9 Different Types of Squats
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
Some squat variations are more useful than others and some are useful for specific reasons. Here are my preferred squat variations and why you might you want to use them:
Bodyweight squats are the one of the first movements I use in strength and conditioning sessions. They act as a movement assessment and provide valuable information about how a person moves. They are usually used to teach basic squatting mechanics and are a great introduction to bodyweight movements for kids. They’re also used in most warm ups and are a valuable training exercise for those with motor control issues.
Box squats can be used by beginners, when teaching squat mechanics from the ground up, and by strength-sport athletes who want to load up their posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings). The height of the box and the way in which the squat is loaded (barbell, kettlebell, sandbag etc.) will vary depending on the person and their goal. Most people have an optimal squatting pattern in terms of the width of their stance and inclination of their torsos — box squats can be a useful tool in helping to identify a person’s ideal positions and for engraining good mechanics.
Goblet squats are one of my favourite, and often first, exercises I use with clients. Not only are they a superb introduction to a loaded squat pattern but they also:
Require a strong core and excellent posture
Are quick and easy to incorporate into circuits
Can be performed with light and heavier weights for moderate and high repetitions
Are easy to set up
Solidify good squatting mechanics
Barbell front squats provide one of the most powerful whole body training effects you can get in the gym. They increase lower body strength massively, particularly the quadriceps and glutes, but also require a lot of core and upper back strength to maintain an upright posture. They’re an absolute must if you’re an Olympic lifter and, because of the postural demands, hold a lot of value for non-strength sport athletes too. People who can front squat heavy weights are usually pretty athletic.
Back squats allow the use of the largest loads of all the squat variations and are thus a powerful strength and muscle builder. Back squats can performed either ‘high bar’ or ‘low bar’. Most powerlifters use ‘low bar’ squats but my preference is ‘high bar’ due to the more upright posture involved. People tend to prefer, or be more suited to, one or the other but both can be incorporated into training programs.
The overhead squat is an advanced exercise that demands strength, stability and mobility from head to toe. The hips, knees and ankles need to have full range of motion, as do the wrists, elbows and shoulders, which also need to be strong and stable. The upper back and trunk need to be as solid as a rock and the body needs to work as a coordinated whole to keep the movement balanced — if the barbell shifts backwards or forwards there’s going to be a problem! Being able to overhead squat your bodyweight for 10 reps will forge a reputation as that of a savage, a beast, a true warrior, a local gym hero.
Squat jumps are an excellent way to train power production capabilities. Bodyweight squat jumps provide a great introduction to jumping and landing mechanics and using a barbell acts as a way of overloading the force element of the power equation (force x velocity). Make sure you can jump and land safely and keep the rep count low.
Safety Bar Squats
Squatting with a safety bar is a great option for those with restrictions that make squatting with a regular barbell uncomfortable. The safety bar allows a lot of weight to be loaded up without any strain on the shoulders or wrists and thus can be an excellent lower body training tool for many people.
I've forgotten whose quote this is but I tend to agree: "Zercher squats are useful for those competing in Zercher squat competitions."
Squats are an essential part of most training programs. With so many variations to choose from there is likely one for everyone, including you, yes you. Choose the squat variation that suits your goal, but don’t be afraid to perform different variations as a challenge and to keep your training interesting and challenging.