6 Basic Squat Variations

SQUATS. I feel like you either love ’em or you hate ’em, but no matter what, you are always having to do them! Squats are a great, basic, functional movement that is important to do often, not just for aesthetic purposes, but also so that you are physically fit enough to handle a variety of situations in your day-to-day living. These 6 basic squat variations will help give you some different approaches to this simple, but vital, movement.

So let’s get started and get your legs and booty burnin’!

6 Basic Squat Variations | Hayley Bell Fit | Fitness


Bodyweight Squats

Air Squat:

An air squat is just your basic bodyweight squat, but mastering this simple movement will help you find success in weighted or more advanced squats.

Start with a shoulder-width stance, pointing your toes slightly outward.  Your very first movement should be with your hips (not your knees!). Drop your hips back and down, keeping your knees in line with your toes. Maintain a tight core (flex those abs!) and keep your upper body the exact same as your standing stance, focusing on a neutral spine. Squat below parallel, and push back up through your heels. Be sure to stand back up straight to end the movement.

Jump Squat:

A jump squat is a simple alteration to the air squat to make it a little more challenging.

Once again, start with feet at shoulder-width, toes facing slightly outward. Start by moving your hips back and downwards, tracking your knees in line with the direction of your toes.

When you are at the bottom of your squat (below parallel), explode into a jump by pushing through your heels, straightening your legs, and tightening your glutes.

After your feet hit the ground again, lower your body back into the squat position to absorb the impact, preparing to jump again.

Pulsing squat:

A pulsing squat is a quick way to add some serious spice to your at-home workout routines!

This squat starts with a similar set-up to the air squat. Feet are a little over shoulder-width apart with toes facing outwards, chest up, and knees tracking over the toes.

Hold your squat when your knees are at about 90 degrees, tighten your glutes, and rise up a couple inches, then lower back down a couple inches. Continue pulsing up and down with little movements until your reps are completed. Don’t be afraid to feel the burn!


Weighted Squats

Goblet Squat:

The Goblet Squat is a great way to add a little weight to your squats and increase the load. It can be done with almost any object: a full milk jug, a dumbbell, a large book, and even your child! 😉 I will typically use a kettlebell.

You may be noticing the pattern now: Start with your feet just outside shoulder-width, toes pointing outwards, knees tracking over the toes, start the squat with your hips, and tighten your core! You know the drill.

Hold the kettlebell (or other object) close to your chest and keep your core tight. With some added weight, it can be easy to let your chest sag down and/or forwards, but keep your back and core tight to maintain the open chest. Be sure to keep your elbows inside your squat, and avoid hitting them on your legs every time you drop down. Push up through your heels and start again!


Dumbbell Thruster:

Start by resting the posterior (backside) head of the dumbbells on your shoulders, and holding the dumbbells with a full grip. Start by moving your hips back and down, letting your knees and the rest of your body follow. Keep your chest up, knees out, and core tight!

After hitting the bottom of your squat, explode upwards through your heels. Transfer the momentum upwards- let it move up your legs, through your core, and upwards into the dumbbells to help thrust them overhead. This should be one fluid movement (not a front squat followed by a push press). Be sure to push overhead by keeping your arms in line with your ears, instead of allowing your arms to shift forward. Your arms may get sore, but remember that more of your power for this movement should be coming from your legs.

With dumbbells overhead, don’t let your back arch. Bring the front of your ribcage down by tightening your core (flex those abs!) to maintain proper posture.

Let the dumbbells fall onto your shoulders, and absorb the impact by smoothly moving down into your next squat.


Barbell Squat:

This baby is one of my favorites. Don’t be afraid to try out some squats at the squat rack! If you’ve been practicing form and building strength in your legs like the movements described above, you will be prepared to handle this just fine.

Start by setting the rack height just below your shoulder-height and rack the bar, adding weight as you would like. With hands just outside shoulder-width, grasp the bar and adjust yourself underneath it in a squat-ready stance: feet just outside your hips, toes pointed slightly outwards, back straight, core tight, shoulders up. Gently stand to lift the bar off the rack (using your shoulders) and step back.

Set up as discussed in the air squat section, and move first by pushing your hips back, then follow with the knees into a squat somewhere below parallel. Remember to keep your core tight and your chest up! Push through your heels back into a standing position. Repeat as many rounds as you would like, racking the bar when you are finished.


And there you go- You now have in your arsenal some different squat variations you can use to shake up your workout routines! While they are each a little different, here are the big hints I always like to suggest: tighten your core, start with the hips, and keep your chest up!

Try your hand (or legs!) at these new squat variations with some of these workouts!


Squat Workouts

Savage Landing

Pulsing Squat

Jumping Lunges

(x2, Tabata)


Leg Overhaul

800m run

21 Box Jumps

15 Burpees

9 Dumbbell Thrusters

800m run

(For time)


Backyard Party


Air Squat



(For time)

Hint: if you aren’t familiar with this rep scheme, you start with 50 air squats, 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups. After completing that, do 40 air squats, 40 push-ups, and 40 sit-ups. Continue moving downwards until completing the round of 10 reps.

Scale: If you aren’t sure about your ability to do this many reps, do 25-20-15-10-5.


Lemme see Whatchu Got

Barbell Squat

Build up to a 3-rep max weight.

Take the weight down to 65-75% of what you hit.

Complete as many squats at that weight as you can in a minute.



Now get out there and rock it!



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