BE KING OF THE SQUAT
Do these six squat variations for whole-body benefits – and to ensure you keep making gains
The back squat is a classic lower body exercise and should be a cornerstone of your resistance training programme – but it’s not the only version of the move that you should have in your training toolkit. Each of the six options described on the right, with expert insights from top personal trainer Erron Dussard (stoneimage.co.uk), offers their own benefit, whether that’s an added biceps challenge courtesy of a Zercher squat or the shoulder stability and co-ordination challenge that comes with an overhead squat.
1 BACK SQUAT
FORM With a bar on your back and your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the hips and knees to lower towards the floor. Straighten up, keeping your weight on your heels. TIP “It’s common to see guys loading up on the squat rack and performing half squats,” says Dussard. “That may be good for their ego but to achieve maximum muscle recruitment, a good squat will see your hips drop below the knee.”
3 FRONT SQUAT
FORM Squat with the bar on the front of your shoulders, palms facing up. If you can’t get into this position you need to work on your shoulder mobility by doing drills with a resistance band. TIP “The front squat transfers the focus of the weight onto the quadriceps while also serving to enhance your core strength,” says Dussard. “As you lower, focus on bracing your core muscles and keeping your elbows up.”
5 BOX SQUAT
FORM Start with the bar on your back and a knee-height box behind you. Squat down to sit on the box. Pause, then stand back up, making sure your core is switched on. TIP “This takes the muscle elasticity out of the movement – so there’s no bouncing up from the bottom – and provides a true test of strength because pushing up from a completely static position leads to greater recruitment of the hamstrings,” says Dussard.
2 GOBLET SQUAT
FORM Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell to your chest using both hands then lower into a squat, concentrating on getting good depth. TIP “It’s easier to maintain your form than when you do a back squat,” says Dussard. “It’s a great way for beginners to learn how to squat because you become more aware of your back positioning. It’s also a good squat variation when you want to increase the volume and do higher reps.”
4 OVERHEAD SQUAT
FORM Go light on this one and start with the bar directly overhead with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep it there as you bend at the hips and knees to lower into a squat, then stand up. TIP “This is a more advanced squat variation that boosts the strength and stability of the shoulder joints,” says Dussard. “It requires good shoulder mobility so it’s really important to warm up your shoulders before you start.”
6 ZERCHER SQUAT
FORM Position a barbell in the crook of your arms, then perform a squat. If that’s painful you can either use a towel to make it softer or you can stop complaining and get on with it. The choice is yours. TIP “This is a difficult squat that can also be a little uncomfortable, but you’ll benefit from the recruitment of the biceps and the upper back muscles, which you don’t really get from other variations,” says Dussard.