The Squat: 5 Different Variants Of The King Of Compound Exercises

The Squat: 5 Different Variants Of The King Of Compound Exercises

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Who knows him all: the squat. Not everyone is a fan of it, but actually this exercise belongs in every training routine. We already told you more about the back squat and why you should add this exercise to your training in this article. Tired of the back squat by now? Then read on quickly, because in this article we explain a number of other well-known squat variants!

What is a squat?

The squat, an exercise that most have a love-hate relationship with. This exercise is super tough and mastering the technique is difficult. But at the same time, the squat is a very important exercise that shouldn't be skipped by anyone during training - it is not without reason often called 'the king of compound exercises'. The squat is an exercise with which you train a lot of muscles at the same time. In addition, because the squat is so heavy, you also burn a lot of calories.

Many people prefer to skip the squat because they are afraid of injuries. If you don't perform the squat properly, there is also a chance of serious injuries. But isn't that the case with every exercise? There are enough reasons to do the squat. That is why we explain in this article how you can correctly implement the different variants of the squat.

The movement you make with the squat is a squat movement. Sounds easy, right? Still, it is not as easy as it seems. When you want to get up again, there is that heavy weight that holds you back, as it were.

Different squat variants

There are many different variations of the squat. Although in principle your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves always participate in this exercise, the emphasis in each variant is just on a different muscle group. Your core is also activated during the squat, because you are busy keeping yourself in balance throughout the exercise. With some variants of the squat you even address an extra muscle group in addition to all these muscles. In addition, the squat applies; the deeper you go, the more your glutes and hamstrings are activated. The wider you place your feet, the more your glutes and adductors are activated. By alternating the different variants of the squat in your training sessions, you ensure a different training stimulus for your body each time. In this article we will tell you more about the best-known variants of the squat and their implementation.

Back squat

Back squat

The back squat is the best known variant of the squat and is often seen as the 'standard' squat. It is useful to have mastered this variant of the squat before you alternate with other variants.

The barbell rests on your trapezius during the back squat. Wear it on this too and don't try to lift the barbell with your arms. You set the squat rack so that the barbell is at shoulder height or just slightly below. Then you slide under the barbell, make sure it lies nicely on your trapezius and with your hands you grab the barbell next to your shoulders. Your elbows point down or back - whatever you like.

Now lift the barbell from the supports and take a step back. You put your feet at shoulder width, while your toes are turned out about 20 degrees. Tighten your core, inhale and drop down. Lowering the squat is important. This is the concentric part of the squat and it is important that this is done slowly - so don't plop down suddenly, but drop down in about three seconds. As you descend, your knees will naturally move in the direction of your feet. It is important that you do not stop this; this puts extra stress on your knee joints. Drop as deep as you can, but at least until your thighs are horizontal. You prefer to go all the way ass to the grass to activate your hamstrings and buttocks. If you can no longer go deeper, you slowly come up to your starting position slowly and in a controlled manner. And then of course the whole story starts again!

It is important that you watch your back during the entire exercise. If you pull your back, there is a chance that you will get serious injuries. That is also one of the reasons that many avoid the squat. Keep a slight cavity in your lower back and try to keep your upper body as straight as possible.

Front squat

Front squat

The big difference between the front and back squat is the position of the barbell. This is located at the front squat as you might have guessed at the front of your body. The barbell rests on the front of your shoulders and you support it with your hands. Your arms are stretched forward, as it were, and then bent to hold the barbell. Another thing you can do is cross your arms in front of your body, so that you hold the barbell at your left shoulder with your right hand and vice versa.

The emphasis is on the front squat on your quadriceps. To a lesser extent your glutes, hamstrings and calves are also addressed with this exercise. Keeping your balance is an art in front squat, which is why this exercise is also very good for your core.

The implementation of the front squat is very similar to that of the back squat. You stand under the barbell, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Carefully lift the barbell off the supports and place it on your shoulders, while holding the barbell with your hands. You take a step back, and now you can start squatting! Just like with the back squat, push your hips back and slowly lower your knees, with a slight hollow in your lower back, until your thighs are parallel to the ground or even deeper. Your knees go in the direction of your feet during the lowering and are pushed out. When you have sunk as deeply as possible, you slowly rise again while you exhale. Once up, tighten your core and breathe in, ready for the next rep.

It is important to watch your back; when you start pulling this sphere, you can get serious injuries! With the front squat, your body is forced to adopt the correct posture, as it were. When you lean too far forward, the barbell will slide off your shoulders. As a result, your back is often automatically a lot straighter with the front squat than with the back squat. The chance of back injuries is therefore somewhat smaller with this variant of the squat.

Pistol squat

Pistol squat

As if a 'normal' squat is not difficult enough, we just add a little extra with the pistol squat. This is arguably the hardest variation of the squat out there. The pistol squat is a squat on one leg. If you want to perform the pistol squat, it is important that you already master the technique for the back squat. The pistol squat also requires a good dose of flexibility and a good balance.

To master the pistol squat it is useful to start without weight. Stand up straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Look ahead and stretch your arms out. Then stretch one leg forward and tighten your core; this is your starting position. Now lower yourself very controlled by making a sitting movement, as it were, and by lowering through the knee of your standing leg. You keep your other leg stretched forward throughout the exercise. Once down, hold this position for a moment, then go up again. Push yourself up from your heel, back to the starting position, and try to do this in as controlled a movement as possible. Maintaining your balance is really an art!

Once you have mastered the pistol squat, the next challenge is of course to carry out this exercise with weight! For example, hold a kettlebell or two dumbbells with stretched arms in front of you during the exercise. Muscle pain guaranteed!

Sumo squat

Sumo squat

With the sumo squat you stand just like a real sumo wrestler with your feet a lot wider than shoulder width. This variant of the squat is less stressful for your lower back. Because you do not sink as far with the sumo squat as with, for example, the back or front squat, the emphasis is less on your hamstrings and more on the adductors.

You slide under the barbell and rest it on your trapezius, holding it with your hands. Lift the barbell from the supports and take a step back… you know the tune by now. Unlike before, you now stand with your feet more than shoulder width apart. You can really stand quite wide, and your feet point outwards. With your back straight, you now lower yourself by tilting your hips back. Make sure your back stays straight. Due to the wide position of your feet, you will sink a little less deeply with the sumo squat, because your starting position is already a bit lower than normal. When you have descended as low as possible, you slowly come back up with a controlled movement. Once at the top, take a deep breath and tighten your core, ready to lower down and repeat the exercise.

Overhead squat

Overhead squat

The overhead squat is an exercise that is often performed by CrossFitters. Together with the pistol squat, this is one of the hardest, heaviest variants of the squat. With this exercise you train your strength, stability, mobility and flexibility. With the overhead squat you hold the barbell, you guessed it, above your head.

You stand in front of the barbell and grasp it with both hands, wider than shoulder width. Lift the barbell off the supports and rest it on the top of your chest as you step back. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and turn them outward about 20 degrees. Now lift the barbell above your head until your arms are straight and hold it there. This is your starting position. Now, just like with a back squat, you lower yourself by pushing your hips back. Make sure to keep your back straight and your arms as still as possible. Once down, push yourself back up from your heels to your starting position. Pay close attention to the position of your back again and make sure you keep your balance. Are you back in the starting position? Then you can take a deep breath and lower it again!

The overhead squat is extra heavy due to the barbell that you hold above your head. Before you start throwing the barbell full of heavy weights, it is wise to first ensure that you have mastered the technique properly. You can do this best by starting with an empty barbell.

In this article we have focused on the execution with a barbell in the explanation of the squat variants. Of course you can vary yourself by using kettlebells, dumbbells or even discs during the execution of the squat. In this way you ensure variation in your training schedule. That is nice for yourself, but also good for your body. Your body experiences different training stimuli and your muscles are always loaded in a different way, so that you keep them 'alert' as it were and you will also make more progress!

Which variant of the squat is your favorite?

Tell us in a comment!

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