4 Bodyweight Squat Variations (Video)
The most common variation of the barbell squat is the back squat. However, there are other variations that can be used depending on your goals and training style.
These include: front squats, box squats, one arm dumbbell rows, two arm dumbbell rows and single leg deadlifts. Each variation has its own advantages and disadvantages which will affect how often you do them.
1. Front Squats
Front squats are probably the simplest of all barbell movements. They involve just standing up with your feet shoulder width apart and holding onto something heavy like a kettle bell or medicine ball.
You don’t need any equipment at all to perform these exercises, so they’re great for those new to weightlifting who aren’t sure what to do next! Front squats work the quads, glutes and hamstrings very well because they emphasize the use of these muscles.
2. Box Squats
Box squats are another simple exercise that works the same muscle groups as front squats. However, box squats require less strength than front squats since you only have to hold onto boxes instead of a barbell.
Because box squatting requires less strength, it’s usually performed after your regular back squat routine. A good starting point for many lifters is to put the boxes at the level of your knees.
3. One arm dumbbell rows
These exercises are variations of the bent over row, which is an exercise that is focused on the muscles between your lower and middle back. They are very effective at strengthening these muscles and should be included in most back routines.
The two arm dumbbell row is a good starting point for beginners.
4. Two arm dumbbell rows
As you can probably guess, the two arm dumbbell row is the second of the two arm variations of bent over rows. It works exactly the same as the one arm dumbbell row but with both arms instead of one.
Again, this is a good starting point for most lifters since it’s easy to do and you don’t need any additional equipment.
5. Single leg deadlifts
The single leg deadlift is an isolation exercise that only involves one leg at a time. This might seem easy compared to other weightlifting exercises, but it works well for people who are just starting out with the sport.
It’s also effective for strengthening and shaping the glutes and hamstrings.
6. Two arm dumbbell rows
7. One leg deadlifts
These two exercises are the second and third of the four isolation exercises that involve heavy dumbbells. These are more difficult than the single leg deadlift for most lifters since you have to balance yourself with one leg at a time.
However, they’re still easier than most free weight barbell exercises for people just starting out with weightlifting.
8. Power cleans
Power cleans are an explosive barbell exercise that works on the leg, back and arm muscles. The exact difference between a power clean and a clean is the explosion of your legs when the barbell reaches your thighs.
Power cleans can be performed with heavy weights and still be done safely since the explosiveness reduces the strain on your muscles and bones.
9. Front squats
The front squat is an essential barbell exercise for strengthening the quadriceps, glutes and low back. To do a front squat, you hold onto the barbell with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
You then lift the barbell off of the supports and rest it on the shelf that’s created by your elbows and shoulder muscles.
The deadlift is the last of the three essential barbell exercises for strengthening the major muscle groups in your legs, back and arms. Like the power clean, the deadlift helps to develop explosive strength.
Unlike the power clean, it’s less taxing on the muscles and upper body, which makes it an excellent exercise for people that are frequently tired from other sports.
This is a tough list, so don’t try to tackle all of them at once. Choose three from the list and focus on mastering them before moving on to more advanced exercises.
Make sure to get plenty of rest as well since you’ll be pushing your muscles to the limit on these lifts.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”, so don’t expect to reach your goals by next week. Good luck!
Sources & references used in this article:
The bodyweight squat: A movement screen for the squat pattern by M Kritz, J Cronin, P Hume – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2009 – journals.lww.com
The effects of two different arm positions and weight status on select kinematic variables during the bodyweight squat by AP Glave, JM Olson, DK Applegate… – The Journal of Strength …, 2012 – journals.lww.com
Augmented and Intrinsic Feedback in Motor Learning of the Bodyweight Squat by AJ Bedard – westpoint.edu
Advanced Bodyweight Strength Training: The Pistol Squat by J Ladon – Power, 2019 – generationiron.com