It’s week 3 of the LIVESTRONG.COM 30-Day Squat Challenge! You’re halfway done and well on your way to stronger, more toned glutes.
But if you’re getting a little bored with regular squats (you’ve done about 1,000 squats already!), 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.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand a few inches away from the edge of a chair of bench. Hinge your hips back and sit down on the edge of the chair and immediately stand back up. 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 really lean back into your squats.
HOW TO DO IT: Grab a railing, doorknob (a knob from both sides of the door in each hand) or TRX handles. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hinge back into your squat. This variation will teach you what it feels like to use more of your glutes rather than your quads. Try not to rely too heavily on your upper-body strength to pull you up, though.
3. Wall Squat
Remember these from high school gym class? Well, they’re back! This is a static exercise you can do while you build up your lower-body strength and work your way toward full squats.
HOW TO DO IT: Step your feet several inches away from the wall and put your back against the wall. Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are directly over your ankles. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
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.
HOW TO DO IT: Lean up against a wall with a stability ball behind your lower back. Bend down into your squat, allowing the ball to roll up your back. 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.
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! The best part is you can add pulses to any of the other squat variations as well.
HOW TO DO IT: Lower down into a standard squat. Once there, pulse a few times up and down — just a few inches either way. Then stand back up. That’s one rep!
6. 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 glutes.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a standard squat. It may help to have your feet a bit wider on this one. From a squat, bring your right leg back behind your left leg into a curtsy. Step back into a squat and repeat on the other leg.
7. 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.
HOW TO DO IT: After doing a regular squat, stand up and raise your right leg out to the side at a 45-degree angle. Bring your right foot down and immediately go into your next squat. After you come up from the second squat, lift your left leg.
8. 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 your local kickboxing studio.
HOW TO DO IT: Perform a standard squat. 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 fists up to your chest for balance. Lower your right leg and go into your next squat, this time kicking with your left leg upon standing.
9. Crab Walk Squat
You may have done regular crab walks in elementary school, but this squat variation is a whole other animal.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together, then step out to the right side a few feet, squatting down as you do. Bring your left foot in to meet your right foot. Do a few steps/squats to the right, and then repeat the same number of steps/squats out to the left side. For an added challenge, use a resistance band or medicine ball.
10. 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.
HOW TO DO IT: Lower into a regular squat (you can widen your stance a little for this one if you want). Shift your weight into your left leg as you step forward with your right leg. 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.
11. 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.
HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider. Squat all the way down so that your butt hovers just above the ground. Make sure your knees aren’t extending beyond your toes. Stand up and repeat.
12. 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.
HOW TO DO IT: Lower down into a squat with your hands clasped in front of your chest. Now hop your feet in, landing on the balls of your feet, and then hop them back out into a squat. Keep hopping your feet in and out, making sure you land with your knees bent to absorb the energy.
13. Squat Jump 180
If regular squat jumps have you bored to tears, this variation should keep things interesting.
HOW TO DO IT: Lower into a squat, then as you jump up (like a regular jump squat), turn in midair and land facing the opposite way. 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.)
14. Frog Jump Squat
Combine a deep squat (No. 11) with a squat jump and you’ve got the frog jump squat.
HOW TO DO IT: Squat all the way down to the floor. Put your hands on the floor in front of you for support if you need. And then jump all the way up, arms extended overhead. Land back down in a squat and repeat. Make sure you always land with bent knees.
15. Broad Jump Squat
Here’s one final plyo squat variation. Think you’re up to the challenge?
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a squat. Swing your arms back behind you for momentum. As you swing them to the front, explosively jump forward as far as you can. Land in a squat and jump again.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you joined the LIVESTRONG.COM squat challenge yet? What do you think so far? Have you perfected your form? Have you tried any squat variations yet? Which ones are your favorites? Which ones would you add to the list? Share your thoughts, stories and questions in the comments below!