus on the contraction, negative and stretch phase of the lift. Don’t rush through the reps, keep tension on the muscle through the entire range of motion to get the full benefit of each exercise.
Place the barbell at the upper chest height in the rack. Step forward and position bar in front of shoulders. Cross your arms and place hands on top of barbell with upper arms parallel to floor. Then move the bar from rack. Squat down by pushing your hips backwards while allowing knees to bend forward, keep your back straight and your knees aligned with your toes. Squat down until thighs are just past parallel. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Bulgarian Split Squat
This can be done with a barbell across your back or dumbbells in both hands. Stand with dumbbells in your hands or bar across your back. Extend leg back and place top of foot on bench. Lower yourself down by flexing both the knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Return to your starting position and repeat. Then switch legs.
Hack Squat w/ Barbell
Position barbell just behind your legs. With feet flat on floor shoulder width apart, squat down and grasp barbell from behind with overhand grip. Lift bar by extending hips and knees to full extension to stand up tall. Squat down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward, keeping back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet. Squat down as far as you can possible while keeping your head and chest up. Repeat.
Heels Elevated Hack Squat
Place some plates or a step behind you. Position barbell just behind your legs. With toes on the floor and your heels on top of the step making sure that your feet are shoulder width apart, squat down and grasp barbell from behind with overhand grip. Lift bar by extending hips and knees to full extension to stand up tall. Squat down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward, keeping back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet. Squat down as far as you can possible while keeping your head and chest up. Repeat.
Stand holding a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest. Then squat down between your legs until your hamstrings are on your calves. Keep your chest and head up. At the bottom position, pause and make sure that your elbows are on the inside of your knees and legs. Return to the starting position, and repeat.
With bar upper chest height, position bar on the back of your shoulders and grasp bar to sides. Place feet wider than shoulder width apart and make sure to point your toes outward 45° to 30°. Begin by squatting down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward. Keep your back straight and your knees aligned with the direction that your toes are facing.. Descend until thighs are minimally just past parallel to floor. Return to the beginning position and repeat
Stand with your feet hip width apart and hands on hips, weights in your hands or barbell across your back. Move your right foot behind your left leg, as far past your left foot as is comfortable. Using a "curtsy" motion, squat down. Keep your weight in the front leg, head up and chest up. Return to the beginning position of standing and repeat.
From rack with barbell at upper chest height, position bar on back of shoulders. Grasp barbell to sides. Dismount bar from rack and back up until contact is made with box immediately behind. Stand with either a regular squat position with feet shoulder width or a wide stance with feet flared out slightly. Then sit back onto box by bending hips back while bending knees, keeping your knees in light with your toes and your head and chest up. Using a controlled movement then lower your glutes onto box. Once contact is made stand back up returning to the starting position and repeat.
Much of how you use the above squat variations comes down to what you are currently doing in the gym. While I am not suggesting to drop your current routine and start this one, there is value in adding some variation to your training sessions so that you can stimulate the muscle in a different way and keep it responding without hitting plateaus.
At the end of the day, it is important to realize that no matter where you are in your training experience, there is value in the occasional variation adjustment. Whether it is to bring up weak points or to keep your body healthy and in balance, varying stance and bar placement, using dumbbells instead of a barbell can add that missing element and help with your progress.