Top 8 Different Types of Squats
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
There are different types of squats that provide slightly different benefits, but the overall focus is leg training first and foremost.
Squats are leg-focused compound exercises that provide full body benefits through activating (and needing) muscles found in your core, back, and glutes as well.
The fact is that there are multiple squat variations to choose from, and performing each one is the best way to increase the strength and muscular endurance. Muscle mass is an added plus if you eat enough calories to allow this change to happen.
What could be better than a compound lift working multiple muscle groups? How about increased hormone production? Squats are one of the top exercises to perform that allow the release of extra hormones that provide performance benefits such as testosterone and growth hormones.
Here are the top 8 different types of squats you should be performing during different training blocks. Let's help you never skip a leg day - seriously.
1) Back Squat
The back squat is definitely one of the top two exercises you can train with, in my opinion, and the second one being conventional deadlifts.
The interesting facts about back squats are that it targets leg muscles greatly – especially your quads. However, the reason why this was adopted as an essential tool for trainers is because it targets the posterior chain muscles with significant emphasis as well.
Your posterior chain muscles being worked the most are spinal erectors, lats, traps, glutes, and hamstrings.
Do the muscles sound familiar from other articles? They probably should since they play a vital role in your core strength and daily movements as well.
Seriously; if you want lower body training in one movement then it is the barbell squat with moderate (8-10 reps) to heavy (1-5 reps) loads.
2) Front Squat
Out of all the different types of squats; the popularity of front squat has grown the most over the past decade, which is probably due to the understanding of their usefulness now.
You basically place the barbell across the front of your shoulders held in the palms of your hands; hence the name of this exercise.
The emphasis is of course on your leg muscles, but the placement of the bar on the front of your body makes you lean forward, and to counter this you have to contract your core stabilizer muscle harder to maintain proper balance and form.
Aside from core strength, front squats place significantly more emphasis on your quads than back squats do.
3) Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat looks more like a lunge, but is considered a squat with the vertical plane motion and no foot movement. You incorporate these as an accessory exercise to improve leg strength and muscular endurance.
Being on one foot with the other placed slightly higher allows you to target muscle groups such as your quads more effectively. Plus. the instability requires plenty of core strength to remain balanced.
You can use a barbell or keep it simple using dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand. The possibility to make this harder is capable by placing a weight in only one hand opposite of the forward placed leg. This is called unilateral training.
For more in-depth info on unilateral training; checkout my article published on STACK.
Unilateral training is beneficial in multiple ways, and is often used by powerlifters and weightlifters to increase performance. Here are the top 3 reasons to perform Bulgarian split squats:
Correcting strength or hypertrophy deficiencies
Targeting core muscles
Increasing leg hypertrophy
Strength and hypertrophy deficiencies happen pretty often, and most people have no idea it is even needed. This is when one side of your body is stronger than the other, and for this exercise it would be one of your legs is stronger or bigger (it happens, don’t freak out).
You can fix this issue by performing this exercise with the unilateral method. Don't use different weights for each leg. Use what the weaker side can handle for both and allow it to catch up.
Your body’s core muscles are going to be under a lot of stress to keep your body balanced and protect your spine, so Bulgarian split squats are one of the best core strengtheners to consider.
4) Overhead Squat
The overhead squat is when you have the barbell over your head, and then squat your body down while keeping your arms fully extended.
Needless to say your body is working pretty hard to stay erect and prevent you from falling over. This exercise focuses on balance and mobility.
Olympic lifters frequently use this exercise because it helps to practice the barbell snatch lift. For fitness enthusiasts, you get the benefits or core, leg, abdominal, and upper body training.
Overhead squats are not the easiest to execute. Use caution and practice with just the bar first to understand how your body reacts to the instability with arms overhead.
5) Bottom Position Squats
You set the barbell up with moderate to heavy load settings, and then position yourself under the bar. You basically have to squat the weight back up without any momentum assistance or “stretch reflex”.
This is for the advanced person working on leg strength, power, and “exploding” energy. Football players and wrestlers benefit greatly from this movement along with powerlifters.
You can also perform them by un-racking the bar and slowly lowering your body down until you stop on the safety bars (or squat blocks for weightlifting gyms). However, you need to wait that long 1-2 seconds before coming back up.
Even Olympic-style weightlifters incorporate this into their programs, but often times with the front squat position. Other names used for this type of squat are pin, Anderson, and dead.
6) Zercher Squats
Zercher squats focus on your torso and core strength greatly, and have similar leg emphasis as the front squat.
For this exercise, you place the barbell in the pocket of your arms where the inside elbows and forearms meet.
You curl your arms up and can grasp your hands together near your chest to keep a firm grip on the front of your body. Essentially you need those arms up to maintain hold of the bar in an upright position.
Everybody can benefit from this exercise for core strengthening and even arm training since you are increasing blood flow flexing your arms to hold the weight up.
Elbow sleeves or a thin pad help execute this type of squat with less pain against your arms. Some note that you can squat deeper even compared with front squats, but I've never needed them for that nor have I used them with athletes to accomplish greater depth.
7) Goblet Squat
Goblet squats are great for all types of people involved in strength training - whether it be a senior trying to strengthen their hips, or an athlete using it as an accessory exercise.
This has to be my most recommended and used type of squat aside from the back squat. Goblet squats teach you to remain upright, strengthen your core, and improves muscular growth and endurance.
The purpose is to keep the weight against your body down the center, which places all the weight directly down your body.
Also helps those with poor ankle mobility. Definitely is an exercise for everyone to be performing for leg development.
8) SSB Squat
The SSB (Safety Squat Bar) squat is not for starters, although the name sounds like it is and appearance of pads on the bar. This type of squat uses a bar that is raised off your traps, has handles, and is cambered.
A camber bar basically places the weight down from your shoulders and instead are mid-line close to the sides of your hips. The bar encourages upright posture and more posterior chain recruitment i.e. using your back, glutes, and hamstrings more.
Your core is put to the test with stability by the camber bar pushing you forward, which you have to correct against to not fall forward. A regular camber bar can be very odd to use because of where you grip the bar.
I made a full article on the SSB squat here.
Behold the Different Types of Squats
So there you have it – 8 beneficial different types of squats that provide variation with your leg day programming. Even for those that compete in powerlifting, you need to have accessory squat variations to help correct possible deficiencies in movement.
Pay close attention to your squat form to prevent any injuries to your spine, lower back, knees, or any other region on your legs. Any new movement should be executed with just the bar first before gradually increasing weight.
Dynamic stretching prior to intense squat movements is recommended to help get the blood flowing and loosen up your joints for the movements to come - especially ones that require more mobility such as overhead and front squats.
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