17 New Squat Variations for Every Fitness Level

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Squat variations like single-leg squats bust boredom and keep your gains growing.
Image Credit: Fhitting Room

If you're getting a little bored of regular squats during the 30-Day Squat Challenge with LIVESTRONG.com and the FHIT Pros at Fhitting Room, it's time for some variations to shake things up.

The list below is divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced options, but feel free to mix and match according to your fitness level and preferences.

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. At the bottom of the squat, keep your chest up and your knees over your feet (not in front of your toes).
  3. Press through your heels to stand back up.

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. Try not to rely too heavily on your upper-body strength to pull yourself back up and instead focus on using your glutes.

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

3. Wall Squat

You can do this isometric exercise while you build up your lower-body strength and work your way toward full squats.

  1. Step your feet several inches away from a wall and rest your back against it
  2. Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are directly over your ankles.
  3. Hold this position without resting your hands on your legs for 30 to 60 seconds (or as long as you can with good form) before standing back up.

Tip

This variation isn't just great for beginners; it's useful for those who experience knee pain, too. You get the same load through your lower -ody muscles, but without the up-and-down movement of squats, says Ben Lauder-Dykes, personal trainer, FHIT Pro with Fhitting Room and 30-Day Squat challenge captain.

4. Stability Ball Squat

Grab a stability ball and work your abs along with your legs.

  1. Lean up against a wall with a stability ball behind your lower back.
  2. Lower into your squat, allowing the ball to roll up your back, keeping your knees behind your toes. Stop when your thighs are parallel (or as low as you can go with good form).
  3. Press through your heels to stand back up.

Intermediate Squat Variations

Once you've mastered the standard squat and are ready for something more challenging, try these six variations.

5. 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. Pro tip: 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.
  3. Stand back up. That's one rep.

Tip

Adding a pulse to the bottom of your squat can help you get stronger faster. "Partial reps put the focus on a specific part of the range of motion that someone may need to improve," Lauder-Dykes says. "Often, maintaining tension in the bottom position, especially during the transition from the lowering phase to the lifting phase can be difficult. So, you can add a quarter rep at the bottom to spend more time in that position and build more coordination and strength."

6. Curtsy Squat

These are essentially curtsy lunges, but with the added challenge of a static squat hold 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. Bring your right leg back behind your left leg as if you were curtsying.
  3. Return your right leg back into squat position and repeat with the left leg.

7. Squat With Leg Lift

  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 lower into your next squat.
  3. Stand, then lift your left leg.

Tip

Add a resistance loop above your knees for an added challenge.

8. Squat Kick

  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. (You may want to bring your hands up to your chest for balance.)
  3. Lower your right leg and lower into your next squat.
  4. Stand, then kick your left leg.

9. Crab Walk Squat

  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. Take a few of these squat steps to the right, then repeat the same number to the left.

Tip

For an added challenge, use a resistance band around your thighs or hold a medicine ball.

10. Squat Walk

  1. Lower into a regular squat (or widen your stance a little 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.

Tip

You can also try walking backward in a squat.

11. Heels-Elevated Squat

  1. Stand with your hips slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Place your heels on a weight plate, book or other object of similar height. You can also stand at the end of a ramp.
  3. Push your hips back and bend your knees, keeping your back flat and chest up. Keep your knees over your toes.
  4. Lower down toward the ground until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  5. Pause for a moment, then press into your heels. Push your hips forward and return to standing.

Tip

This is one of Lauder-Dykes go-to variations, as it helps you go deeper into your squat.

Advanced Squat Variations

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

12. Deep Squat

  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.

13. Foam Roller Hack Squat

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart about a foot away from a wall.
  2. Place a foam roller between the wall and your lower back.
  3. Lean against the wall as you press into your heels and sit down into a squat, using the foam roller to "roll" down the wall.
  4. Squat as low as you can, ideally below parallel.
  5. Pause for a moment, then press into your heels. Push your hips forward and return to standing.

Tip

Lauder-Dykes recommends using a foam roller to help you mimic the movement of a hack squat — which is helpful when you don't have access to the gym machine.

14. Squat Jack

Add a little plyometric flare to your squat routine. These are great alternatives to full jump squats.

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

15. Squat Jump 180

  1. Lower into a squat and swing your arms back behind you.
  2. Swing your arms forward as you jump up and turn in midair to land facing the opposite direction.
  3. Immediately lower into your next squat.
  4. On your next jump, turn over your other shoulder to return to the front. (In other words, if you turn to the right first, turn to the left on the second jump.)

16. Frog Jump Squat

This variation combines a deep squat (see above) with a jump squat.

  1. Squat all the way down until your butt hovers just above the floor. (Put your hands on the floor in front of you for support if you need.)
  2. Swing your arms overhead as you jump all the way up.
  3. Land with your knees slightly bent and lower into your next squat.

17. Broad Jump Squat

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