Squats are one of the best ways to target your glute muscles. Starting last year, the popular “squat” challenge had men and women all over the country trying to increase repetitions and added weight to the traditional squat. The goal? Increase the strength of those glute muscles.
If you’re tired of the same old squat routine, are looking to target specific parts of your glute, or simply to add variety to your routine, here are 6 squat variations you can try at your next workout.
A sumo squat is like a traditional squat. However, in a sumo variation you increase the distance between your feet. A wide-stance targets your inner thighs and improves balance in addition to targeting your glutes.
Stand with your feet wider than hip width apart – at least two feet – but whatever you’re most comfortable with. Then, turn your feet slightly outward. Aim for a 45-degree angle. Add a slight backward hinge to your hips, then slowly lower yourself down by bending your knees. Keep your back straight, as if you were going to sit on a low bench or chair. Then, using a controlled movement, drive weight through your heels to return to a standing position. Aim to complete 8-12 reps for three sets.
To make this move more challenging, try holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your hands at chest-level. Do not choose a weight that will cause you to lean too far forward or backward.
Dumbbell Side Squat
Side squats are ideal for targeting your inner and outer thigh muscles. Also known as side-lunges, side squats are an excellent way to add variety to your squat routine.
Start by standing with your feet together. Then, carefully step your left foot out horizontally about 2-3 feet away from your stationary right foot. Keeping your right leg straight, bend your left knee so you are in a squat position over your left foot. Be sure your left knee isn’t bending too far over your foot. Keep your back straight. Then, drive weight through your left heel and engage your core to return to a standing position. Bring your feet back together and repeat on the right side.
Adding a dumbbell to each hand will make this move more challenging.
Front Weight Squat
This squat is the same as a traditional squat. The only difference is you’re increasing resistance by holding a barbell or two dumbbells up by your chest. The goal of this exercise is to increase engagement of stabilizing muscles used to keep your core upright during the movement. This exercise helps you target your quads.
Start with your legs hip-width apart with your feet pointed only slightly outward. This can reduce pressure on your knees during the exercise. Hold a barbell in front of your chest, by your shoulders. Then slowly lower down in a traditional squat. If the weight is too challenging, you may feel yourself leaning slightly forward to compensate. Be sure you keep your back straight and do not compromise on form to squat a higher weight.
Targeting a single leg during a squat can help you increase strength in a non-dominant leg, and work on targeting stabilizing muscles. Start in a traditional squat position, with feet shoulder-width apart. Then lift one leg off the ground – it can be slightly in front of you or slightly behind; whichever is most comfortable. Then, without leaning too far over your planted foot, lower into a squat. We recommend having a bench or wall handy for the first few tries!
For advanced squatters, it can be difficult to target glutes without drastically increasing weight. To increase strength in your glute muscles, try squat pulses. No matter which squat position you choose, focus in on the specific area of the exercise where your glutes are most engaged. (That means, try to find the time during the squat where it’s difficult. This could be immediately as you begin to raise, or when you’re about halfway up.) Once you’ve identified your engagement zone, stay in that position and gently pulse. Aim for about 10 bounces – or until you can’t anymore!
In a traditional squat position, adding jumps to the point where you return to standing can help you increase glute strength and cardio simultaneously.
To complete this movement, start with feet shoulder width apart. Lower into a squat position to about halfway of your normal dip. Then, power upward in a jump. Try to land lightly on your feet and control your core as you lower back seamlessly into your squat. Repeat!