Let’s face it – the squat is one of if not the best exercise for building overall leg mass, lean muscle tissue and strength. Most of us have probably seen the dreaded barbell squat listed on our sheet for leg day and many are just plain tired of it.
Fear not, these 4 variations are unique enough to get you to actually have fun on leg day and enjoy the burn with these new movements that are all just variations of the normal barbell squat.
#1: Overhead Squats
We may have never performed them in the gym ourselves, but there’s always that guy that’s really into CrossFit doing overhead squats with twice as much weight on the bar as he weighs. There’s got to be some truth behind it building strength and size then but you’ve never even tried it out for yourself! Ditch the conventional barbell or smith machine and give these overhead squats a go.
- Begin movement by getting the bar overhead through either a snatch or using a wide grip push press off the shoulders
- Once overhead, keep the arms back and shoulders locked into place to give yourself a stable base, with the armpits facing forward
- Drop your hips, keep your core tight and squat down to just below 90 degrees then return to the top
Sets and Reps: 4 x 6-8
#2: Anderson Squats
We’ve all seen the guy in the gym that loads up the bar with 4 plates a side and tries to squat. Usually what you see is the smallest range of motion ever and literally no muscle being worked at all. The Anderson squat will keep you honest and provide true strength because you’ll be starting from the just below 90 degrees position the squatting up. Check your ego and build some bigger legs with this move.
- Begin this exercise by setting up safety pins in the squat rack just below 90 degrees
- Have the weight resting on the safety pins rather that starting in upright standing position
- Keeping your core tight, start in full squat position and press up to standing and lower back down to completely rest on the pins without bouncing
Sets and Reps: 4 x 4-6
Top Tip: You will have to go significantly lighter on this move to start with to get the feel of it down. It will be awkward at first but this lets you build true strength by starting in the full negative position without any momentum.
#3: Hack Squats
The hack squat has been seen by many as a deadlift-type movement. Therefore this incredible quad building movement gets shoved to the backburner since most just squat normally or deadlift. But because this lift forces your body to be more upright and not a chance for falling forward, it places your legs in the perfect squat position to deliver some extreme muscle building. It does require some mobility to perform this lift so start with a lighter weight and build up from there.
- Start with a loaded barbell behind your heels by a few inches
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip, making sure to keep your core and shoulders locked in
- Squat the weight up and slowly lower it back down, making sure your knees are not over your toes
Sets and Reps: 4 x 8-10
Top Tip: Your grip strength will play a vital role in how much weight is lifted here. Using some wrist straps would be helpful to get up a few more reps as your grip strength gives way.
#4: Zercher Squats
The Zercher squat is probably the most unconventional way of squatting because of where the bar is held during the lift: in your elbows. Although a great move to build some big, strong legs, the Zercher is also known to help with upper back and torso strength similar to that of a deadlift. Keeping the weight light at first to get a feel is the best way to start and save your elbows!
- Some begin this movement by deadlifting the weight up to the standing position then resting on legs, allowing the elbows to get underneath the bar
- For those not as advanced, set up safety pins in a lower setting and un-rack the weight from the elbows
- Keeping the chest high and knees wide, squat down until your elbows are inside your knees or the bar touches your quads
- Press the weight back up to the top and repeat.
Whatever type of squat you choose to forego is up to you, but just know that there is no replacement for building legs than some form of a squat. This will translate into better mobility and building you a healthier frame for life. Give these crazy squat variations a try and don’t worry about those peeps in the gym giving you a funny look!