Workout Plans

Six Squat Exercise Variations That Bring Great Results

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
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The squat is a powerful move that can improve overall strength and flexibility. Here, Dino Del Mastro, NASM Master Instructor and doctor of chiropractic based in the San Francisco Bay Area, shares the proper form and a progression of squat modifications to challenge clients.

  • PROPER FORM Start with feet about shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward, back straight. Squeeze the glutes and pull the shoulder blades toward the spine. Keep eyes forward and a neutral head posture. Push the feet apart as if trying to spread the floor, and descend as though you’re sitting into a chair; knees should track in line with toes. Descend for about four seconds, with a one-second contraction back to standing.

✘ Knees moving in
✘ Excessive forward lean

“Both mistakes lead to premature plateauing and significantly increase the likelihood of injury,” Del Mastro says. View clients from the side, as well as the front and back, to watch for these mistakes.

VARIATIONS The following modifications are listed in order of difficulty. Move up one level every three to four weeks with slow increases in weight.

Leaning Back Chair Squat

Use a suspension training system such as TRX; stand holding onto the handles with arms outstretched in front. With the head up and facing forward, lean back into a squat over—but not touching—a chair.

Swiss Ball Squat

Place a Swiss ball between the wall and lower back; hold arms straight out and lower into a squat position. This targets the quads and activates the core.

Front Squat

Squat with a weighted barbell resting on the front of the shoulders in an overhand grip, elbows forward and palms facing the ceiling.

See how to do a front squat here


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells next to the shoulders, palms facing each other. Squat; return to standing, while lifting dumbbells over the shoulders.

Thruster demo link.

Overhead Squat

Hold a barbell overhead with arms in a wide, snatch grip. Along with helping to identify body imbalances, this engages the core at a higher level to maintain balance and stability.

Single-Leg Squat

Stand on one foot on a knee-high bench. Put arms out and dip body until the other heel touches the floor.

- Single Leg Squat demonstration

Try these other blog resources

Squat Alternatives

Front Squat or Back Squat—Which Should You Choose?

The Author

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.


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