squat variation

Change up your squat game for Leg Day.

Leg day. It’s perhaps every athlete’s nightmare, the most dreaded training day of the week, it doesn’t bring enjoyment like chest day or arm day. Why? Because it not only puts you through brutal exercises, rep schemes, and really stresses the body forcing you out of your comfort zone, but it also focuses a great deal on the king of all lifts, the squat.

People absolutely fear the squat, and in the words of bodybuilder Tom Platz, who had the most brutal leg day of all, the squat is scary. You are under the weight of a loaded barbell, in the squat rack alone, and you are at a relatively high risk of injury if your form is off or you cannot complete the movement. You have no choice but to push through the squat, which makes it even a mental workout. However, the rewards that the squat brings are countless.

Let’s take a look at the importance of the squat, and what exactly it can do for you, as well as four variations of the squat.

The Importance of Squatting

Squats are essential for any kind of athlete from a bodybuilder who needs big legs, to a mixed martial artist who needs powerful kicks and leg balance, to a basketball player who needs to jump high and run fast. Squats are an absolutely essential part of any routine and serves multiple purposes. You can use it for building muscle mass through hypertrophy training, or in order to build better overall strength through heavy one rep maxes. Whichever way you choose to use squats you’re going to experience some great benefits.

Most people use the classic barbell back squats as their primary squatting exercise, as it is effective and easy to set up and complete. Not to mention, it is a great compound lift as it engages the entire leg, but the barbell back squat is not the only way to build up lower body definition and strength. There are other squatting variations that can be just as helpful to muscle and strength development. Take a look at these squat variations and try to supplement them into your usual routine.

The Top Four Squat Variations

Now that we have defined what exactly squats are and why they are important, let’s take a look at the top four squat variations that you can do for size, strength, and being functional overall.

Front Squat

The front squat is a variation of the squat that many people do not take into consideration, but it is highly beneficial. Instead of the barbell resting on the traps and rear delts, it will instead rest on the front delts.

So what makes the front squat so special anyway? Well it provides for more a full body workout than any other variation on this list. Front squats employ multiple muscle groups besides the legs including the upper and lower back as well as your abdominal muscles. Not to mention, the front squat helps target the quads a bit better than your traditional back squat. It helps with building up these muscle groups as well as providing a great tool for strength gains, and it also translates over to other exercises fairly well, particularly those in Olympic Weightlifting.

Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat is certainly a squat variation that not many people use at all, it is tough and can cause a bit of pain. The position of the bar goes in the crevice of the elbows, which can hurt you when going heavy.

Like the front squat, the Zercher squat is more of a multi-purpose exercise that can translate over to other exercises. The positioning of your legs during this squat favors the stance of a conventional or sumo deadlift. It’s ultimately a great tool for building strength and aptitude in the classic compound movement and will have you deadlifting more weight in no time.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is a movement that every man fears, even those with the biggest and best legs on the planet. If you’re looking for a great variation for hypertrophy, then the Bulgarian split squat is sure to provide what you need, but you aren’t going to enjoy it while it is going on.

Being that it technically is a unilateral exercise, this exercise is great for fixing muscular imbalances as well as thrashing your quads and hamstrings. Ultimately you balance out both the definition and strength in both legs by focusing on one at a time. You also can use different pieces of gym equipment for Bulgarian split squats, such as the smith machine, or kettlebells, or dumbbells. That being said, there is a lot of diversity with this movement.

Hack Squat

Last but not least, the hack squat. This is a classic exercise that was orginally performed with a barbell, and almost looked like a deadlift. The lifter would place the loaded barbell behind their feet, grip it, and stand up, like a reverse deadlift, and people realized how great this was for the legs. Over time, the hack squat machine was born, so lifters no longer needed to use the barbell method.

This movement is another that will ultimately help you in a variety of different ways. You can switch up foot position and target different areas of the quads, really making it effective. The hack squat will build tremendous lower body strength and size. Speaking of size, the hack squat will also help to build some quality muscle in the quads as well, as there is a large bias on that area of the legs.

Squat Variations Wrap Up

Overall, there are plenty of different squat variations that you can use to really build size and strength in your legs. Depending on the amount of equipment you have access to, some of these can truly benefit you.

Which squat variation do you use in your routine? Let us know in the comments and forums. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.

Dylan Wolf
I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.