Love squats? Take on the squat challenge!
Squatting is the absolute pinnacle of leg exercises, avoided by some, but used often by the biggest and strongest gym goers around. It is the definition of strength and becoming better at it takes practice.
The thing is, just squatting over and over in the same way can lead to stagnation in your progress as your body becomes comfortable with the movement. This is when squat variations can be a great way to get you progressing again.
Here are 6 advanced squat variations to work your glutes and legs, not to mention your very own supplement guide:
In the squat the most uncomfortable position is right at the bottom. Gravity is pushing you down and you have to change the direction of the weight. It’s where most people are their weakest and you don’t want to stay there for long. That is why this variation attempts to make you embrace that position and help you get more comfortable in it. Pauses can be 1 second pauses, 5 second pauses or 10 second pauses all of these are variations of the pause itself. You simply squat down, hold the weight in the hole and then press up after the allotted time. Be careful with your breathing as 10 seconds especially can leave you gassed and you don’t want to pass out mid squat.
Sitting on a box is more than just a depth checker which some use a box for, it is about sitting back into it and then going from a dead stop to work on engaging the glutes and hamstring and recruit them for more power in the bottom of your regular squats. Use a 24-inch box, squat until you are in a seated position and then drive back up to your starting position as quickly as possible.
Using resistance bands while squatting allows you to have greater tension and weight at the top of the movement. So as you squat down you will be taking a weight you can manage in the bottom but when you rise you will be overloading your body with heavier weight. This will teach you to really power through the second half of the lift and gain explosive power so when the bands are removed the weight will fly up. Attach bands to the lower area of a power rack or weight down with heavy dumbbells but make sure they are secure, brace yourself before un-racking the bar as the bands will provide more tension that you are use to so it is important to stay tight.
1¼ Rep Squats
These best used for hypertrophy training, perform the squat and as you ascend upwards stop just above parallel and descend again then stand straight back up again. I would not train these as one rep max efforts more for sets of 6-10 reps to really push the blood into the muscle.
Front Squat – Back Squat Combos
Mixing in both variations of the squat is a great way to challenge yourself. Front Squat up to a max effort, rack it quickly get under the weight again and back squat it. Much harder than you would expect and pushed you to use every muscle in your leg between the two lifts.
Dead Stop Squats
Rack up weight with the barbell resting on safety bars and begin your movement from the bottom of the squat. Having to get the weight moving from a complete stop is much harder and will teach you to explode out of the bottom of your squat.
It doesn’t matter how hard you work in the gym if you aren’t eating enough protein on a daily basis then your muscles will not repair and grow, and you won’t increase your strength. Here are a few supplements you can take each day to make sure you’re hitting 1 g of protein for every pound of bodyweight:
✓ Impact Whey Protein – 21 g of protein per serving and 4.5 g of BCAAs makes this the perfect protein powder to promote recovery and muscle growth.
✓ Hydrolyzed Whey Protein – this protein powder has been pre-digested by enzymes which leads to even faster absorption, making this the perfect post workout shake. It may be more costly, but that’s for a very good reason. No other protein powder on the market will be absorbed faster than hydrolyzed whey.
✓ Micellar Casein – when you go to sleep you will go for an extended period of time without eating and this isn’t ideal for muscle recovery and growth. Casein is a slow digesting protein source, meaning taking a casein shake before bed will provide the nutrients for your muscles to continue recovering as you sleep.
Take Home Message
There is a reason the squat is revered as the most engaging movement within weightlifting. If your goal is to get stronger, get bigger, get leaner, get more athletic or even just get the most out of your workout then squatting is the answer. So prevent boredom, work on your weaknesses and challenge yourself with these interesting variations, which can change the game in your squatting ability.
I would advise throwing one of these variations in for a few weeks, working on improving the variation and then moving back to squatting regularly to see how it has improved your performance. I would then move onto another variation and do the same. Simply changing every day or week will give you less focus and you will not reap the benefit of the variety you are doing. So instead of shying away from the squat like so many others you will see in the gym, embrace it and attempt challenging variations to get better.