We recently went over the benefits of squat exercises. If you missed it, take a minute to read it. The benefits are great, but they only get you so far. You need to also know the types of squat exercises and how to perform them to really get the benefits.
There are too many types of squats for me to accurately cover all of them here.
But I will walk you through my favorite types of squat exercises, most of which can be done by people at any level.
And as an added bonus, I want to share some tips with you that I have learned over the years.
Why Is It Important To Perform Squats Correctly
Please do not skip over this section, especially if you are new to squats.
It is vital to know why you should focus on your form from the beginning.
Even if you have been doing squats for a long time, a refresher is always a good idea.
The biggest reason you want to perform a squat properly is to avoid injury. As with any workout, there is always the chance of injury.
If you make sure you are using proper form, the chance of injuring yourself will be a lot less likely.
Now, if you are thinking that you do not plan on using weight right now, so this does not apply to you, you are wrong.
Let me explain why.
If you practice proper form from the beginning, that is how you will continue to do your squats.
BUT, if you have sloppy form, that is what you will fall into doing.
If you add squats to your routine, you will end up becoming stronger. And you might decide you want more of a challenge.
So, you add weight.
Your form is going to make all the difference. If it is poor, you greatly increase your chances of injury.
And if you decide to never use weight, you could still injure yourself.
Not having proper form can put more stress on your joints and could cause knee or back pain.
What Is Proper Form For Squat Exercises
You now know that proper form is vital if you are going to start adding squats to your workout.
So, let’s talk about what that form looks like.
Once we get into each type of squat, I will explain exactly how to do it. But the main concept of squats is the same.
Place your feet about shoulder width apart and point your toes out slightly. Note: Some people put their feet closer together. You can do this, but it does put more pressure on your knees and your balance is not as good.
If you toes or heels come off the ground, reset your stance. Your feet should always be firmly on the ground. You will be pushing through them to stand back up.
Make sure that you keep your spine straight. You shouldn’t be bending forward at all.
Keep your shoulders back. This will help keep your body in line and if you are using a weighted bar, it will help to support the bar.
Do not drop your head. Always look straight ahead or even slightly up. Your body is going to follow your head, so if you look down, it can cause your body to lean forward too much. This will also help you keep your chest up.
This is very important to keep in mind when using a bar. I have seen people get injured because they look down and the weight of the bar shifts forward, throwing them off balance.
Types Of Squat Exercises
Now you have the basic knowledge you need; we can get into the types of squat exercises.
This is one of the reasons I love squats so much. There is such a variety that it is hard to get bored with them.
Plus, there are squats for everyone. No matter what level you are at, you can still do different types of squat exercises. And there is typically always a way you can make it more challenging.
So, let’s break them down!
It only seems right to start with the traditional squat exercise.
This is where you want to start to ensure you get your form down properly because all of the other types of squat exercises are based off of this.
How To Perform It:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and your feet pointing slightly outward.
- You can hold your arms straight out for balance. If that is not comfortable, you can hold them in by your chest or behind your head.
- Bend at your knees and hips like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. Note: For proper form you will need to stick your butt out. This might feel awkward but once you get your form down you won’t even notice anymore.
- Squat down as low as you can. Imagine your knees at a 90-degree angle. You want to go lower than that. And remember to keep you head and chest up. Note: Only go down as far as it feels comfortable for you. If you feel discomfort, such as knee pain, don’t go down that far.
- Push through your heels to bring yourself back to the starting position.
That is one rep.
Seems like a lot to keep in mind, I know, but check out the video below.
I like this video because it keeps it nice and simple. Which it should because squats are pretty simple.
I have seen some videos that go into talking about activating your glutes and quads or keeping your body tight. Sometimes it scares people off because they aren’t at the level or it makes the exercises seem much more complicated than it is.
But this just gives you the proper form in normal language. So, when you watch it, you will be saying you can do that no problem!
Once you get your form down, if you want to make it a little more challenging, you can add in weight.
Use a medicine ball (or a weight plate or dumbbells) and hold it in front of your chest as you squat down.
Or you can use a weight bar across your shoulders. We will talk about this more in the Weighted Squats section.
Overhead squats are great for strengthening your shoulder and core. Plus, it helps to stabilize those muscles on top of working the lower body as all squats do.
I will say out of the squats we are going to talk about here, this is probably my least favorite type of squat exercise.
I do not say this to discourage you doing this squat. I just like the others better. But I wanted to add this because it works a lot of your body in one move, which is awesome!
How To Perform It:
- Start in the normal squat position with your feet shoulder width apart and toes angles slightly out.
- Place the barbell across your shoulders. Make sure to position your hands wide, so they are closer to where you place the weights.
- Raise the barbell over your head, fully extending your arms, and locking out your elbows. Bend your wrists back slightly so the bar doesn’t roll forward. Make sure the bar is centered over you, so it does not mess with your center of gravity.
- Once you are in this position, you can squat down as far as is comfortable for you. Keep in mind you need to make sure your chest is up, and your spine is straight, so you do not tip forward. Form is vital to ensure your safety so make sure you get it down before really challenging yourself.
- Press up through your feet to return to a standing position. Once you are done with your set, carefully bend your elbows and lower the barbell to your shoulders. From there you can put it back on the rack.
If you want to use less weight than a barbell, or you do not own one, you can use dumbbells instead. Simply place the desired dumbbell in each hand and follow the same instructions as above.
Or you can use a medicine ball. Just hold it with both hands centered over your body as described above and you can do overhead squats.
I am not sure why, but I enjoy doing these types of squat exercises. I think I like that it is more fasted paced, and it makes me tired fast.
If you have never tried jump squats before, I recommend giving them a chance. I promise you will be able to feel what it is working.
How To Perform It:
- Get in the traditional squat position.
- Squat down as you normally would. Be sure you are only squatting as low as it feels comfortable for you.
- Then, you want to explode through your feet and jump up.
- Keep that momentum going until you are done with your set.
If you need a challenge, you can hold a medicine ball in front of your chest. Make sure you hold it firmly in front of your chest, so you do not accidentally hit yourself in the face.
If you prefer, you can also do this with dumbbells. Just hold them down at your sides as you do these squats.
You can also do it with a barbell, but that is a whole different technique, so we won’t get into that here. Just know it is possible.
The wall squat is one of the more interesting types of squat exercises. There are really two variations to this squat.
If you were to research this, you might get very confused because some show people facing the wall and some people facing away from the wall (you might have heard the term wall sit before).
I am going to walk you through both. I suggest trying both because they are very different.
Wall Squat Facing the Wall
I like this squat because it really does help you to work on your form. It is more about balance and proper form, than it is about speed and reps.
It will seem awkward when you first do this because you are so close to the wall. But you will notice your form and balance become much better if you do these routinely.
How To Perform It:
- Start out in a squat position about 6 inches to a foot away from a wall. Make sure you are facing the wall.
Note: Make sure you are not starting off close to the wall because you don’t want to lose your balance and smack your face into the wall.
- Put your arms up and squat down as you typically would.
- The goal is to get closer to the wall until your toes are just about touching the wall.
This video is a little longer than what I normally like to share but I think it really explains this move very well. Take a moment to watch it so you can really understand the mechanics behind this squat.
Wall Squat- Wall Sit
The second version of this squat is the wall sit. I am guessing you might have done this before in gym class back in the day. I know we had to.
This squat isn’t done for a certain amount of reps either. Once you get into the squat position you will try to hold t for as long as you can, which makes this a unique type of squat as well.
How To Perform It:
- Find a wall free of any décor.
- Place your back on the wall, pushing your back, shoulders, and hips against the wall.
- Walk your feet out a few steps and place them as you would for any squat.
- Then, lower yourself down the wall until your knees are at a 90-degree angle, or as far down as you can go.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Once you can’t hold the position anymore, slide you back up the wall and walk your feet back until you are in a standing position.
Here is a great video that walks you through this and explains what muscles you are working as well.
To add some resistance, you can hold a medicine ball or a weight plate in front of your chest, when doing this squat.
For even more of a challenge, hold it straight out in front of you as you do your squat. Feel The Burn!
Squat With Knee Drive
This is one of my favorite types of squat exercises. I love that I get more of a core workout with this move, while still getting all of those benefits of a traditional squat.
It is also great that this squat does not require any weights and you can still get a great workout.
How To Perform It:
- Start by standing in the squat position with your feet about shoulder width apart and your toes pointed out slightly.
- You will then squat down as you would in any other squat.
- Drive through your feet and come back to a standing position.
- As you come to the standing position, lift a knee and drive it over to the opposite elbow.
- On the next squat rep, switch knees.
Here is a really quick video that shows the squat with knee drive perfectly. It is not a complicated move, so it doesn’t require too much explanation.
If you want to add weight to this squat, you can hold a medicine ball or a weight plate as you do it. Just be sure that you are cautious when driving your knee, so you don’t hit the weight.
You also have the option to get a weighted vest. The lady in the video is wearing one. You can get a nice vest for a good price. Here is Amazon’s #1 seller that I feel is an awesome price, especially when you compare it to other weight vests.
Jumping Jack Squats/Jack Squats
The jumping jack squat, also known as Jack Squats, are really what it sounds like. It combines a jumping jack with squats.
You always want to make sure you have proper form, but once you have that down, if you add speed to these squats, you are really going to feel it.
Jumping jacks are a total body workout so adding them with a squat means you will really be working your legs and working the rest of your body as well.
How To Perform It:
- Start off in a comfortable squat stance.
- Squat down as far as it is comfortable for you.
- When you come back up, jump your feet outwards and bring your hands over your head like you are doing a jumping jack.
- That is one rep. Jump your feet back into your squat stance and go again for however many reps you decide to do.
Here is a quick video to show you what it should look like. Again, it’s a simple move but it can make a huge impact on your body.
If this is one of the types of squat exercise you would like to make more challenging, it is possible to add weight.
You can either were a weighted vest. This is going to work your legs more because the vest is worn around your chest. None of the mechanics change when performing this squat with a vest.
OR you can use ankle or wrist weights. Wearing them on your ankles is going to work your legs more, while wearing them on your wrists will work both your legs and arms. If you really want to work your body, I suggest the wrist.
Don’t own any? No problem! Check out this set that can be worn on your ankles or wrists. They are a great price and you can always use them for other exercises as well, so they are worth the investment.
When it comes to types of squat exercises, this is the type that comes to mind when people talk about squats.
This is a great exercise because the extra weight requires you to use some upper body strength as well. Meaning it targets more muscle groups.
The concept is exactly the same as with traditional squats without weight. Because of that I am not going to walk you through it step by step. We have already talked about it.
Check out this video. He explains perfectly how you should do a squat when using weight.
You can use just a barbell with no extra weight on it, add extra plates to the ends, or you can use dumbbells.
Make sure you have proper form before adding weight. And once you add weight, make sure you start out light and work your way up from there. When you add a weighted bar or even dumbbells into the mix, it challenges your balance. You want to be sure you are safe when squatting so you avoid any injury.
Types of Squat Exercises
We have just gone over 8 different types of squat exercises, how to perform them, and some tips I have picked up from my years of doing squats.
Always keep in mind, whether you are doing traditional squats, jump squats, wall squat, or even jack squats, you can do it in their most simple for or add weight to increase the challenge.
That means anyone at any level of fitness can add squats to their workout routine. And as I have said before, because there are so many variations, you won’t get bored.
So, take the time and try each of these squats during your next workout session. Or use them as an excuse to start one!