8 Variations of Squats To Maximise Leg Days

Whether you love it or hate it, leg day is important. Squats should be a staple of your lower body workout, and it has been proven that squats hit the most muscle groups in the body. They are compound exercises and engage the core, quads, hamstrings, and other lower body muscle groups.  

Women jumping on a box for a squat box jump

Do you ever struggle with deciding which squat to try? At FitKit, we have selected 8 variations of squats that you can try to maximise your leg day that will truly give you the leg shakes. 

Which muscles do squats work?

Squatting can help strengthen the lower muscle groups of your body, but they are classified as a compound movement which means that they can help develop other muscle groups in the same movement.

  • Glutes – gluteus maximus, minimus and medius. 
  • Quadriceps – front of the thigh
  • Hamstrings – back of the thigh 
  • Adductor – groin 
  • Calves 
  • Hip flexors  

It’s not just the lower body that can benefit from squatting other areas that are activated when you squat include the core muscles. If you decide to use a weighted bar to squat with, you can potentially target muscles in your shoulders, chest, arms and back depending on the exercise. 

How to do a basic squat?

The squat movement has many variations, but mastering the correct technique of the basic squat will help you when trying other squat-based exercises. 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. This should feel just a little wider than your hip width. 
  2. From here, keep your chest upright and engage your core muscles. 
  3. Shift your weight onto your heels and push your hips back into a sitting position. 
  4. Lower your hips backwards so your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. This should activate the feeling in your glutes and thighs.
  5. Exhale and push to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat 

What are the benefits of squats?

  • Burns calories –  The exertion of energy when squatting can be intense, which means that squatting is an ideal exercise for those who want to burn calories.
  • Squatting can be adapted to suit your fitness level – If you are looking for an advanced workout, they can be worked to high intensity.
  • Strengthens lower muscle groups – Squats can help you tone and strengthen the muscles in your legs, which can help you move easily and help you when walking, exercising and stretching. 
  • Helps to keep your workouts fresh – There are many different ways to squat, and switching up how you incorporate squats into your workout can help keep it fresh and exciting. 
  • You don’t need lots of equipment – If you travel regularly and have to work out in hotel rooms or gyms with different equipment, adding squats to your workout can be beneficial. You don’t need lots of equipment, and the strength equipment you do need is commonly found in most gyms. 
  • Reduces the risk of injury – Squatting helps develop muscles in your lower body; this means that your full body movements will feel more secure. When completing full body movements, you will find that your core strength, form and mobility are increased, which will prevent you from injury. 

Types of squatting

Wondering how to do a particular type of squat? Simply click on the type you want to try from the list below and our guide will give you everything you need to know.

  1. Wall squat 
  2. Pistol squat 
  3. Split squat 
  4. Goblet squat 
  5. Jump squat
  6. Smith machine squat 
  7. Box jump to squat 
  8. Barbell squat 

Squat variations to try

1. Wall squat

If you struggle with mobility issues or if you have problems with your knees, a wall squat can be a great way to introduce squatting into your exercise routine.

Woman doing a wall squat

How to wall squat

  • Stand with your back against a wall and secure your back positioning. 
  • Take a step forward so that your feet are around 10-12 inches away from the wall. 
  • Bend your knees whilst keeping your back against the wall into a mid-level squat. (You should feel as if you are in a seated position).
  • When your thighs are parallel to the ground, pause momentarily and then drive back through the heels towards your starting position.

2. Pistol squat

A pistol squat is considered an advanced variation of squatting, so if you are just venturing into the fitness world, it could be worth skipping this for a simpler option. It requires balance, core strength and stability, making it a more complex exercise. 

Woman pistol squatting

How to pistol squat

  • Stand with your feet together and if you don’t feel safe standing on one foot, make sure you have something to hold on to. 
  • From here, lift one leg up off the ground in front of you so that it is horizontal to the floor. 
  • Then squat down to the floor as far as you can go and stop when your thigh is parallel to the floor. 
  • Push back up, driving through your foot and hips towards the starting position. 

TOP TIP: If this is too easy for you and you want to increase the difficulty, why not try a pistol squat whilst balancing on a BOSU ball to engage the core and activate your balance techniques. 

3. Split Squat

A split squat is ideal for increasing your leg strength and mobilising your flexibility. They can be scaled up in difficulty with dumbbells to suit your skill level or completed without for beginners. 

Woman performing a split squat

How to split squat

  • Split your feet apart so that one is in front of the other.
  • Lunge forward into a squat and drop until your thigh is parallel to the ground. 
  • Push back up through your front foot back to your standing position. 
  • Repeat on the same leg, or swap legs and perform. 

TOP TIP: If you want to scale the exercise up to a harder difficulty, try holding dumbbells.

4. Goblet Squat

The goblet squat activates the muscles in the front of your body and your legs, making it a compound movement that you can add to your workout. The bottom position can also be used to stretch out your hamstring and groin. 

Man performing a goblet squat

How to goblet squat

  • Hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell close to your chest with your legs wider than your shoulder and your toes pointing outwards.
  • From this position, bend your knees until your hamstrings are close to your calves. 
  • Then push through your legs and drive the power back to a standing position. 

5. Jump squat

If you are looking for a squat exercise that can double up as cardio – a jump squat is a perfect choice. It can be used in circuits or as a warm-up for your workout. As this is a quicker movement, it is important to get the form correctly to ensure that you don’t injure yourself.

Man performing a jump squat

How to jump squat     

  • Space your feet at hip-width, with your feet turned ever so slightly. 
  • From here, bend into your regular squat position. 
  • Once you hit the bottom of your squat, drive back up quickly and jump. 
  • As soon as you land, repeat.

6. Smith machine squat

If you are looking for a squat exercise that you can use to lift heavily and build muscle mass, this can be a great introduction to barbell squatting. The smith machine squat allows you to lift heavy weights without the uncertainty of a free barbell. With a smith machine squat, you also can focus on perfecting your form and reduce your risk of injury.

Man on the smith machine performing a squat

How to square on a smith machine

  • Position the bar of the smith machine at a level where you can comfortably hold and support weight on your shoulders. It should be in line with your traps and shoulders.
  • Load your weights at your desired load to either side of the smith machine. 
  • Stand underneath the machine and twist the bar, so that the weight isn’t hooked and sitting on your shoulders. 
  • From here, hinge from your hips and bend the knees slightly into your squat position. 
  • Drive back up to a standing position and repeat.

7. Box jump to squat

The box jump to squat is another exercise that can be used in circuit training and will certainly increase your heart rate. This exercise is one for advanced-level gym users, and if you have never used a box or plyometric equipment before, be cautious when trying the exercise and ask a trainer in the gym to spot you.

Woman performing a box jump to squat

How to box jump to squat

  • Ensure the box is secure and that the surrounding area is clear. 
  • With your legs at shoulder width, lower yourself into a squat position. 
  • From here, jump onto the box and land, dropping into a squat position again. 
  • Step from the box and repeat.

8. Barbell squat

The barbell squat should be in your gym routine if you want to increase your muscle mass, and it is important to ensure your form is correct and that your core is activated when attempting the squat. Start with a comfortable weight and build from there. If you have never used a barbell to squat before, you should test your weight limit on the smith machine before attempting.

Woman performing a barbell squat

How to barbell squat

  • Position the barbell comfortably so that you can lean underneath and rest the bar on your shoulders. This should be at the same level as your shoulders and traps. 
  • Load the desired weight onto the bar. 
  • Lean under the bar, rest on your shoulders and take a step back from the rack. 
  • From here, lean forward slightly and bend at the hips.
  • Bend your legs until you are at the bottom of your squat.
  • Drive back up and push through your feet until you stand again. 
  • Repeat. 
  • Place the barbell back onto the rack securely. 

Squat equipment at FitKit

Now that you have a range of different squat types to try, you can switch up your workouts and keep them entertaining and fresh to ensure you don’t become stagnant in your training. At FitKit, we have a range of equipment that can be used for squatting, such as dumbbells, kettlebells and for gyms that want to expand their gym floor, Olympic bars. You can also browse through the full range of weight training and strength equipment available, which includes some of the fitness industry’s most popular brands.

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