Squats Variations. Technique and Recommendations

How to Do Different Variations Squats

Squats different variations. There are types of exercises that we strongly recommend including in your weekly workouts: they are very effective and easy to perform. But only at first glance. Now we will tell you how to do the correct squats – one of the most important exercises in the world.

Correct squats perfectly strengthen the muscles of the hips, buttocks, abs, quadriceps, back and hamstrings. Plus, squats have a great effect on balance and coordination. Noticed that we said it was “right squat”? Now we will tell you how to squat.

Barbell squat

Barbell squat

The squat belongs in the basic, multiple-joint exercise category because the hip, knee, and ankle joints are mobilized. As a result, the squat recruits many muscles in addition to the quadriceps: the glutes, hamstrings, lumbar muscles, and calves.

The squat is considered a good starting exercise because it stimulates many muscle groups of the lower body.

How to Do It

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and place a barbell on your upper back. Keeping your back arched very slightly backward, bend your legs just until your torso starts to really bend forward. When this happens, thigh involvement lessens and the lumbar muscles begin to do the majority of the work.

How to Do It

When you have reached your low position, push down through your heels to straighten your legs. Once you are upright, perform another repetition.


  • The whole lower-body and part of the upper-body muscles are recruited, which makes the squat one of the most complete exercises.


  • The squat is a very difficult exercise to perform and requires athletic skills a beginner may not have.

! Important! Because this exercise is exhausting, it carries some risk for the knees and back. Hanging at a pull-up bar to stretch your spine after your workout is advised, as it is with every workout.

Tips Barbell Squat

  • Whenever you use a barbell, do not place it on your neck because doing so is likely to hurt your spine. Place the bar below your neck, roughly at your rear shoulder level. If the bar hurts, put a towel around it to make it more comfortable.


Hold the bar on your trapezius and the top of your shoulders (left) or across the back of your shoulders and trapezius (right).

  • In order to increase the muscular intensity of the squat, use a continuous tension technique. This means that instead of allowing your leg muscles to rest at the top of the movement by completely straightening your legs, you stop your squat short and don’t straighten your legs completely.
  • Perform as many repetitions as possible using continuous tension. When the burn becomes unbearable, straighten your legs at the top of the movement in order to give your muscles a short rest, which will allow you to perform a few extra reps.

Keep your legs

Keep your legs slightly bent at the top of the squat to make the exercise more difficult.

  • Placing a thin board of wood or a weight plate under your heels will make it easier to keep your back straight as you go down. This trick is particularly helpful if you have long femurs or inflexible ankles.Squat with heels elevated

Squats variations with heels elevated

Squat with heels elevated

Another different variations squat with heels elevated. If you have a recurvatum (hyperextension) at the knee level (you can straighten your legs so far that your knees are pushed backward), do not straighten your legs at all because the load can damage your knees in that precarious position. Worse, your legs could bend backward under the load, which would result in very serious injuries.


Hyperextension (left) is typical of women; straighter legs (right) are typical of men.

  • In order to protect your spine from excessive damaging pressure, as your muscles grow stronger, we recommend that you don’t perform both squats and deadlifts during the same workout. as you advance in your training, center your leg workouts around squats and save the deadlifts for your back workouts.
  • Do not look down or to the side when performing a squat. Rather, look in front of you and slightly up to avoid damaging your neck.
  • Rounding your back, especially at the end of a set when your muscles are tired, is much easier than keeping your back straight, but this rounded position increases the risk of damaging your lumbar discs.

Don’t round your back

Don’t round your back at the bottom or top of the movement.

Squats Variations Stance Width

Varying the width of your feet during the squat can change the muscles targeted. Keeping them at about shoulder width and slightly turned out results in the muscles of the entire thigh doing equal work. When you narrow your stance, the focus is on the quadriceps, and the knee joints experience greater pressure.

Adopting a very wide stance works the inner thighs, hamstrings, and glutes more. As with all variations, choose the one that feels most natural to you at first. Later, you can adopt a position that targets particular muscular zones.

Squats Variations Stance Width

Comparison of wide, shoulder-width, and narrow stances for the squat. Red illustrates the muscles that are most engaged, orange illustrates those that are less engaged.

Wide-stance power squat

Wide-stance power squat

Body Weight Squats Variations

Body weight squat

Body weight squat

  • The easiest squat version is the free squat, in which you use only your own body weight. You can practice this exercise at home to tone up your legs without having to go to the gym. The main problem is that body weight squats rapidly become too easy because of the lack of resistance.

Start position

Start position

Variations with arms crossed

Variations with arms crossed in front or down at the sides. Choose the arm position that feels the most comfortable and secure for you; arm position does not alter the recruitment of the leg muscles.

  • Alternatively, you can do one-leg squats variations, which are much harder than regular squats and do not put pressure on the spine. If this variation is new to you, make sure you control the degree of descent, because the maximal range of motion of the one-leg squat can be much greater than that of the regular squat.
  • Going as deep as possible may result in profound muscular soreness after your workout. Therefore, increase your range of motion gradually over several workouts.

One-leg squat variation

One-leg squat

Start position

Start position

Variation with one leg

Variation with one leg in front and arms straight out; this will train your balance as well as your muscles.

Dumbbell Squats Variations

When you grab one dumbbell between your legs, your thighs have to work harder, rendering the squat more effective. As an alternative, you can use a strong elastic band or squat on one leg only.

Grabbing two dumbbells adds even more resistance. The main advantage of dumbbells over a barbell is that they make it easier to keep your back straight and to keep your balance. However, as you grow stronger, dumbbells will not offer the resistance required to progress even more. This is when graduating to a long bar is required. By then, you should be able to keep your balance despite the overload placed on your legs.

One-dumbbell squat

One-dumbbell squat

Start position

Start position

Two-dumbbell squat

Two-dumbbell squat

Start position

Start position

Resistance Band Squats Variation

Squat using a resistance band

Squat Variations using a resistance band

An elastic band can replace dumbbells. The main advantage of the resistance band is that it provides a variable resistance that suits your muscular strength exactly. At the bottom of the movement, where your muscles are weaker, the band offers less resistance. As you straighten your legs and your muscles get stronger, the band gets pulled and therefore offers more resistance.

Start position

Start position resistance band


Front Squats Variation

Front squat

Front squat Variations

The front squat allows you to keep your back straighter than you can with the classic back squat. However, it shifts the muscular recruitment from the glutes to the quadriceps, which may not be your goal if your main focus is glute development. Furthermore, carrying the bar on the front shoulders will feel very uncomfortable for many women. Moreover, mastering proper front squat technique is difficult. Without it, you will be very prone to losing your balance. As a result of these problems, the front squat is not a top leg exercise for most women.

Compared to the back squat

Compared to the back squat (on the right), the front squat allows you to keep a straighter back.

On the left. On the right.

On the left, proper bar placement technique with the elbows elevated. On the right, improper bar placement technique with the elbows down.

Front squat 01

Smith Machine Variation

Squat in Smith machine

Squat in Smith machine Variations

Smith machines can be a good substitute for free-weight squats variations because the guidance they offer reduces the likelihood of accident due to a loss of balance. On a Smith machine you can place your feet forward, which allows you to keep your back very straight. In that position, you are recruiting your glutes while sparing your spine and your knees. An attempt to adopt such a position in a free squat will cause you to fall backward. Because of the stability of the Smith machine, you can easily keep your balance. Therefore, it is an excellent substitute for free squats, especially for beginners.

The Smith machine also allows you to adopt just about every foot position you wish to better target the areas of your lower body you want. Following are foot positions and the muscles they tend to recruit:

Squat in Smith machine. Variations 01

Forward: glutes and hamstrings. Under the glutes: quadriceps (this position is tougher on your knees).

Squat in Smith machine. Variations 01

Together: quadriceps. Wide apart: adductors.

Other Machine Variations

Hack squat start position

Variations Hack squat start position

The hack squat places less pressure on the spine, but it is designed to optimize the recruitment of the quadriceps while minimizing that of the glutes. As a result, it may not suit you if you are more interested in working the glutes.

The movement

The movement Hack squat

Variations Squats using a roman chair

Variations Squats using a roman chair

Squats using a roman chair to block your feet allow you to keep your back straighter than you can with regular squats, but this position will shift the muscular recruitment from the glutes to the quadriceps, which may not be your goal.

Start position

Start position Squats using a roman chair

Squats Variations. Free weights or machine?

There are plenty of squat machines. Their main advantage is that they are less hazardous than the free squat because you have no degree of freedom in terms of the trajectory of the movement. Therefore, it is much harder to lose your balance. This is especially important for beginners with no athletic background.

However, this very rigid trajectory is also the Achilles’ heel of squat machines, because they do not suit most women’s morphology. If a machine does not fit yours, your back is likely to end up in a very awkward position. Therefore, it is hard to recommend squat machines. If you wish to train on a leg machine that spares your back, it is better to use a leg press than a squat machine.

READ: Leg Exercises

Squat Depth

The deeper you lower the weight, the more intense the squat becomes, because as you increase your range of motion, you are not recruiting only your quadriceps. Your hamstrings and especially your buttocks are going to be heavily recruited, as well. So, it seems to be a good idea to squat deep. From a muscular stand point, this is correct. But this is also where your morphology will come into play. The taller you are, the more you will have to bend your torso forward in order to keep your equilibrium as you squat down. In this position, the risk of spinal injury increases dramatically.

Many people claim that bending the torso forward during a squat is bad technique. But morphologically, if you have long quadriceps and a shorter torso, it is mechanically impossible to keep your back straight as you go down in squats. You must bend forward to keep your balance. This is why it is easier to keep your back straight using a Smith machine because there is no balance issue!

If you find that you have to bend forward to a dangerous level in free squats, you would be wise to find an alternative to this exercise rather than waste hours trying to master a technique that you cannot perform morphologically.

Depth Squats Variations

Short femurs mean less forward lean; long femurs mean more forward lean. The longer your femur is, the more you will have to bend over to keep your equilibrium. Therefore, as a general rule, the taller you are, the more dangerous it is for your spine to squat deep.


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