Tired of the same old leg routine; been there before. Over the years I have tried numerous types of exercises, all of them having different purposes to achieve certain athletic goals. With any new exercise don’t hop into it without knowing the proper form or desired reps and sets trying to achieve. So let’s take a look at the 8 best squat exercises out there.
1. Back Squat
Targets: posterior chain, glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors and calfs
The back squat has been a staple for many leg day and athletic programs, an exercise guarantee to make you stronger. This exercise works the whole lower body that focus on the posterior chain, glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors and calfs. I’ve been doing back squats since I was jr. high, learning how to squat proper sets a foundation for the rest of squat variations. You want to know who has some of the best squat technique? Babies, yes little human babies. Have you ever seen a baby drop something onto the ground and pick it up? The form is flawless.
Learn how to squat first and then move on the advance variations.
2. Step Ups
Targets: glutes, hamstrings/quads, balancing
When I was running in college we use to do A LOT of leg exercises, one of them was box step ups. There are a couple of variations to go about this; they can be done by holding on to dumbbells or have a barbell on your back. Some studies indicate it could be better than doing a normal back squat… According to Drs. Angel Spassov and Terry Todd ‘s article, Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets:
“One thing coaches in the Soviet Union and Bulgaria noticed was that those athletes, both lifters and those in other sports, who dropped the squat and used the high step-up developed more complete muscularity than those who simply squatted.
“Many of the coaches say that the legs of those who work hard on the high step-up look more like those of someone who did sprinting and jumping as well as squatting.
“Apparently, the balance required in the high step-up calls more muscles into play, producing fuller, shapelier development.”
The higher the step up is the more its going to target the hamstring and glutes. To target the quads more lower the step up.
3. Front Squat
Targets: core and upper back strength, quads and some hammy and glutes
If you are looking to target your quads while still working your hammys and glutes, then this is the exercise for you. Letting the barbell rest on your shoulders with your elbows sticking out will provide a killer workout for your quad muscles. This is a crucial position for olympic lifts such as clean and jerk, power clean and hang clean. Learning how to properly squat from this position will get you ready for those tough days in olympic lifting.
4. Bulgarian Split Squats
Targets: balancing, hypertrophy, addresses strength imbalances, glutes, hamstrings
This is like the box step ups; both utilizing working off of one leg to generate power. Instead of stepping up you take one step forward and put your back leg up on a bench and squat down. This lift really makes you focus on balancing and developing power for your legs. This is a great exercise for creating power for sprinting or any athlete wanting to be faster. When it comes to glutes, this exercise destroys and makes them so much stronger. Make sure your knees don’t go past your feet as this can cause knee problems down the road. For any form of squatting this is one of the biggest rules.
5. Anderson Squat
Targets: same benefits of a back/squat squat, but uses more core and prevents “bouncing”
Named after the famous olympic lifter Paul Anderson; this is much like a normal back squat except you start from the bottom. Doing this squat prevents “the bounce”, it eliminates the momentum you get from going down into the squat. Hence, less cheating compared to a back squat. This exercise will create sheer power for your lower body.
The next question you may have is which ones should I do? Well that depends on your athletic goals. Every squat variation targets different muscles, its up to you to decide which muscles need the most work on.