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The 5 Best Squat Variations You Aren’t Using Enough

exerciseprogramming strengthtraining weighttraining Jan 21, 2020

As you stumble upon any fitness or health website, you’ll quickly discover the importance of squats regardless of your goals.  The squat is a great movement for improving strength, mobility, joint health, and body composition.  Those are all pretty good things, no matter who you ask.

However, which squat is best for you?  With so many different variations out there, it can be difficult to decide which variation is best.  Or more importantly, which variation is best for you.  You may not realize it, but different variations are better for different people.  For example, an overhead squat is a great way to get some added shoulder stability work, however it requires a ton more mobility throughout your body compared to other variations.  The barbell back squat is often heralded ‘the king’ of lower body exercises, but for someone that is new to squatting there are much better variations that accomplish very similar benefits. 

Not sure where to start?  Find yourself using the same squat variations over and over again?  Here are the 5 best squat variations you probably aren’t using enough:

1. Spanish Squat


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The spanish squat is a great way for increasing quad activation in the squat, and can be a very friendly variation to those that have knee pain when squatting.  The bands help with achieving good position in the bottom of the squat while increasing the working of the quads throughout the movement.

2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat


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The kettlebell goblet squat is one of the best ways for both new and experienced lifters to improve their squat.  This is such a great variation, primarily for two reasons.  First, the counterbalance of the kettlebell allows for the athlete to work deeper into their squat while maintaining good positioning.  Second, the weight in front of the body teaches the athlete how to engage their core throughout the movement, which is great for improved performance and safety through the hips and spine during squatting.

3. Sandbag Squat


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The sandbag squat gives an entirely different stimulus compared to traditional squat variations.  The sandbag is less predictable than a barbell or kettlebell, thus forcing different stabilizing muscle groups to work.  You’ll find you have to go much lighter with a sandbag initially compared to your other squat variations.  However, once you start training with the sandbag, you’ll be hooked.  It will give you crazy returns on your strength, mobility, and relates much more closely to picking things up in everyday life.

4. Safety Bar Squat


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While this requires this specialty bar to perform, the benefits are too great to leave it off the list.  The safety bar will help you build serious strength through your core, back, and legs while challenging mobility.  Due to the unique placement of the bar, this is a great variation for those with low back pain or shoulder pain/injury.  If you have access to one of these bars, it’s definitely worth incorporating into your current routine.

5. Box Squat


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The box squat can be a great change up to your current squats in terms of building strength and retraining proper movement technique during the squat.  Choose a box that allows you to squat to parallel, and make sure to keep strong core tension throughout the movement.  Read all about some of the different box squat variations and uses by Dr. John Rusin here.

Are there any other squat variations we are missing that you think are must haves in your programming?  Let us know if we missed any, and which one of these you will be adding into your next squat session!

We work with people every day rehab from injuries or pain that they experience during squatting, while helping them get back to performing at a high level with strength inside and outside of the gym.

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