10 Types of Squats to Spice Up Your Workout & Their Benefits

types of squats cover
Heather Black post Reviewer
The article is verified by Heather Black
Personal Trainer, Precision Nutrition Coach, and Health & Wellness Director of a chain of fitness centers

In this article, we’ll guide you through various types of squats, easy to hard, and their benefits in your workout routine.

Squats are one of the best exercises a person can practice and develop. The squat pattern is a fundamental movement that offers many benefits that extend into sports and everyday living. Preserving the ability to squat throughout life will allow you to thrive while performing basic activities such as moving from sitting to standing, as well as hiking, running, and hard labor. 

Table of Contents

Why do squats? Benefits of doing different types of squats regularly

As mentioned, regularly practicing squats delivers a ton of benefits. Here are a few notables:

  • Increased lower body strength
  • Improved balance
  • Building lean muscle
  • Improved ankle, knee, and hip mobility
  • Burning calories
  • Improved athleticism
  • Improved physical appearance
  • Preserving a critical movement pattern for completing tasks

You will also benefit from adding different types of squats to your workout plan as it helps get more proportionate legs and build nice glutes, inner thighs, calves, and hamstrings.

Squat variations

One refreshing aspect about squats is the number of variations you have to choose from. We’ll There are two main categories: unilateral and bilateral. 

Unilateral squats are performed with one leg, while bilateral squats are performed with both legs working simultaneously. 

Both options have unique benefits and can be programmed into a workout according to equipment availability and goals. 

Unilateral_vs_bilateral squats

Bilateral squatting

Bilateral squatting is a critical launch point for beginners to start learning the mechanics of the basic squat pattern. It’s crucial to establish ownership over a full range of motion bodyweight squat, not just for workouts but for everyday living.

Demonstrating a technically proper squat without adding any additional demand creates a solid foundation to build upon.

You can progress bilateral squats by adding weight using various types of equipment, including barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, weight vests, resistance bands, and cable machines. Depending on your equipment, there are several different ways to hold the weight during sets. 

The most common types of squats include:

  • Back squats
  • Front squats
  • Bear hugs
  • Goblets

Unilateral squatting

Unilateral squatting delivers a potent training stimulus and is an exceptionally good supplement to a workout program.

Squatting on one leg requires increased stability and control due to the isolation of right- and left-side muscles.

Single-leg squats are great for:

  • Building symmetry between the right/left side of the body
  • Improving balance
  • Increasing flexibility 
  • Stability gains around the feet, knees, and hips

That final bullet point is unique to single-leg exercises and rarely discussed. If you suffer an injury, you can still train on the healthy leg and see benefits for both legs. This phenomenon is known as “cross-education.”

A balanced training regimen should generally include both bilateral and unilateral squats. 

10 Types of squats to try during your training (easy to hard)

Below you’ll find a list of ten squats to try in your future workouts. The cool part about this list is that the squats are ranked from easiest to hardest. That gives you a roadmap to progressive squat training and perspective on your entry point, depending on your fitness and skill level.

#1 Assisted bilateral bodyweight squats

Beginners can benefit from regressing exercises, so the load is decreased and the focus is on grooving the movement pattern. Moving against lighter loads gives your muscles a chance to acclimate to the demands of the movement. 

Assisted Bilateral Bodyweight Squats

Technique

  • Hold onto a door, table, or TRX ropes if you are at the gym.
  • Lower yourself down to the floor at a slow tempo
  • Stop whenever your form breaks or when your hamstrings come into contact with the calves. 
  • Stand up. 

Reps/Sets

3 sets of 10 repetitions

#2 Bodyweight air squats

Bodyweight air squats are considered the foundation of squatting patterns. With this variation, you’re working against your full body weight.

Bodyweight_Air_Squats

Technique

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest tall, eyes gazing 6 feet out from the toes, lower down at a controlled tempo.
  • Aim to squat as low as possible, maintain a tall chest, and keep your eyes forward. Make sure your knees are tracking over your toes.
  • Ascend back to the top.

Reps/Sets

3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions

#3 Goblet squats

Goblet squat gets its name from the position where the weight is held that resembles a goblet. You can use dumbbells or kettlebells to add weight to this movement, with either being positioned at chest height.

This is one of the simplest and most comfortable ways to introduce additional weight to squatting. 

Goblet_Squats

Technique

  • Position a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest height with your hands supporting the weight underneath one end. 
  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down with your chest tall, eyes gazing out 6 ft. 
  • Keep the weight against the chest throughout the entire range of motion. 
  • Return to the standing position. 

Reps/Sets

3-5 sets of 8 repetitions using a weight that allows for 10 repetitions

#4 Barbell back and front squats

Barbells are a useful gym tool that allows for more weight to be added to many different exercises. The barbell is a symmetrically loaded device that can be positioned on the shoulders for back squats, or supported in front of the body against the deltoids in a front rack position for front squats.

Back Squat Technique

  • Step under the bar and position it lower on the back/upper shoulders with your hands gripping the bar just outside of the shoulders. 
  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider).
  • Take a deep breath, pushing the air down to the stomach, creating tension. 
  • Lower down into a squat and stand back up.
Barbell_Front_Squats

Front Squat Technique 

  • Step up to the bar and position it on the front deltoids, elbows flexed, and fingers in contact with the bar. 
  • Lift the bar from the rack and position your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Take a deep breath, push the air down to the stomach, and create tension. 
  • Lower down into a squat, keeping your chest tall, and stand back up. 

Reps/Sets

3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions for each exercise

#5 Sandbag bear hug squats

This squat variation is excellent for adding weight to a squat. Positioning the bag against the chest with your arms wrapped around the sandbag is a challenging maneuver that activates the whole body and is one of the most practical ways to train the squat.

Technique

  • Wrap your arms around a sandbag with your fingers interlocked or your arms in a stagger position. 
  • Squat down with control, keeping the chest tall and your arms squeezing the sandbag tight.
  • Lower to your max range of motion and stand up. 

Reps/Sets

3 sets of 8 repetitions using a weight that allows for 10 repetitions

#6 Split squat

Split squat is a transitional exercise moving from bilateral to unilateral squat variations. With one leg positioned in front of the other, the working leg must overcome more resistance. The narrow support base provides a gentle introduction to the stability and balance demands of full-blown single-leg exercises.

Explore this exercise with body weight only first, then progress to holding light dumbbells at the sides. 

Split_Squats

Technique

  • Assume a split stance by stepping one leg forward, feet spaced roughly 24 inches apart. 
  • Keep as much weight on the front working leg as possible. 
  • Lower down until the rear leg’s knee cap gently touches the floor surface.

Reps/Sets

3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions

#7 Rear foot elevated split squat

Elevating the foot onto a chair or a bench provides stability yet increases the weight on the working leg. Rear foot elevated split squats are one of the most versatile squats because of the number of implements you can use to add weight. Dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, sandbags, weight vests, and barbells can all be used to increase the difficulty. 

Rear_Foot_Elevated_Splits_Squat

Technique

  • Elevate one foot onto a bench or chair with the top of the foot in contact with the chair. 
  • The front foot should be roughly 18 inches from the bench/chair.
  • Squat down until the knee of the rear leg lightly touches the floor. 
  • Stand up. 

Reps/Sets

3 sets of 6-8 reps

#8 Assisted single-leg squat

Beginners need to transition into progressively more challenging exercises yet be careful not to overdo it. A person can guide themselves into and out of a squat by holding onto a door, chair, suspension trainer, or gymnastics rings. 

Assisted Single Leg Squats

Technique

  • Grab onto a door handle with the working leg foot positioned just outside the door. Use TRX ropes if you are at the gym.
  • Using your arms for assistance, lower down into the bottom of a squat. 
  • When you’ve reached your max range of motion, stand back up using your arms as needed. 

Reps/Sets

3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions per leg

#9 Single-leg balance squat

After mastering two-legged squats, it’s time to test your balance, stability, and coordination with unsupported single-leg balance squats. Single-leg balance squats can be adjusted according to the most extensive range of motion you can control. Place a surface behind you, squat down, and aim to touch it before standing up. Increase the difficulty by lowering the surface as you build strength. 

Single_Leg_Balance_Squats

Technique

  • Position a bench/chair 3-4 inches behind you.
  • From a standing position, flex the working leg knee and hinge the hips back as you lower down to touch the bench/chair.
  • Touch the hamstrings/glutes softly to the surface and drive back up into the standing position. 

Reps/Sets

3 sets of 6-8 repetitions per leg.

#10 Pistol squat

The pistol squat is a full range of motion and unsupported single-leg squat exercise that demonstrates strength, stability, and coordination. This is one of the premier single-leg squat variations and a good target for anyone looking to set their sights on the ultimate squat exercise.

Pistol_Squats

Pistol squat technique

  • From a standing position, distribute your weight onto one leg.
  • Flex the front knee and hinge the hips. 
  • Use your arms to keep the balance: extend them in front of you, hold them out to the side, or use one hand to hold onto the extended leg for better support.
  • Aim to touch the hamstring to the calf at the lowest point of the squat. 
  • Stand up.

Reps/Sets

3 sets of 5-6 repetitions per leg. 

Wrapping Up

Squats are packed with benefits and there are plenty of variations to explore. Building a strong and capable squat has tremendous carryover into athletics and everyday living. The key to making progress is consistency and attacking the next exercise progression when it is time to do so. By leveraging the different types of squats listed above, you’ll avoid stagnation and keep making gains for the long term!


The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

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