If you are new to the fitness world, you could be a little bit confused concerning the bodyweight squat variations. Perhaps what you are familiar with is only the regular squat. What is indisputable is that squats are the mother of all exercises because of what they bring to the table. They can help you tone your butt, core and/or leg muscles. All that muscle gain works wonders when it comes to weight loss, maintenance of a muscular physique, and much more. That is why you need to mix up your workout routine with these fresh bodyweight squat variations.
Most newbies in the fitness industry only know of the basic squat. This might explain why they will only do this one exercise, which is not bad at all. Upon consideration though, you really should switch up things for more and better results by doing a couple different bodyweight squat variations.
In this article, we will be educating you on various bodyweight squat variations. We will be discussing how each of these workouts are performed and their related benefits. We shall also shed light and discuss how you can avoid common mistakes in these exercises.
List Of The 15 Best Bodyweight Squat Variations
Like any other bodyweight exercise, bodyweight squats use your body weight to give your body the workout it needs. The good thing about these exercises is that they require no equipment and can be done practically anywhere. Time, dedication, and patience are all you need to get started with these bodyweight squats. But before doing that, take a look at the 15 best bodyweight squat variations one can perform as per fitness gurus:
Benefits: This basic move is the mother of all squat variations. There is no way you will get every other squat variation right without nailing this move first. Likewise, it is an excellent baseline to start building strength from bodyweight squats before trying out different variations.
How to: The air squat move resembles the motion of taking a seat (13). Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing forward. Keep your back straight and chest up and then start to lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push through your heels to stand and complete one rep. You can do at least 15 reps or perform the given reps by your instructor. Always rest in between sets or before you proceed to perform the next exercise.
Caution: An air squat can be risky to perform if it is not done in the correct form. As such, it may cause injuries, pains, or delayed results. You can avoid these by maintaining the proper squat form. This means keeping your posture upright, engaging your core while squatting, and only lowering yourself as far as you can comfortably go (7).
Bodyweight Squat Variations: Sumo Squat
Benefits: Sumos target your inner thighs and burn your inner thigh fat like no other standard squat (1). Not only will they tone this area, but they also help you get rid of jiggly or flabby thighs pretty fast.
- Stand with your legs wider than hip-width apart and toes pointing out.
- Slowly lower your hips down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for some seconds before standing and repeating.
- Do at least 15 reps for one set.
- Remember to rest in-between your sets.
Caution: These sumos can lighten up your thighs if done correctly. However, if not, they can cause various injuries such as knee pain. To avoid this, remember to keep your back straight, bend at your knees, and drive through your heels while returning to the standing position.
Benefit: The plié squats rank among the best exercises to sculpt your butt as they extensively work on your deep rotator muscles (9). It is also a great exercise to hammer your tough-to-reach inner thighs.
How to: To get that defined butt and toned inner thighs using the plié squats, you must make sure you are doing them correctly. To achieve this, you have to follow these steps to the letter. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes must be pointing out in the same manner that your thighs are pointing forward. You can clasp your hands in front of your chest and then slowly lower into a squatting position. Hold for some seconds before returning to the initial stance. Again, as you stand, remember to press through your feet and clench your glutes.
Caution: This graceful squat variation mimics a ballet exercise due to its wide positioning of legs. Make sure that your toes are always pointed out at a 45-degree angle. Similarly, always keep your back straight and chest upright as alignment is critical with these squats.
Bodyweight Squat Variations: Isometric Squat
Benefits: These squat variations help strengthen your biggest power generator, which is your glute muscles. They help with increasing the glute muscle strength and endurance in your leg muscles (2).
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your hands by your sides. Bend your knees and push your hips back, and slowly lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you lower, remember to inhale. Hold this position for at least five seconds or as instructed by your trainer. After this, return to the standing position and remember to clench your glutes. This is just one rep. Repeat until you are done with your reps or sets.
Caution: Extend your arms while you squat to help you find balance. If not, you can always clasp them in front of your chest.
Benefits: These squat variations are also referred to as the one-legged squats. They help with developing leg muscle strength, balance, and coordination. They work your quads, calves, gluteus maximus, hips, and hamstrings (8).
- Stand upright and extend one foot in front.
- Keep it straight and slightly bend the knee of your other leg.
- Extend your arms in front to help you find balance.
- Keep your back straight and center your body weight on the ball of your foot.
- Slowly lower into a squat as you slightly raise the extended foot from the floor.
- Let your eyes face forward, and your chest remain upright throughout.
- Slowly push yourself up to the starting position.
- Complete all the reps on this leg before switching to the other leg.
Caution: Do not extend your knees beyond your toes. They should always be aligned with your toes. To achieve this, focus on pushing your hips back as much as you can.
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Bodyweight Squat Variations: Curtsy Squat
Benefits: The curtsy squat is a more challenging squat variation than the basic squat that works your leg muscles. It is, therefore, an excellent exercise to tone your leg muscles.
How to: Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart. As you lower into a squatting position, slightly raise one foot off the floor and cross it behind your other leg. Remember to keep your torso upright. Return to the starting stance and repeat on the other side. That completes one rep of the curtsy squat. Repeat until you complete the instructed reps.
Caution: Try to regulate your pace to avoid tripping over, especially when crossing one leg behind the other. It is best if you first focus on mastering the technique instead of increasing your workout pace.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Benefits: This exercise helps strengthen your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core, and back muscles (10). The exercise requires balancing and coordination, which increase your core and upper body engagement. It also helps in maintaining a proper posture while sitting and standing (10).
How to: Stand at a two feet distance from a bench, box, or step with your legs hip-distance apart. Arch your back, tighten your core and keep your chest upright. Place your left foot on your elevated surface by flexing your left ankle and balancing it with the ball of your foot and toes. Do not worry if you hop on your right food several times before finding balance. Once you find it, bend your right leg and lower into a squat. Push through your right leg and return to the standing position. You will have completed one rep of the Bulgarian split squat on your right side. Complete the reps you are required to do on this side before repeating for the left side.
Caution: Foot placement is vital in the Bulgarian split squat. Try to find the most comfortable foot placement to avoid tripping. Again, avoid leaning forward from your hip. It may shift your center of gravity to your front knee, resulting in excessive strain on your knee (10).
Bodyweight Squat Variations: Side-Kick Squat
Benefits: The side-kick squat exercise is one of the exercises you should be doing if you want a perkier behind. It is because it helps in toning and sculpting your butt (4).
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Clasp your hands in front of your chest, slowly bend your knees, and lower your hips into a deep squat.
- While standing up, extend or lift your right leg to the side and kick. It squeezes your outer glute.
- Place back your foot on the ground and perform another deep squat. This time around, as you stand, lift your left leg and kick to squeeze the outer left glute.
- Repeat this for some minutes or until you are done with your reps.
Caution: Keep your knee up and lift your leg as high as you can without losing balance. More so, focus on doing the side kick squat variation correctly instead of how many of these squats you can do.
Benefits: Side squats are excellent exercises to sculpt your legs and strengthen your glutes, legs, and outer thighs. They are great additions to your workout routine if you want a fit and toned lower body.
How to: The side squat is pretty similar to the regular squat. The only difference is that it combines a side step. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a side step to your right and then lower into a squatting stance. As you stand back up, return your right leg to the initial stance and then take a side step to your left. Perform a squat and repeat this for a minute.
Caution: Be cautious of your posture. It would help if you kept your back straight, chest upright, and toes facing forward.
Bodyweight Squat Variations: Pistol Squat
Benefits: This is an advanced squat variation that requires strong legs. It works out each leg individually and targets your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves (6). It is perhaps the most challenging squat move but the best to build your balance and flexibility and target the named muscles.
- Stand upright and slightly extend your left leg in front.
- Keep it straight with the heel slightly above the floor.
- Extend your arms in front of you and bend your right leg into the squatting position.
- Go as low as you can to rest your right hamstring on the right calf.
- Return up by pushing through the right leg.
- Repeat the same on the other leg.
Caution: As mentioned above, this move is quite intense compared to the regular squat as it works each leg individually. If you have not mastered the basic squat, keep away from this squa to avoid injuring your back and knees due to wrong squatting forms.
Benefits: Pulse squats or pulsing squats are excellent routines to strengthen your glute muscles and sculpt a better butt (3). They are a perfect squat variation to opt for as compared to the classic squat.
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and then lower into a squatting position.
- Instead of standing back immediately after, hold this position and perform some pulses or gentle bounces. You can perform three to five pulses for every squat (3).
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Caution: Keep your back straight even when performing these pulses. Similarly, engage your core but remember to keep your hips in a neutral position.
Bodyweight Squat Variations: Lateral Squats
Benefits: These squat variations target the hip abductors and gluteus medius. They are excellent exercise options if you are looking to enhance your agility, flexibility, and dynamic balance (11).
How to: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes pointed out. Bend your right knee and shift your body weight to the right leg while pushing your hips back. Your left leg should remain straight as with your torso. You can extend your arms in front to help with balance. Press through your right heel to return to the starting position and complete a lateral squat rep on the right side. Repeat the same on your left side.
Caution: Let the bent knee track directly over the toes. If it means adjusting the distance between your feet, then so be it.
Squat To Lunge
Benefits: The squat to lunge exercise helps increase muscle mass and tone your butt, core, and legs. It is the exercise you need if you are looking for a killer lower-body workout routine.
How to: To do the squat to lunge, you start with your feet hip-width apart and then lower to perform a squat. Stand up to the initial stance and then step your right leg into a long stride. Bend it but let your left knee rest a few inches from the floor (12). Stand up and then perform a squat, followed by a lunge by stretching out your left leg. This will account for one rep. Repeat this until you are done with your reps. Alternatively, you can squat and then lunge on one side before switching sides.
Caution: Make sure your knee does not go over your toes, as this makes your lunge stance pretty narrow. Similarly, step into a lunge slowly and with control to avoid tripping or interfering with your posture.
Squat To Heel Raise
Benefits: Doing the heel raises with squats helps in strengthening your leg muscles, especially the calves.
How to: Start in a standing position, feet slightly apart and toes pointing out. Rise up onto your toes while keeping your back straight. While keeping your heels off the floor, slowly lower into a squatting position. Slowly lower your heels back on the floor when you reach the bottom of the squat. Repeat.
Caution: You may struggle to find balance if it is your first time doing this squat variation. For assistance, grab something like a chair for support in front of you while doing these heel raises with squats. Also, be cautious of how you land and lift your heels to avoid heel pain that may be uncomfortable or result in chronic pain (14).
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Squat To Lateral Leg Raise
Benefits: The squat to lateral leg raise is an excellent exercise to increase your hips’ range of motion and body stabilization.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips or clasping in front of your chest.
- Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat.
- Stand back up and stretch out your right leg to the side.
- Make sure your right knee is straight.
- Return the leg on the floor and squat again.
- After standing, this time around, stretch out your left leg and keep your left knee straight. Repeat to complete your reps.
Caution: Make sure that at no point you are arching your back. This may harm your back and result in back pain.
Are Bodyweight Squats Effective?
Yes, they do! If done correctly, these exercises will help you build muscle, tone your butt, or achieve your desired fitness goals. First, talk to your fitness coach to determine the best bodyweight squat variation to attain your goals.
How Often Should I Do Bodyweight Squats To See Results?
Bodyweight squats are considered some of the best full-body exercises. As such, some people use them to promote weight loss. If this is the case, then you need to be patient. Remember that you will see faster weight loss results if you consume fewer calories than your body burns (5).
The Bottom Line
Squats are essential in any exercise routine as they provide numerous benefits. Doing various bodyweight squat variations can increase the benefits you reap and help you get in shape quickly.
But remember that your diet also plays a crucial role in the attainment of your fitness goals. If you are considering using any of these squat variations for specific purposes, also remember to craft a proper meal plan.
Check out the 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home below.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 8 exercises trainers never do (and what to do instead) (2018, nbcnews.com)
- 5 isometric exercise for people to try (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Bringing Up the Rear: A Workout for Your Glutes (2019, medicinenet.com)
- Butt-Kicking Workout (2021, webmd.com)
- How often to work out for health, strength, and weight loss (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Pistol squats and push-ups: how Ruth Bader Ginsburg stays fighting fit (2017, theguardian.com)
- Slideshow: 7 Risky Exercises and Better Bets (2020, webmd.com)
- Slideshow: Off-Balance Core Moves, A Whole New Way to Work Out (2020, webmd.com)
- The Butt Workout: Exercises to Sculpt a Better Backside (2011, webmd.com)
- What Are Bulgarian Split Squats Good For? (2021, medicinenet.com)
- What are the benefits of performing squats? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What are the best exercises for overall health and fitness? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What Leg Workouts Can I Do at Home? (2021, medicinenet.com)
- Why do my heels hurt and what can I do about it? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)