If you know the benefits of doing squats–weighted or bodyweight–then this stand-up, sit-down motion is one with which you are probably pretty familiar. So familiar, in fact, that it’s possible you’re downright sick of them.
Sure, you love how squats help to shape your legs and butt. And yes, do enough of them, and it’s like getting a full-on cardio workout, too. Fat is getting burned, muscles are getting strong, and your lower body is banging. Still, you’ve done so many that now you hover on the proverbial ledge of squat burnout.
Before you do something drastic, let’s talk about this calmly and rationally. First, it’s good to take a break from doing the same old-same old–especially when it comes to exercise. Your body catches on quickly, and if you stick to a repeat program, the results you saw in the beginning likely won’t be the same you see in the end. You have to switch things up to keep your body guessing, which means change is good. Second, there are other complex leg exercises that can deliver lower body benefits. Don’t be afraid to add in deadlifts, leg curls, lunges, and calf raises. Last, if you’re doing only one kind of squat exercise, you’re missing out on the many variations available. So before you say “so-long” to the squat for a while, try adding these into your workout mix to get back on board with singing the praises of squats.
Split Squat: This variety of squat is similar to a lunge exercise, targeting the quads while also strengthening the butt and supporting muscles. Start with one leg forward in a lunge position, with your knee in line with your ankle. With your back leg, place your foot sole up on a bench, so that your leg has a slight bend with your knee facing the ground. Using just your bodyweight or a dumbbell in each hand, flex your front knee and hip as you lower your body down, maintaining good posture. Return to the starting position to finish one rep. Complete three sets of 12 reps on each leg.
Sumo Squat: Getting its name from a sumo wrestler’s stance, this squat style is a great inner leg toner. Stand wide, with your legs about shoulder-width or wider. Point your toes slightly out to the sides. Using just your bodyweight or holding a plate, dumbbell, or kettlebell in both hands at your chest, sit back and down so that your butt comes parallel or lower. Pause in the lowered position and then return to the start position to complete your first rep. Do three sets of 15 reps.
Pistol Squat: This squat, which is done on a single leg, can be difficult to master. It requires you to lower on one leg as the opposite leg hovers above the floor straight out in front of the body. If this is new to you, start by using a chair and something to hold onto, such as a wall or a ballet barre. With the chair behind you within sitting distance, place one hand on your balancing object, which should be perpendicular to your body. Balanced on one leg, sit your hips back and down toward the chair while your other foot rises in front of your body. When your butt touches the chair, return to the standing position. As you become more comfortable and confident with this movement, work on lowering your squat toward the floor (no chair) while not touching anything for support. Practice three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Curtsy Squat: Targeting your outer legs and rear, the curtsy squat is a fun switch up. With hands on your hips and feet hip-width apart, step your right foot behind your left leg, as far as is comfortable. In a “curtsy” motion, squat down, keeping the weight in your front leg. Return to standing for one rep. Do three sets of 15 reps on each leg.
Squat Jump: This movement is great for building both lower body strength and explosive power. It is also a good fat-burning exercise as it gets the heart pumping quickly. Start with your feet below your hips and lower into a normal squat position. At the bottom load up your stance and explode up and into a jump. Land on soft feet as you immediately return to the squat position. Complete a Tabata workout of this exercise, doing eight rounds of 20-second squat jumps and 10-second rest, for a total of four minutes.
Resistance Bands Squat: You don’t always have to use barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells to add more than bodyweight resistance to your squat. For this better-butt exercise, wrap a resistance band around your legs just below your knees. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and press your legs into the band as you lower your butt back and down. In the lowered squat position, step out on your right leg and then step it back in. Repeat on the left side. Keep alternating steps on each side until you’ve completed 15 on each side. Stand and rest before doing two more rounds.
See? Squats can be so much more that the one you’re used to doing! Play around with styles to switch things up. You’ll be less bored, and see better body results, too.
What’s your favorite squat variation? Share with others in the comments!