Behold: The humble bodyweight squat. Not only will dropping it like it’s hot strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, adding squats to your regular workout routine could mean fewer knee injuries . And you’ll increase your bone mass which will help you avoid osteoporosis as you age . Plus, one study shows that increasing lower body strength can help you be a better runner .
We’ve rounded up 40 variations in four different categories—bodyweight, plyometric, weighted, and equipment—for your squatting pleasure (or pain).
1. Basic Squat
Start by standing in the beginning squat position with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, neck straight, and abs tight. Hold your arms out in front of you—straight with palms facing down, bent at the elbows. Or do our favorite arm move: the Aladdin arm cross. Whichever you do, don’t put your hands on your legs. Bend your knees and slowly lower yourself down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the ground. Push your bottom backward, as if you were sitting on a chair. Don’t worry too much about letting your knees go forward over your toes. It’s a popular myth, but depending on your limb length, flexibility and hip joints, your knees may naturally go over your feet as you squat. As long as it doesn’t hurt, you’re OK. Return to standing.
2. Single-Leg Squat
Got a dominant leg? It’s OK, we all do! Focusing your squat on one leg at a time can help even out muscular imbalances. Start in the beginning squat position. Lift your left leg up, bending the knee slightly to get your foot off the ground. You can hold your raised foot slightly in front or behind you depending on whatever feels more steady. Using only your right leg, lower yourself down as far as is comfortable. Return upright. Try not to put your left foot down between reps; you can use a wall or chair for support if needed. Repeat on the other side, no one wants their biscuits to be unbalanced!
3. Squat Pulses
Perform a basic squat, but instead of returning to standing, stay in the lowest part of your squat with your thighs parallel to the ground and move up and down, keeping the movement small (a few inches up or down) and fast.
4. Pistol Squat
If you want to impress people at parties by squatting (you know, like you do) then bust out the pistol squat. It can be tricky to master but the results are impressive. From a beginning squat position hold your left leg straight out in front of you, arms also in front and parallel to your leg. Slowly squat all the way down until your butt is almost to your heel and your lifted leg is fully extended in front of you with the foot hovering a few inches above the floor. That was the easy part. Now stand back up without falling over or using your lifted leg. Warning: This one’s a toughie!
5. Chair Squat
Nope, we’re not giving you permission to sit on a chair and take five. Stand with your feet and legs together. Sit backward and down, pushing your hips out behind you. Lift your arms as high as you can, taking care not to let your chest drop. You can return to standing and repeat the squat, or for more of a challenge, hold it.
6. Chair Squat on Toes
Stand with your feet and legs together. Hold your arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Rise up on your toes and lower down until your rear is almost touching your heels. While still on your toes, return to standing.
7. Eagle Squat
Anyone who thinks squats are boring will love this challenge. Begin by standing with your feet close together and arms out in a T. Lift your right leg over your left leg and wrap your right foot around the back of your left calf. Now bring your right elbow underneath your left elbow, wrapping your right hand around your left forearm until your palms are together. Once you have your balance, squat down as low as you can. Return upright. If anyone looks at you funny just tell them pretzels are your favorite food—that is, if you can still talk. (If all this limb “wrapping” has you confused, just study the picture below.)
8. Grand Plié
Black Swan fans, unite! Begin by standing with your heels together, toes pointing slightly outward, and legs straight. Without sticking your butt out, bend your knees and lower down as far as is comfortable. Allow your heels to come up at the bottom of the squat. Return to standing. Tutus are optional (but know that if you do choose to rock one at the gym, we fully approve).
9. Figure-Four Squat
It’s a squat! It’s a stretch! It’s a… squatch? (OK that sounds wrong.) Begin by standing then bend your knees and lower a few inches into a slight squat. Lift your right leg up, bend your knee and cross it over your left leg, with your right ankle resting on your left knee. Being careful not to lose your balance, lower down until your supporting thigh is parallel to the ground. Don’t let your hips dip to either side! Return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
10. Sumo Squat
Floor-stomping, 12,000-calorie meals, and lots of grunting: Why should Sumo wrestlers have all the fun? Try this variation of the traditional sumo stance by standing with your legs wide, toes pointed slightly outward. Push your hips back and bend your knees, squatting until your thighs are in line with your knees. Return to standing or pulse at the bottom of the movement. We’ll leave the outfit up to you.
11. Sumo Squat on Toes
To up the cool factor (and add more work for your calves and core), perform the sumo squat with your heels raised. Try not to put your feet down through the entire movement.
12. Butt-to-Heels Squat
Stand with your feet close together, arms out straight in front of you. Bend your knees and lower down until your butt is touching your heels. Your heels will come off the ground and your knees will be way forward past your toes. That’s OK! As you squat down, lower your arms and lightly brush your fingers on the ground. Raise your arms back to shoulder height as you return to standing.
13. Curtsy Squat
Stand with your feet hip width apart and hands on hips. Move your right foot behind your left leg, as far past your left foot as is comfortable. Using a “curtsy” motion, squat down. Keep your weight in the front leg. Return to standing.
14. Cross-Leg Squat
Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart. Lower down into a basic squat. As you stand back up, lift your right leg up (still bent at the knee). Bring your leg across your body as you crunch forward with your abs until your right knee touches your left elbow. This takes butts AND guts!
15. Squat Jump
A plyometric is any movement where both feet leave the ground at the same time. (That’s code for “jump.”) Not only do they work your muscles harder but they add some cardio to your strength training. So to take your basic squat to the next level, add a jump! Start in the beginning squat position. Lower yourself about half way and then jump up in the air before landing on your feet, standing. You can swing your arms for momentum, if you like.
16. Frogger Jumps
Frogs are known for being great jumpers so let your inner amphibian out—you know you have one—with this squat jump. Begin in a “frog squat” with your legs wide, toes and knees pointed slightly out, and butt low to the ground. Place your hands on the ground in front of you. Hop up (preferably while doing your best “ribbit”) and then land back in the frog squat.
17. Surfer-Squat Jump
Begin in a low, wide squat position with your arms out to your sides as if you are balancing on a surfboard. Jump and turn sideways so you land in the same surfer squat but now with the other leg forward.
18. Squat-Box Jump
This is a squat jump for people who like an element of danger in their workouts! Stand in front of a large, stable box. (Cardboard is a bad option. Wood is best.) Lower down into a basic squat and instead of standing up jump from both feet, landing squarely on the box in a squat position. Step or jump off and repeat. Start with a fairly low box—no higher than one foot—and work up to progressively higher boxes as your strength and confidence improve. Be very careful to land with both feet all the way on the box or your shins will pay the price.
19. Squat-Tuck Jumps
Start in a low squat with your feet hip width apart. Jump as high as you can, tucking your knees up to your chest and slapping your knees with your hands (or shins if you’re fancy!). Land back in a low squat and repeat. It’s kind of like a reverse cannonball. Or the move you might make if you saw a rattlesnake. Make sure you don’t return to standing between reps, that’s where the burn gets good.
20. Squat Jacks
Why stick to plain jumping jacks when you could be upping your belfie game too? Start in a squat position. Jump your legs out like you would with a jumping jack but stay low in the squat. Jump your feet back in together. Don’t come out of the squat until you’ve finished all your reps!
Ready for 20 more? Head over to Greastist for the full list of 40 Squat Variations You Need to Try!