Squats. It seems they show up in nearly every workout. You might think you escape them when you step away from traditional strength training, but no such luck.
They show up in the bob and weave of kickboxing, or come disguised as a plié during barre class. Even those sweet, gentle yoga instructors have tried to trick us with something they call the “chair pose”.
Yep, squats keep showing up, which means they must be good. So what makes the squat such a great move?
The Benefits of Squats
Let’s start with the obvious: squats tone and shape your legs beautifully. Squats strengthen all the muscles in your legs including your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
Depending on the way you turn your toes, you can also focus more on inner thighs or outer thighs. If you’re looking for beautiful, strong legs, turn to squats on a regular basis!
Tighten Your Tush
Time to tighten and lift that rear end? What’s better than a traditional squat.
Performed with proper form, a squat should leave your glutes sore the next day. Is there a better feeling than a sore backside after a hard workout? Squats will do it.
Stronger Core and Low Back
Your abs, hips and low back are involved in a good squat too. You engage all the core muscles for nearly any squat variation you do, but especially if you are holding extra weight.
All of the core muscles pull in to keep your posture in the proper place during your squat and help you maintain good stability.
Squats build lower body muscles, which are the larger muscles in your body.
By building muscle anywhere in your body you increase your metabolism, but when you build the larger muscles you increase your metabolism even more.
Increasing your muscle mass increases your metabolism. When you increase your metabolism you are more efficient at burning fat on your body all the time, not just during a workout.
Squats burn calories during the exercise, but they also help you lose fat by burning more calories throughout the entire day.
As you can see, there are many reasons to do squats. This basic squat is the best place to start. Learn it well and concentrate on proper form and a deep range of motion.
Once you have learned the basic squat and it feels comfortable to you, it’s time to mix it up! Taking new variations on squats can add new dimensions and benefits while still keeping the basic benefits intact.
For example, if you want more inner thigh work, a plié squat is a great choice. By turning your legs open (external rotation), the inner thigh muscles are activated and turned on for more help.
If your focus is solely on shaping your butt, then a pistol squat or single leg squat is a great variety to mix into your workout.
Want to burn extra fat and calories? Jump squats are your new friend. Or add in a kettlebell to up the ante.
Or maybe you’re on a quest for stronger abs. If so, a front squat or goblet squat would be a great choice.
There are more squat variations than you can imagine so stay creative and be willing to change your position.
1. Basic Squat
How to do basic squats:
- Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Your hips, knees, and toes should all be facing forward.
- Bend your knees and extend your buttocks backward as if you are going to sit back into a chair. Make sure that you keep your knees behind your toes and your weight in your heels. Rise back up and repeat.
2. Plié Squats
How to do plié squats:
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and toes turned out into a 45-degree angle.
- Bend knees and lower your torso, keeping your back straight and abs tight.
- Squeeze your glutes and come to standing position.
3. Squat Jumps
How to do squat jumps:
- Start standing with feet hip distance apart and lower into a squat position by bending the knees. Keep the spine straight, chest lifted, and knees behind toes. Arms are in front of the chest for balance.
- Jump straight up and swing arms overhead. Return to squat.
4. Stiletto Squats
How to do stiletto squats:
- Start standing and lift heels high like you’re wearing heels. Keeping your abs engaged slowly drop into a squat bringing your hips to knee height.
- Squeeze your glutes and return to you starting position.
5. Pistol Squats
How to do pistol squats:
- Stand with feet hip distance apart and extend 1 leg long on front of the body.
- Bring hands to hips or the front of your body for balance. Sit back into a squat with weight in the heel of the foot, then slowly stand back up using your glute and hamstring muscles. Repeat for desired number of reps and switch sides.
6. Surfer Squat
How to do surfer squats:
- Start in a squat position with body facing the side of the room but eyes looking forward.
- Jump a full 180 degrees and land in a squat so that body is now facing the other side of the room. Keep eyes forward.
- Continue to make 180-degree jump-turns with eyes looking forward and body staying in squat position.
7. Squat Thrusts
How to do squat thrusts:
- Start standing with feet hip distance apart and lower into a squat position by bending the knees. Keep the spine straight, chest lifted, and knees behind toes. The elbows are bent and dumbbells are at shoulder height.
- Using the lower body, thrust up to standing and press the dumbbells overhead extending the arms long. Then lower back to starting position.
8. Medicine Ball Squat Toss
How to do medicine ball squat tosses:
- Stand with feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent and hold the medicine ball with two hands in front of your chest.
- Sit back in squat position, keeping chest lifted and lower ball to floor.
- Stand up with an explosive movement while tossing ball up over head.
- Catch the ball at chest level and sit back to squat position. Repeat for desired number of repetitions.
9. Resistance Band Squat
How to do resistance band squats:
- Stand on band with feet shoulder width apart and hold the handles next to your shoulders so the band is behind the back of your arms.
- Slowly sit down and back into squat position keeping abdominals tight and chest lifted.
- Press back up through heels, squeezing glutes.
1o. Side to Side Squat
How to do side to side squats:
- Start standing with feet hip distance apart and sit back into a squat position by bending the knees.
- Keep your abs tight and back straight. Step wide to one side staying in your squat position, go back to your starting position, and then side squat wide in the other direction using all your lower body muscles then back to center. Continue squatting side to side staying low throughout.
11. Elevated Squat Knee Lift
How to do elevated squat knee lifts:
- Start in squat position with left leg on the step and right leg on floor.
- Push up through left leg and lift right knee to side. Hold a moment and slowly lower back to start position. Repeat for desired number of reps and switch sides.