15 New Squat Variations for Every Fitness Level

If you've been following along with the LIVESTRONG.COM 30-Day Squat Challenge, you've officially made it to week 2! (If not, start from the beginning and go at your own pace.) You might feel a little sore, and that's OK. Be proud of yourself for the progress you've made so far.

Use the squat challenge as an opportunity to try something new! (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

And when you find yourself getting a little bored with regular squats, here are some options to shake things up. They're divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced, but feel free to mix and match according to your fitness and ability level (as well as which ones you like the best).

Beginner Squat Variations

If you're still learning proper form or are recovering from an injury (with your doctor's OK, of course), start with one of these four variations.

1. Chair Squat

This variation is meant to teach you proper squatting form while you build up strength in your glutes and hamstrings.

  1. Stand a few inches away from the edge of a chair or bench.
  2. Hinge your hips back and sit down on the edge of the chair and immediately stand back up.
  3. At the bottom of the squat, keep your chest up and your knees over your feet (not out past your toes).

2. Assisted Squat

You may also hear these referred to as TRX squats, since the trademarked suspension training system can help you balance as you lean back into your squats. This variation teaches you what it feels like to use more of your glutes rather than your quads, as long as you don't rely too heavily on your upper-body strength to pull you back up.

  1. Grab a railing, doorknob (a knob from both sides of the door in each hand) or TRX handles.
  2. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hinge back into your squat.
  3. Lean back and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Using your core and lower body muscles, stand back up.

3. Wall Squat

Remember these from high school gym class? Well, they're back! This is an isometric exercise you can do while you build up your lower-body strength and work your way toward full squats.

  1. Step your feet several inches away from the wall and put your back against the wall.
  2. Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are directly over your ankles.
  3. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before standing back up.

4. Stability Ball Squat

Want to throw some core work into the mix? Grab a stability ball to work your abs along with your legs.

  1. Lean up against a wall with a stability ball behind your lower back.
  2. Bend down into your squat, allowing the ball to roll up your back.
  3. Stop when your knees are over your ankles, then stand back up.

Intermediate Squat Variations

So you've mastered the standard squat and want something more challenging? Well, here are six variations for you to try.

1. Squat Pulse

One of the easiest ways to make any body-weight exercise harder is by adding pulses — tiny movements up and down that'll really have you feeling the burn! The best part is you can add pulses to any of the other squat variations as well.

  1. Lower down into a standard squat.
  2. Once there, pulse a few times up and down — just a few inches either way.
  3. Then stand back up. That's one rep!

2. Curtsy Squat

These are just like curtsy lunges, but with the added challenge of a static squat hold in between each rep. Just like with pulses, it won't take long to feel it in your hips and glutes.

  1. Start in a standard squat. It may help to have your feet a bit wider on this one.
  2. From a squat, bring your right leg back behind your left leg into a curtsy.
  3. Step back into a squat and repeat on the other leg.

3. Squat With Leg Lift

If you're just not feeling it enough in your hips, give this variation a shot! You can do the body-weight version described below or add a resistance band if you want.

  1. After doing a regular squat, stand up and raise your right leg out to the side at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Bring your right foot down and immediately go into your next squat.
  3. After you come up from the second squat, lift your left leg.

4. Squat Kick

Some days you feel like you just need to kick something. Why not try this squat variation instead. If that still doesn't work, you might check out a cardio kickboxing class.

  1. Perform a standard squat.
  2. As you come up, lift your right leg and kick it out in front of you as high as you can.
  3. You may want to bring your fists up to your chest for balance.
  4. Lower your right leg and go into your next squat, this time kicking with your left leg upon standing.

5. Crab Walk Squat

You may have done regular crab walks in elementary school, but this squat variation is a whole other animal (figuratively, of course).

  1. Stand with your feet together, then step out to the right side a few feet, squatting down as you do.
  2. Bring your left foot in to meet your right foot.
  3. Do a few steps/squats to the right, and then repeat the same number of steps/squats out to the left side.
  4. For an added challenge, use a resistance band around your thighs or hold a medicine ball.

6. Squat Walk

Talk about a booty burner! This variation will have your lower body on fire. Just make sure that your knees and ankles are healthy and stable before attempting.

  1. Lower into a regular squat (you can widen your stance a little for this one if you want).
  2. Shift your weight into your left leg as you step forward with your right leg.
  3. Staying in a low squat, continue walking forward like this. Or back it up!

Advanced Squat Variations

For all you squatting superstars out there, here are five advanced squat variations to take your squat challenge to the next level. You don't have to do all your daily reps as one variation, though. If one gets too tough, switch to another one. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

1. Deep Squat

Keep in mind that it's not just about lower-body strength with this variation, it's also about hip flexibility. So if you can't do it or it hurts, find another challenging variation to tackle.

  1. Start with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider.
  2. Squat all the way down so that your butt hovers just above the ground. Make sure your knees aren't extending beyond your toes.
  3. Stand up and repeat.

2. Squat Jack

How about adding a little plyometrics into your squat routine? These aren't full jumps, but if you're not comfortable doing full squat jumps, these are great alternatives.

  1. Lower down into a squat with your hands clasped in front of your chest.
  2. Now hop your feet in, landing on the balls of your feet, and then hop them back out into a squat.
  3. Keep hopping your feet in and out, making sure you land with your knees bent to absorb the energy.

3. Squat Jump 180

If regular squat jumps have you bored to tears, this variation should keep things interesting.

  1. Lower into a squat.
  2. Jump up like a regular jump squat but turn in midair and land facing the opposite way.
  3. On your next jump, turn over your other shoulder to face back to the front. (i.e., if you turn to the right at first, turn to the left on the second jump.)

4. Frog Jump Squat

Combine a deep squat (see above) with a squat jump and you have the frog jump squat.

  1. Squat all the way down to the floor.
  2. Put your hands on the floor in front of you for support if you need.
  3. Jump all the way up, arms extended overhead.
  4. Land back down in a squat and repeat. Make sure you always land with knees slightly bent.

5. Broad Jump Squat

Here's one final plyo squat variation. Think you're up to the challenge?

  1. Start in a squat.
  2. Swing your arms back behind you for momentum.
  3. As you swing them to the front, explosively jump forward as far as you can.
  4. Land in a squat and jump again or stand up, turn around and jump in the same direction you came from.
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