1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

This post is for that guy at the gym who avoids squatting because:

  • They hurt his back
  • They hurt his knees
  • They hurt his shoulders, wrists, neck, ego…
  • Squat only focus on his quads
  • He’s trying to focus on his vastus medialis
  • Squats are overrated
  • He’s not a powerlifter
  • He’s not a bodybuilder
  • He’s not a football player or sprinter or skater or…

Well, you get the idea.

dave draper squat 1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

Just for that guy, I am going to outline all of the different ways that you or him can squat.

Note: I am pretty sure that I will miss something, so feel free to let me know what I missed and I will add it to the post.

1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

In an attempt to organize this master list of squatting options, I decided to organize all of these different lifts into different categories.

Categories

  1. Unilateral / Bilateral
  2. Stance / Body Orientation
  3. Equipment
  4. Position of Load
  5. Range of Motion
  6. Tempo or Speed
  7. Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift
  8. Lifting Surface
  9. Training Volume
  10. Rest Periods
crossfit girl front squat 1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

Crossfit builds fit females

Unilateral / Bilateral

  • 1 Leg Squat – free leg held in front of body – knee bent
  • 1 Leg Pistol Squat – free leg held in front of body – leg straight
  • 1 Leg Box Squat – free leg hangs down
  • 1 Leg Squat – free leg placed behind body
  • 1 Leg Bulgarian Squat
  • 2 Leg Squat

Stance / Body Orientation

  • Hips turned out – Toes turned out
  • Hips straight – Toes straight – legs shoulder width apart
  • Hips & toes straight – narrow stance – legs close together
  • Torso held high, chest up, very little forward lean at the hips – bodybuilder style
  • Rear end pushed back, large forward lean at the hips – powerlifter style
  • More knee flexion than hip flexion during lift – Knees move past the toes during lift
  • Equal knee and hip flexion – Knees don’t pass the toes
  • More hip flexion than knee flexion – Knees stay well back of the toes – box squat style

Equipment

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbell(s)
  • Kettlebell(s)
  • Bodyweight only
  • Weighted Vest
  • Band(s)
  • Chains
  • Medicine ball, sandbag, log, tire, rock, person or any other extreme implement
  • Machines – Smith machine, Squat machine, Hack Squat machine, etc….
  • Cable weight machines
  • Benches / Boxes
  • Stability balls

Position of Load

  • Back Squat – load held on shoulders behind the neck
  • Front Squat – load held in front of the neck
  • Overhead Squat
  • DBs, KBs, etc held in hands at waist height
  • Zercher Squats – load held in the “crook” of your elbows at chest/belly height
  • Hack Squat – barbell held behind your legs

Range of Motion

  • Full squat
  • Barely bending your knees Partial Squat
  • Everything in between
  • 1 and 1/2 squats – squat all the way down, come up half way, go back down and then squat all the way up
  • Focusing on a specific range – i.e working only in the bottom 1/4 of the full range focuses the effort strongly on your glutes, while focusing on the top 1/4 focuses mainly on the quads while also making the exercise much, much easier

Tempo or Speed

  • There are a number of different systems for classifying lifting speed. For simplicity sake, I will stick with the basics: fast, moderate, slow & pause
  • Different speeds of motion can be used for the different portions of the lift: descent, bottom, ascent, top
  • You can mix and match the different speeds with the different portions of the lift depending on your training goals
  • The typical squatter descends fast, doesn’t pause at the bottom, ascends back up fast and pauses at the top if he needs to rest – not very scientific
  • However, another lifter may descend slowly, pause at the bottom to eliminate the bounce he might receive from his stretch shortening cycle, ascend as fast as possible and immediately descend into another squat

Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift

  • Your 1 Rep Max Lift is the maximum amount of weight you can successfully lift with good form.
  • If you are lifting for strength, you will likely choose a load that is close to your 1 Rep max. A lower percentage load is used when you are performing high reps for muscular endurance or for low reps and high speed in an attempt to develop muscular speed.

Lifting Surface

  • This category is primarily employed by the Bosu or “functional training” crowd
  • Most lifters stand on a solid floor, but if it floats your boat, feel free to squat while standing on:
  • Balance disks
  • a Bosu
  • a 1/2 foam roller
  • a balance beam
  • on top of someone’s shoulders

muscle beach pyramid 1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

Training Volume

  • Depending on your training goals (power, strength, hypertrophy, endurance, speed), you can choose a variety of reps per set, sets per exercise and total sets/reps per workout

Rest Periods

  • This category refers to the length of the rest periods taken between sets.
  • Short rest periods are used as a tool to develop the trainees anaerobic energy system.
  • Long rest periods are used to allow more complete muscular and/or nervous system recovery.
  • And as with tempo and load percentage, there is an almost infinite number of positions in between.

Putting it all together…

To be honest, I have no idea how many different types of squats we could make with all of these options.

1,000,000,001 looked impressive, so I went with it…sue me. But, I do know that my little list ‘o squats should definitely spark your imagination and help you create a new and better squat workout. Have fun.

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.

17 Comments

  1. superduck01

    February 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I am a firm believer in many variations of squatting for total quad development!

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  3. Joe Hashey

    May 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Great list!

    Joe

  4. Daniel

    February 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I like this Dave Draper pic!
    Squats are the ‘bench presses’ for legs… It is a necessary and base exercise! Thanks for sharing these techniques!
    GREAT STUFF!

  5. Gray Iron

    February 3, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I like something I call a “side split squat.” It probably goes by other names, too. A lot of martial arts fighters practice them, and the reason becomes obvious when you see them done. If you’d like to take look go here:

    http://www.senior-exercise-central.com/side-split-squat.html

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  7. Feel good fitness Bootcamps

    December 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    what about the trusty goblet squat great for learning about alignment etc ?
    great article however, the only way to truly squat with all these is ass to grass ( with the exception of a box squat obviously), too many partial squats going on in gyms all over,

    the smith machine squat is NOT a squat however ?!?!?

    i would also like to add squating and including some form of rotation? with a plate to overhead press perhaps?

  8. Kris

    November 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

    God bless you. Seriously – the squat is one of the BEST exercises of all of them. I love the “squat hurts his neck” – uh… what variation would that be? LOL Bookmarked… I’m definitely going to spend time on this one – so many great resources!

  9. Bonita

    February 10, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Awesome squat info….

    Squats is one of the better full body moves in the gym!!

    Like the front squat Cross fit photo..ass to the grass I like to say!!

  10. Kyle Armstrong

    September 8, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I great variations. Unilateral squats done everyday at home can promote some solid leg development quick. I have clients shoot for 40 per leg per day adding ten more per leg each week.

    Just found your blog and I love it. Keep up the good work.

  11. movingforwellness

    August 12, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I have been conteplating the front squat as I see it performed by personal trainers and their clients all the time. I see people holding the weights in such a manner that it throws their center of mass too far forward. The weight should be rested on the anterior deltoids passing over but not touching the clavicles. Any other position brings the weight away from the trunk therby translating the force only through the highly unstable glenohumeral joint. To me, this means great potential for injury and bad functional training.

  12. Layla

    July 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    WOW!! interesting post!! :)

    Now if only I can persuade myself to do some of these regularly!!

    Am a bit embarassed my 60-year-old Dad does more than me, & even my Uncle!!
    (of course they are fitter than me too, & mouintain-hiking or working in the hills on the farm is a piece of cake for them!! :))

  13. Build Muscle

    March 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    This is a great list for helping people to squat in many different ways. Even with all these options, I’m sure you’ve missed a few. Jump squats are not covered and I thought I was going to get you on sandbags, but you got that in there.

  14. rambodoc

    March 19, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I have squatted at home, with my 13 year old son on my back (90 lbs). That should be called kid squats?
    There is the plate squat, where you hold a plate to your trunk. Then there is the jump squat, and I don’t recall you mentioned it or not…
    You know, you should follow up this post with one on squat deficiencies you see, and how to correct them. And how to squat heavier and safer….

  15. Chris - fitnessfail.com

    March 19, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Nice list!

    Since your trying to make this comprehensive, how about box squats:

    The movement starts as a barbell back squat to a low box. The lifter stops on the box for several seconds (keeping the spine tight) then explodes up off the box to finish the rep.

    Chains (which you do mention) are a good addition to this movement – to help teach the acceleration “out of the hole”

  16. Stella

    March 18, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Wow! Never knew there can be millions of ways to do squatting exercises! One thing I would like to share here is that squatting exercises are considered good for improving pelvic support in old aged women.

    Though men might find it funny.

    Nice info by the way!

  17. Kyle Armstrong

    September 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    If you aren’t choking you aren’t front squatting correctly is a rule I have heard.