These two words strike fear in almost all gym goers because… who really likes to do legs? In order to take your physique to the next level and get the toothpicks on the bottom to match the torso, you must squat.
Somehow, some way, squatting must be incorporated smart and correctly into almost all leg routines. Most people know of the conventional back squat and albeit a great exercise, sometimes you just need to switch it up!
Try one or all of these exercises to hit different muscles, activate different fibers and break through plateaus holding your leg growth back.
Exercise #1- Barbell Overhead Squats
The overhead squat might be one of the most difficult exercises to perform correctly because it requires incredible core strength and stabilization. Reap the awesome benefits of activating back/shoulder muscles as well as building some big wheels!
a) Begin this movement from an athletic stance – feet shoulder width apart and grabbing bar from ground about as wide as you can go.
b) Lifting the weight off the ground, keeping a tight core, snatch the weight up to where weight is overhead.
c) Inhale and begin the squat by keeping the arms locked and shoulders engaged – keeping the weight slightly behind the head
d) Squat down to parallel, exhale and return to the top
Sets and Reps: 3 x 6-8
Start with this exercise if you are choosing to incorporate it into your routine. It does require a lot more energy and strength due to you having to engage upper back/shoulders as well as your core and legs.
Exercise #2- Pistol Squats
The pistol squat is something that is overlooked because it is just a bodyweight exercise.
However, this movement is not for the weak because you’re squatting your body on one leg. This will take practice, flexibility and a lot of stability to perform these correctly for sets.
a) Begin this movement by setting up a box that allows you to touch your glute while just below 90-degree squat
b) Keeping a tight, straight torso, extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down with only the other leg
c) Press up from bottom of movement and repeat
Sets and Reps: 4 x 15/each leg
TOP TIP:If these are too hard, use some resistance bands attached to a column or grab on to a machine in gym to assist you.
Exercise #3- Squat Jumps
Squatting and jumping with a bunch of weight on the bar may not seem like the most fun thing to do, but the results will have you jumping for joy! Those interested in or playing sports these will benefit you greatly with explosiveness, speed and vertical ability.
You won’t be able to go as heavy on this movement so keep it light, tight and remember to be as explosive as possible.
a) Begin movement as if starting into normal squat with feet shoulder width apart and bar on upper back
b) Squat down to parallel or just above and explode up out of the hole of movement- jumping as high as possible
c) Land on balls of your feet with knees slightly bent to brace for impact
Sets and Reps: 4 x 5
TOP TIP: Going as deep as possible isn’t encouraged with this movement because you’re trying to imitate a starting position such as a vertical leap or a sprint. Going down to parallel is the perfect depth.
Exercise #4- Sumo Squats
Ever have trouble hitting your glutes or inner thigh during your leg work out? Look no further, the sumo squat will solve this issue.
Working the inner part of the quad as well as the hamstring/glute tie-in, your legs will feel like a piece of licorice after a couple sets of these.
a) Begin movement with legs in a wide stance and toes pointed outward
b) Squat down to parallel keeping the back straight and the core tight
c) Return to the top and repeat
d) May choose to either use the conventional barbell or hold a dumbbell between legs
Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12
TOP TIP: Due to the limited range of movement with the increased stance of the legs, you should be able to go a little heavier and really smack those legs into growing!
Exercise #5- Front Squats
Everyone love the way that vastus medialis looks squirting out the bottom of some board shorts. The age old question is, “How do I get that?!”
The front squat is arguably one of the toughest movements to perform because of the amount of flexibility yet stability it requires to hold the weight on front side of your body.
a) Begin movement by getting underneath bar with it resting on front of your shoulders
b) Keep the elbows at shoulder level in front of you, hands holding the bar stead
c) Squat down to parallel or slightly below keeping everything tight and return to top
Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12
TOP TIP:Keeping the elbows high and the core tight will be a tough feat. Lighten the weight, get the form right and then add the weight!
Take Home Message
With all sorts of variations of movements for legs, don’t forget about the basics that build the foundation for your physique. Including some kind of squat variation in your leg routine will have you well on your way to some big, well-rounded wheels!
Note: Don’t forget to stretch!