Squats are the king of all workouts - not only are they the most effective exercise to engage your lower body, they're major calorie burners and can vastly improve your flexibility, mobility and posterior chain strength when done right. Aside from the popular back squat, squats also help build a fundamental muscle often overlooked by men — the glutes.
Glutes and hamstrings go hand in hand to create sculpted, strong legs. While you may have a couple of targeted squats already in your back or legs day regimen, shaking things up helps shock your muscles into going the extra mile and reaping better results. We've got five key variations of the squat for you to try out.
The front squat is one of the most well-known squats, yet rarely seen at a squat rack (unless you do CrossFit). It has the benefit of improving leg strength, alongside core and back strength, making it a triple threat. Place the barbell across your shoulders in the front of your body, and hold it in place with your fingers in a clean grip. With your legs shoulder-width apart, squat deeply, keeping your elbows forward, chest up, and weight on your heels.
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
Single leg squats are a newly popular inclusion into the world of squats. They aid balance, hypertrophy and even address certain strength imbalances you may have in your lower body. Instead of using two legs and a heavy weight, squatting one leg at a time allows you to engage and work your muscles without having to amp up the weight. Start with one foot placed on a raised bench behind you, and adjust your stance so your raised shin is parallel to the floor. With your chest upright, push your hips back and bend your raised leg at the knee to squat. Go as low as you can — either until your front knee is bent at 90 degrees, or your back knee reaches the ground.
This Olympic-inspired squat really targets your mobility and capacity for muscle control. Snatch the barbell overhead, and ensure that you're balanced. Having a wide grip on the barbell helps. Squat, and be sure that you're working your hip flexors when descending. While this squat engages your lower body, it may not feel like a strong enough engagement, but trust us, it's working.
This is a rare squat, but it's one of the best when it comes to engaging your glutes. Start off by placing the barbell just slightly below your sternum, supporting it with your elbows. Be wary of how heavy you go as you're keeping the barbell in place with a relatively smaller joint. Clasp your hands together just in front of your chest, and squat until your elbows touch the side of your knees. For those who want an added challenge, start by deadlifting the barbell off the floor to your thighs, hooking the elbows under the bar and bringing it up to your sternum before squatting.
This highly advanced move is the devil of all one-legged squats, but extremely satisfying to master. Stand up straight, raise one foot off the floor with your chest up. Start squatting with your extended leg and arms outright, and descend slowly to really test your flexibility. Once you've reached the floor, return back to standing position by propelling your body up with your heel.
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- January 14, 2017
- Beatrice Bowers