People come up with all sorts of excuses for not spending as much time working on their lower bodies. Some blame their bad back, bad knees, or not having access to a squat rack. The truth is there is no good reason not to work on the lower half of your body.
A weak lower body limits your athletic performance and ruins the way you look. We all know having a defined upper body paired with chicken legs is not a look most people want.
Your legs contain the largest muscles in your body, so leg workouts are an excellent way to add mass to your frame. Squats are one of the exercises you should incorporate into your workout routine. You don’t need any equipment to get a good burn from squats since your body weight is typically more than enough if you’re new to leg workouts.
This article will cover some of the squat variations that are great for developing strength in your lower extremities.
Five Squat Variations That Build Strength And Muscle
Anyone new to squats should start with their bodyweight until they have the proper form down. Gravity gives you more than enough resistance to get a good leg workout.
Some of the keys to getting the most out of a basic squat include tightening your abs as you perform the exercise, looking down at a spot on the ground about two meters away from you, and making sure you drop down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
Go lower than that if your mobility allows it. The lower you go when performing squats, the more you get out of the exercise. Keep that in mind as you start to load weights for more resistance.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s take a look at some effective variations of the squat:
1) Front Squat
Front squats engage your quads more than conventional squats and force you to keep your torso upright as you complete your sets. This variation is excellent for people with lower-back issues since it puts little strain on the back, and it’s also an effective way to build up your quads. It’s a great exercise to start your leg workouts with since it gets your quads pumped and ready for more work.
Here’s how you perform the exercise:
- Get into position inside a power rack with the barbell resting across your fingertips and delts. Your elbows should be pointing forward and up from the position.
- Engage your core, keep your back flat, and push your chest up as you bend at your knees and hips.
- Lower yourself down as if you were sitting on a chair. Drop down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
- While keeping your back tight, drive up back to the starting position by pushing through your heels to complete a rep. Your torso should be upright throughout the exercise.
2) Barbell Hack Squat
This exercise also forces your quads to do most of the work. The bar’s position behind your legs makes it easier to explode through your heels on the return portion of the exercise. Here’s what it looks like:
- Stand in a squatting stance with your legs slightly closer together than usual. They should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at your hips and knees as you lower your body down and grab the bar. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.
- While keeping your back flat, forcefully extend up hips and knees to get into an upright position, pulling the barbell up the back of your leg.
- Once in a standing position, slowly reverse your motion and return the barbell to the ground.
3) Bulgarian Split Squat
Bulgarian split squats are an excellent way to improve your hip mobility and functional strength. It gives your back hip flexor a nice stretch it doesn’t get from non-staggered squatting exercises. The exercise takes a lot out of you, so it’s best to do them when your legs are still fresh. To perform a split squat:
- Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and place one foot on a bench or exercise box behind you.
- Place your front foot far enough ahead of you that your knee does not extend over your toes as you perform your reps.
- Drop yourself down towards the floor by being at your front knee until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
- Press up with your front heel and return to the starting position.
4) Goblet Squat
These are a less intense version of the front squat. It’s an excellent exercise for people who are still new to working out their legs. Like the front squat, it engages your quads the most and makes it easier to stay upright as you perform the exercise.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and place them right below your chin. Your elbows should be at your sides.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and tighten your core.
- Bend at your knees and hips and drop your torso as deep as you can. You want to go past your thighs being parallel to the ground.
- Push off your heels and return to the starting position to complete a rep. Keep your core tight and your back flat throughout the motion.
5) Skater Squat
Some would describe skater squats as an easier version of the pistol squat that still gives you many of the same benefits. It’s an effective way to strengthen your leg muscles while improving your muscular balance in your lower extremities. It puts less strain on your lower back since you don’t have to use a barbell. Here’s what a skater squat looks like:
- Start standing upright and lift one foot off the ground.
- Squat down on one leg, moving the elevated leg past your midline and behind you, like a speed skater’s form to balance your weight.
- Drop down until your thigh is parallel to the ground, then return to the starting position. Perform as many reps as you want with that leg, then switch sides and repeat.
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