15 Squats With Weights Variations (+ 15 Alt. Squat Exercises)
When it comes to getting your lower half into shape, there’s no better exercise you can do than the squat. Squats target all of the major muscle groups of the legs and butt.
We’re going to highlight 30 variations of this highly effective exercise. While many people want to jump straight on the various leg machines when they go into the gym, free weights and bodyweight squat movements are much more efficient in terms of results. This is because they not only target the major muscles of the legs, but also all of the supporting and stabilizing muscles.
The more muscles you work, the more calories you burn, and the faster you’re going to see results. When performing these exercises, don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. High levels of exertion has a number of benefits including building more muscle, mobilizing fat reserves, and burning more calories. Just be sure that before you start adding a bunch of weight that you are comfortable with the form and balance required to perform the exercise properly.
Some of these exercises can be performed either at the gym or at home with a minimal amount of equipment.
30. Hack Squat
The hack squat is similar to a deadlift in that the starting position for the weight is resting on the ground. This exercise utilizes a barbell and puts more emphasis on the quadriceps and the glutes. Because the movement can be awkward at first, it’s best to start with a manageable amount of weight. Standing with your feet just in front of the bar squat down and grab the bar with your hands in an overhand grip. Your palms should be facing behind you. With your chest up and core locked lift by pushing forward with your hips. In the lower movement of the lift you will be engaging both your quads and glutes. As you get higher, push forward with your hips and hamstrings. Then lower the weight and repeat.
29. Bodyweight Squat
The bodyweight squat or prisoners squat requires no weights. It requires good flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and ankles. It targets the glutes and hamstrings. To begin stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands behind your head, interlocking your fingers. Lower your butt by pushing back with your hips and keeping your chest up. Once your hips are lower than your knees, push back up. Make sure not to pull forward on your head during the movement.
28. Goblet Squat
The goblet squat focuses more on the quadriceps, but also targets the glutes and the hamstrings. It generally requires a weight such as a medicine ball or kettlebell, but can be performed using only bodyweight as well. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and toes pointed outwards at about 20 degrees. Keeping your back straight and head up, lower yourself until your hamstrings touch your calves. Hold and force your knees out with your elbows. Then push yourself back up. This exercise is great for increasing hamstring and groin flexiblity.
27. Jump Squat
Incorporating plyometric movements into your workouts can significantly enhance your results. These are more explosive movements that trigger your fast twitch muscle cells. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Lower into a squat until your hips are slightly below your knees. Then explode up and jump entirely off the ground, making sure to land lightly on the balls of your feet. Repeat until it burns.
26. Weighted Jump Squats
Another plyometric movement that is a great cardiovascular workout. Holding dumbbells in both hands start with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower into a squat and then jump out up. This exercise only requires light weights as you’ll want to perform higher repetitions.
25. Bulgarian Split Squats
These squats target one leg at a time. It allows you isolate each leg without isolating the muscles worked. It’s great for targeting both the quads and glutes. The movement requires some getting used to so start with light weight until you feel comfortable with the entire range of motion. Place a weight bench or platform behind you. Once you have the barbell across your back, put one foot behind you on the platform. Keeping your torso and head up, lower yourself by pushing your hips back until you reach parallel or your back knee touches the ground. Then press back up using your glutes and hamstrings.
24. Bulgarian Split Squats with Dumbbells
This is a slight variation from the standard Bulgarian split squat. Rather than using a barbell across the upper back you can use dumbbells held either at shoulder height, or at your sides. If you are having difficulty with balance holding them at your sides can make this exercise a little easier. Just be sure to keep your torso upright as you lower yourself and push back up.
23. Front Squat
The front squat is becoming more and more popular of late. It’s great for targeting the glutes, but also does a great job of targeting your quads and core. It doesn’t require quite as much flexibility as some other squat variations. Using a barbell, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Rest the barbell on your shoulders with your hands underneath. Your elbows should be up high. This will keep the weight from transferring forward. Lower yourself into a squat by pushing back with your hips until your hips break the plane of your knees. If you are flexible you can go all the way until your hamstrings touch your calves. Then push back up. The front squat requires a good deal of core strength, so start with a light weight and work your way up.
22. Overhead Squat
This is another variation that requires good flexibility in the hips, ankles, and hamstrings. It also requires a strong core. Using a barbell, start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Press the barbell above your head and hold it over your center of gravity. Slowly lower yourself into a squat. Taking a wider grip on the bar can help those with poor should mobility. This is a great exercise to perform slowly with lower weight. It’s great for practicing form and will benefit you in every other squat movement.
The thruster is a popular movement in CrossFit. Done in sets of 21 repetitions it is a killer total body workout that involves some explosive movement. Using a barbell, start in the same position as the front squat with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower yourself until your hips are below your knees, then push up quickly. As you approach the top, press the barbell above your head. Lower and repeat. This movement is an incredible cardiovascular workout.
20. Sumo Squat
No, this exercise has nothing to do with becoming as big as a sumo wrestler. It simply allows you to target a different part of the quads and glutes. Stand with your feet roughly twice shoulder width apart with your toes pointing outwards at about 25 degrees. Hold a dumbbell, medicine ball, or kettlebell in your hands with your arms hanging down. Slowly lower yourself until just past parallel and then focus on using your glutes and hamstring to ‘curl’ yourself back up.
19. Pistol Squats
Pistol squats or one legged squats require a bit of practice to perform properly. They also require good ankle mobility and balance. They are a great all around leg workout and can be performed just about anywhere you want. Even without any weight they are a terrific workout so if you’re looking for something that’s short and sweet, this is your exercise. Start with your hands straight out in front of your and your right raised in front as well. Then push back with your left hip and lower yourself until you reach parallel. Then push yourself back up.
Don’t be surprised if you fall as this movement will quickly highlight any hip or ankle mobility issues you might have. Starting with a small weight in your hands can help offset ankle mobility issues.
18. Frog Squats
This exercise looks just like it sounds. It builds great glute strength and helps in toning trouble areas since it is a plyometric movement. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower into a squat, then jump up and forward and immediately into another squat position. It should look just like a frog jumping. Do as many as you can in a row for a seriously deep burn.
17. Jumping Single Leg Squats
Also called a jump lunge, this exercise will absolutely kill your glutes and quads. Start by stepping forward with one foot and lower yourself until your back knee touches the ground. Jump up and switch foot positions so that your front foot is now behind you. Use your arms for balance. Do 15 to 20 reps per leg and you will be crying for mercy. A great way to get toned and build up leg endurance.
16. Wall Squats
Anyone who’s ever taken skiing lessons has probably been through this cruel form of torture. With you back against a wall, lower yourself until your hips are parallel to your knees or just below. Then hold this position as long as you can. It’s great for building endurance in your stabilizer muscles. For variations, raise and lower yourself to different levels above and below parallel and hold.
15. Overhead Dumbbell Squat
Similar to the overhead squat, this variation requires a bit more work from the stabilizer muscles in your upper body. Holding two dumbbels above your head palms facing forward, lower yourself into a squat. Keep the dumbells above your center of gravity for the entire movement.
14. Box Squats
This exercise really forces you to focus on the upward push of the squat motion. Find a box or chair that is roughly low enough to allow your hips to be parallel with your knees when touching it with your butt. Using a barbell and with your feet roughly shoulder width apart lower yourself onto the box. Pause briefly, and then push back up off the box. This might sound like a rest break, but coming to a complete stop and then starting again is a tough movement.
13. Box Jump Squats
Similar to the box squat, this exercise is performed without weights. Lower yourself onto the box. Then explode upwards and jump off of the ground. This slight variation will allow you to target the fast twitch muscles in the glutes and quads.
12. Jump Squats to Box
Sounds confusing right? This exercise is for those that really want to challenge their coordination. Pick a box on which you are capable of jumping. It can be as low as 6” high up to 36” for advanced athletes. Take your standard squat stance. Lower yourself to parallel and then thrust up and jump onto the box. Climb down and repeat. Be careful as you become more and more tired as you can easily face plant on the box should you miss.
11. Stair or Bleacher Squats
This is another plyometric movement that should be performed with caution. Make sure the stairs or bleachers you use has a sturdy handrail. Starting on the first step, lower into a squat and then jump onto the second step. Essentially it’s a more challenging version of the frog squat. This one will wear you out in a hurry.
10. Narrow Stance Squat
Unless you are extremely flexible in the hips and ankles, this exercise is best performed with a Smith machine. Stand with your feet together and the barbell across your upper back. Keeping your torso upright, lower yourself into a squat. Then using your hamstrings and glutes, push yourself back up. Focusing on allowing your knees to track outwards instead of directly over your toes will make this movement easier.
9. Single Leg Squats
This variation is similar to the Bulgarian split squat, but the difference is that your back foot will remain on the ground. Stand with one foot forward and one foot back and lower yourself until parallel or until your back knee touches. Then push yourself back up. This exercise allows you to very accurately target the glutes depeding on how far forward or back your feet are.
8. Speed Squats
An excellent cardio workout, speed squats are a combination of cardio and stretch. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart drop into a deep squat and pop back up as quickly as you can. The trick with these is high repetitions. Aim for somewhere between 40 to 50 of these.
7. Dumbbell Squats
A slight variation on the standard squat this exercise is performed while holding dumbbells in both hands on the outside of each leg. Start with light weight until you become accustomed to the movement. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower into the squatting position by pushing back with your hips, keep your chest up, and head forward. Make sure you break the parallel plane with your hips below your knees. This is a great exercise to perform at home since it requires only a small amount of weight.
6. Jump Squats with a Twist
This plyometric exercise is great for flexibility and balance. It’s also a pretty decent cardio workout when done with any sort of volume. Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Lower into a squat. Then jump up and turn 180 degrees so that you land facing the opposite direction. Then repeat. Make sure to use your arms to help with balance. As much as possible try to land softly on the balls of your feet.
5. Donkey Squats
While this exercise doesn’t have a terrible attractive name, it’s awesome for targeting the glutes and requires no weights. Assume the standard squat position. Lower yourself to or past parallel and then push back up, as you get to the top kick back with your right leg (like a donkey kick) forcing your heel as high as you can in a swinging motion. Then lower your leg back down and repeat. Alternate which leg you kick on each rep. The curling motion of the kick is a great way to work the muscles where the glutes meet the hamstrings.
4. Deep Squats
The lower you go in a squat, the more you target the glutes. If you really want to get your butt in shape fast go for the deepest squat you can. Take the standard stance of feet shoulder width apart. Lower yourself by pushing back with your hips until your glutes touch your calves (or as low as you can go) This will engage the glute muscles for as long as possible. This exercise can be done with or without weights. If you struggle with flexibility in the hips and ankles make sure to spend a few minutes stretching both prior to performing this exercise. It’s key to keep your shoulders back (shoulder blades pinched) and chest up to ensure that the glutes are properly engaged.
Another exercise that is popular in CrossFit, this one is a good total body workout as well. When doing this exercise it’s important to remember that pain is only weakness leaving the body. With your feet shoulder width apart drop onto your hands and throw your feet back. You should now be on your hands and the balls of your feet. While pushing up with your chest and hands throw your feet forward to where your hands were and drop into squat. Then push yourself up. Drop back to your hands and repeat. For an added level of difficulty jump up out of the squat position. This exercise will have you panting in no time.
2. Squat Tucks
Squat tucks are a seriously intense cardio and plyo workout. If you want a way to burn a couple hundred calories in a short period of time, here you go. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Drop into squat until you reach parallel or slightly below. Next jump up and at the same time pull your knees up to your chest. Land softly on the balls of your feet. Performed in sets of 25-30 this exercise will literally wear you out. And since it requires no weights or equipment, you can do this one wherever the mood strikes you.
1. Standard Back Squats
The father of all squats is the the back squat. When done properly this exercise is the best exercise out there for the glutes, hamstrings, and core. You can do it on equipment such as the Smith machine, but you’ll be missing out on half the workout. Your best bet is to just use a squat rack and a barbell. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart and the bar across the top of your back lower yourself by pushing back with your hips. Your knees should track slightly forward and out. Once you reach parlallel push back up keeping your knees out until you reach the top of the movement. If you lack the ankle or hip mobility to perform it properly you can place small plates underneath your heels.
The following is a great video for improving ankle mobility for squats.