12 Ways to Spice Up Your Squats for Better Results
90-Degree Squat Jumps
Add a little twist to your squat jump to build agility and coordination in addition to lower-body strength.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a medicine ball. Squat down and tap the ball lightly on the floor. Jump up out of your squat, rotating your body midair 90 degrees, landing in a squat, and tap the ball on the ground. Continue rotating until you land back into your starting position, and then repeat on the other side. Try one full circle to the right and one to the left.
Don't have a medicine ball handy? Grab a dumbbell or just reach your arms instead.
Challenge your balance (and your lower half) with this one-legged version.
How to do it: Stand tall on your left leg with your right foot lifted slightly off the floor, arms by your sides. Push your hips back and bend your left knee to lower your body into a squat (try to keep your right foot off the floor), reaching your arms in front of you for balance. Press through your left foot to return to standing. That's one rep. Do 15 reps on the right leg, 15 on the left.
Too tough to balance? Try tapping just the ball of your left foot on the ground during the squat until you are able to balance the entire time.
Get ready to feel every muscle in your body working—this hardcore squat is a killer!
How to do it: Stand on your right leg and extend your left leg out as straight as you can in front of you. Reach your arms straight out towards your left foot. Lower into a deep squat on your right leg, going as low to the floor as you can (without lifting your heel off the floor), and then press back up to standing. That's one rep. Work up to 10 reps on one leg, and then repeat on the other side.
These are much harder than they look, so feel free to hold onto a wall or a chair as you build your strength and balance with this exercise.
Bulgarian Split Squats
This squat variation is a great way to keep your core (and all the muscles below the belt) engaged.
Stand with your back to a box or bench that's about three feet away. Bring your left leg behind you and place your foot lightly on top of the box. With your hands behind your head, lower into a squat, keeping your right knee behind or in line with your toes as it bends. Press back up to standing. Work up to 15 reps on your right side, 15 on the left.
Not challenging enough? Add a barbell or dumbbells to increase the resistance.
While sumo wrestlers aren't known for their lean physique, this squat will definitely help sculpt your legs for shorts season. Be prepared to feel your inner thighs burning the next day!
How to do it: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, holding a medicine ball in front of your chest. Squat down as low as you can, keeping your heels on the ground and your back straight. Press back up to standing. That's one rep. Do 15 reps total.
You can use a dumbbell or a sandbag instead of a medicine ball if you don't have one.
Plie Squat and Calf Raise
There's a reason ballet dancers have such amazing legs. This squat variation is a super-effective hip- and thigh-toner.
How to do it: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, hands on your hips. Bend your knees over your toes and lower your body into a squat. Hold this position and lift your heels up (without raising your hips) and then press them back down 10 times in a row. Return to standing to complete one rep. Do 5 reps total.
Make sure you keep your abs braced in tight to assist with your balance—and strengthen your core.
Boost your burn by moving less, not more!
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can hold your arms straight out in front of your body at shoulder level or cross your arms over your chest as shown. Lower your body into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, and then slowly push yourself back to the starting position. Repeat 3 times total.
Brace your core in tight and keep it that way the entire time, and keep your weight on your heels, not your toes. You should be able to wiggle your toes at any time during the hold.
This fun squat variation adds an extra core challenge and targets your glutes.
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your arms straight out in front of your body at shoulder level. Lower into a squat by pushing your hips back and to the left (imagine you're standing inside a box and point your hips to the back left corner). Reach your arms out and across your body to the right (as if balancing on a surf board). Staying in your squat position, shift your hips and arms to the opposite side. Continue shifting from side to side 10 times in a row, and then press back up to standing.
Rock 'n Roll Squats
This dynamic squat helps you build functional core and leg strength.
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower all the way down to the floor. Allow your back to round and gently roll onto your back, tucking your knees into your chest, pulling them in with your hands. Pull your abs in toward your spine and focus on using your core, not just momentum, to rock yourself forward again. Press your feet back into the floor and return to standing. That's one rep. Try 10 reps total.
This is another one that's tougher than it looks. If you're not ready to stand all the way back up, start with just the rock and then return to a low squat position.
This dynamic exercise breaks the rules of traditional squatting by allowing your knees to bend out over your toes and lifting your heels off the floor, but it's still a very safe (and effective) way to target your lower body.
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Quickly lower your body into a squat as low as you can, lifting your heels off the floor and reaching your arms behind you. Press through the balls of your feet to return to standing as fast as you can. Your arms make a circular motion from the back to the front (reach them behind you as you squat down and bring them in front of you to stand up).
This one doubles as a card boost so try for up to 50 fast-paced reps.
Use your own bodyweight to amp up this challenging squat.
How to do it: Stand on your left leg and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Your right knee should be open to the side. Push your hips back and bend your left knee to lower into a squat, reaching your arms in front of you as you lower. Press back up to standing. That's one rep. Try for up to 15 reps on the left leg, and then 15 on the right.
This is another serious balance challenge, so you may need to hold onto a wall or chair at first.
Try this yoga-inspired squat to build your stamina and sculpt those inner-thigh muscles.
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet together. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a narrow squat. At the bottom of your squat, squeeze your knees together and reach both arms up into a 'V' shape, thumbs facing up. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. That's one rep. Do 3 reps total.
Tip: Look down at the floor to avoid neck strain during this move.