The traditional squat has been, and continues to be a cornerstone in your typical leg routine. This is for good reason, as the squat is well known as one of if not the best compound lower body workouts out there. This is not just for functionality but for gaining mass as well, making it popular not just among bodybuilders but the public in general.
It is obvious that your typical barbell squats should be a part of your routine no matter what your fitness goal may be, however that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t switch things up from time to time.
There are other alternative squat exercises out there in comparison to the traditional squat, so next time leg day rolls around give one of them a try to switch things up while still making those awesome gains at the same time.
This variation is probably the easiest one to do on this list, and one where you will still see plenty of benefits with less risk. This variation is performed while holding a barbell with your arms in front of you, slightly below chest level. To do this first pick the bar up off the floor similarly like you would a deadlift, then hook with your arms bringing the weight up like you would in a traditional squat.
This variation minimizes the load on your spine while giving more work to your torso, upper back and core. This is another exercise you can try on back day as well, as it is similar to the deadlift also.
Our legs contain some of the largest muscle groups in our body and thus are some of the strongest ones as well. This makes it extremely tempting to focus on moving heavily weight alone in strength training, while focusing little on balance and mobility which the smaller stabilizing muscles provide.
There is no better way to work on stabilization than to perform this exercise on one leg, as it simultaneously works these muscles while being unfamiliar to us. This makes the exercise more difficult to do, which can be fun and challenging. Make sure you give yourself some time to get acquainted with this exercise because it can be frustrating at the start.
This is another variation that many people view as similar to the deadlift because of the starting position of the weight on the floor. Either way this exercise is an effective one in building leg strength, which really targets the quadriceps. This is because of the positioning of the weight which is behind us, not allowing us to move forward like we could in a traditional squat.
To perform the hack squat, place a barbell on the floor, with it positioned directly behind your feet. Your hands should be in a pronated position, faced away from the body. You perform this exercise similarly to how you would do a deadlift, just with the bar positioned behind you.
This exercise is great when it comes to reducing potential spinal injury, however before you try it, it is worth noting that this exercise requires excellent grip strength. Make sure to start lighter than you normally would when first trying this variation.
Bottom Position Squat
This variation is great for further developing natural strength, while keeping things familiar. This variation is very similar to your traditional squat in the placement of a barbell draped across your shoulders.
The difference here though is that you start these exercises in the floor or bottom position, which can really increase the difficulty of the exercise. Rising up from the bottom position with no momentum to start will really demonstrate your strength, and show you just how much weight you can really move.
To do these, just place pins in the rack where about your lowest position in your squat normally is. You will place your bar here, as this will be your starting position. Crawl under the bar, get in position, and start moving!
How Do I Determine Which Variation Is the Best for Me?
If you are generally healthy then try them all, especially the bottom squat as that will give you a better idea of your overall strength. If you are someone who has a bad back, then you should stick to variations like the zercher which puts less pressure on the spine.
Honestly all of these variations are going to provide you with some type of benefit, and are all worth trying. The one that is best for you is going to be determined by your fitness goals as well as your overall health.