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Spice Up Leg Day With These 4 Squat Variations

Burned out on squats? Try these four variations, and your mind and body will thank you.

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Squats: The skier’s favorite exercise (whether you choose to read heavy sarcasm into that is up to you).

If you’re not a fan of squats, maybe it’s because you’re burnt out on them. And if you’re only incorporating the standard, run-of-the-mill variety, we don’t blame you. That squat move is boring as all get-out.

You also may not be seeing great results from performing the standard squat over and over again, which can be demotivating. Big muscle and strength gains come from constantly challenging the body with new moves that force different muscles to fire, or require the same muscles to fire in new patterns. Routinely performing the same exercise—or set of exercises—is not only boring for you but makes your muscles complacent, which means they don’t have to work as hard.

So if you (or your body) are bored with the standard squat, try incorporating one or all of the following variations into your workout routine. Each of these targets the same big muscles of the lower body as the traditional squat—the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and muscles of the hip complex—but they increase the challenge by adding resistance and/or requiring different stabilizer muscles to kick in.

In other words, this increased challenge is the cure to your squat boredom.

Related: Fitness Inspiration for Skiers Who Hate Working Out in the Summer

Goblet Squats

This move is very similar to a traditional squat, but adds resistance and also works the adductor muscles of the inner thighs because you’re squatting in a wider stance with toes externally rotated.

Athlete performs goblet squat in gym
For the goblet squat, externally rotate feet so that you work the adductor muscles as you descend into the squat. Photo: Tory Powers
  1. Take a wider than hip-width stance with your feet slightly turned out and holding a kettlebell or dumbbell near your sternum
  2. Keeping your chest upright, descend into a squat, making sure to push hips back and keep knees from collapsing inward
  3. Hold for a beat, then push through your heels to return to a standing position
Athlete performs goblet squat in gym
As you descend into the goblet squat, be sure to keep your knees in line with your toes—don’t let them collapse inward. Photo: Tory Powers

TRX Pistol Squat

Pistol squats are no joke. If you don’t yet have the strength or form to complete a single-leg pistol squat, start with the TRX-assisted version.

Athlete performs TRX pistol squat in gym
TRX-assisted pistol squats are a great way to work up to unassisted pistol squats. Photo: Tory Powers
  1. With TRX handles at hip height, take a few steps back until there is no slack in the TRX straps
  2. Raise one leg off the floor, extend with foot flexed, and push your hips back to lower into a single-leg squat. Use the TRX to assist you in lowering to at least 90-degrees. The slower you lower yourself, the more your muscles will be required to work.
  3. Hold at the bottom of the squat for a beat, then return to standing by pushing through your standing leg

Eccentric Pistol Squat

This variation of a single-leg squat works your balance and challenges your leg muscles with eccentric contractions (negative work). Eccentric contractions are key to ensuring muscle symmetry and injury prevention.

Athlete performs eccentric pistol squat in gym
Including eccentric work in your exercise routine is essential to making sure your muscles are balanced. Photo: Tory Powers
  1. Stand laterally on a plyo box, step, or bench
  2. Shift weight into one leg and squat to slowly lower the other leg down the side of the box, as if stepping down.
  3. The slower you descend, the more work your muscles have to do
  4. Go as low as you can, keeping chest upright and hips shifted back
  5. Push through the standing leg to return to starting position

Dumbbell/Kettlebell Front Squats

This squat variation is very similar to the traditional squat but adds resistance. By holding weight (a barbell or kettlebells/dumbbells) in front of your shoulders as you squat, you load the quads and require the front of your legs to work harder.

Athlete performs loaded front squat in gym
By adding resistance and loading the resistance in front of the shoulders, you increase the amount of load on the front of the legs/quads in this squat variation. Photo: Tory Powers
  1. Start with feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell or two weights in front of your collarbones
  2. Hinge at the hips and bend knees to descend into squat, keeping chest upright and weight level with shoulders
  3. Hold at the bottom of the squat for a beat, then drive into the heels to return to standing

Get the full workout: SKI’s 8-Week Injury Prevention Fitness Course


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