Squat Variations: Get Gorgeous Glutes!

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

squat variations

Gorgeous glutes are the envy of many women. And, with all of the options for squat variations, you’ll never get bored with leg day!

Having a toned derriere is an attractive trait, however, having a strong and sculpted butt and lower body goes beyond just outward appearance.

Not only are strong legs an outward sign of fitness, but having a powerful lower body is important for all of your day-to-day activities and other workouts.

The squat is the gold standard when it comes to lower body exercises.

By working the large muscle groups in the body, not only do you build strength but also burn some serious calories in the process.

Changing up your squats by adding weight, bands, or turning the squat into a plyo move is an excellent way to add metabolic resistance training into your workout routine.

And just by changing the angle of your feet or isolating one leg at a time, you can target your different leg muscles from all angles.

Incorporating tempo squats into your workouts is another way to promote muscle growth and strength in your glutes and quads while also perfecting your form.

Get your rear in gear today with these squat variations!

Is working out too painful for you? Check out these lower body workouts for bad knees!

Up Your Metabolism With Lower Body Workouts

Most women think they need to do tons of cardio to burn calories.

However, weight training will boost your metabolism and build lean muscle mass.

And, since your quads and glutes are large muscle groups, you will really up your fat-burning potential by performing lower-body resistance training.

A study from the International Journal of Obesity found that women gained more lean muscle mass and lost more body fat with just twice-weekly weight training.

So even with a busy schedule, you can still reap significant fitness benefits by adding strength training a few times a week.

This leg workout includes 5 joint-friendly exercises!

Targeting the Lower Body With Squat Variations

When developing a workout plan, a lot of women will set aside a “leg day” to focus on lower body workouts.

Of course, these strength workouts target a number of different muscle groups, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

Incorporating squat variations is the perfect way to strengthen all of these muscle groups at the same time.

These squat variations will build strength and develop muscular, toned legs.

You can add any number of these squat variations into your lower body workouts as part of circuit training or traditional weight training.

Standard Barbell or Dumbbell Squats

Squats are one of the ultimate lower body workouts because they target your glutes, hamstrings, and quads all at once.

This exercise can be done with a barbell or dumbbell depending on how comfortable you are with the movement.

Mastering a standard squat is the foundation for moving on to other squat variations.

  • To do a standard squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat your hips down and back while you bend your knees.
  • You should feel most of the weight in your heels.
  • Then push back up through your heels to a standing position.
  • Once you have perfected the technique you can try holding dumbbells by your side to add weight to the movement.
  • You can stick with dumbbells or if you feel confident can also move to squat with a barbell across the shoulders.
  • You should always use a spotter, or at least a spotter rack to make sure you are safe doing this movement.
  • Aim for 8-10 reps.

Squat with Front Kick

Doing a standard squat with an added forward kick at the end will increase your heart rate and turn any strength workout into metabolic resistance training.

  • Squat down, stand back up, then kick forward with the right leg.
  • Bring the right leg back, squat again, then kick forward with the left leg as you stand.
  • Continue alternating sides until you complete 10-15 reps on each side.

Split Squats

Split squats are an excellent way to isolate one leg at a time.

This allows you to really focus on the movement and to fix any strength discrepancies between sides.

  • Place a chair about two feet behind you.
  • Place the top of your right foot on the chair while standing on your left leg.
  • You can clasp your hands in front of you or place them on your hips.
  • Squat down by bending your left leg until your thigh is parallel with the ground.
  • Be sure to not let your knee come over your toes.
  • Press through your foot to stand back up.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps, then switch to the other leg.

Goblet Squat

While the goblet squat may seem very similar to a standard squat, by turning your toes out you will engage your muscles at different angles while also hitting your inner thighs.

  • Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned out.
  • Hold the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest.
  • Squat down, then press through your feet to stand.
  • Aim for 10 to 12 reps.

Learn more about the goblet squat and its benefits!

Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is a challenging move that, like the split squat, forces you to isolate one leg at a time.

However, this move is made more difficult by the fact that you do not rest your non-working leg on anything.

This is a tough move that takes strength and practice!

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your hands in front of your chest.
  • Lift your right foot forward a few inches off the floor with your foot flexed.
  • Squat by bending your left knee 90 degrees, holding your right leg in front of you.
  • If you can’t squat down to 90 degrees, just go as far as you can before pushing back up.
  • You can even hold onto a chair or wall for support until you master this squat variation.
  • Do 5 to 10 reps.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Plie Squats

It can be tough to find exercises that target the inner thighs or adductor muscles.

Luckily, plie squats do just that.

By changing the angle of your feet you can take a standard squat and completely change the muscles that are activated.

  • Start with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes turned outwards.
  • Bend your knees to lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Return to start.
  • Perform 15 reps.

Walking Squats with Bands

Now that you’ve targeted your adductor muscles with squats, you also want to make sure you hit the outer thigh muscles or abductors.

Banded squats are a great move to strengthen not only the abductors but also the glutes and tensor fasciae latae.

  • To do this move start in a shallow squat position with your legs hip-width apart with a looped resistance band around your thighs just above your knees.
  • Take one step to the right at a 45-degree angle while staying in a low squat position.
  • Then step to the left at a 45-degree angle in the same crouch position.
  • Do 10 steps with each leg.

Jump Squats

Jump squats are a great squat variation that also adds in some cardio as well.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by sides.
  • Bend your knees and lower into a squat, then press through your feet to explosively jump as high as you can.
  • Land softly on the balls of feet and immediately lower into the next squat.
  • Repeat this for 10-15 reps.

Pulse Squats

Small pulses are a great way to burn out your legs at the end of a workout, making this move a good “finisher” to add at the end of a workout.

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and lower into a squat.
  • Maintain this squat position as you barely lift your heels up and down a few inches to “pulse” while in the squat position.
  • Continue pulsing for 30 seconds.

Tempo Squats

A tempo squat is when you perform the lowering, or eccentric phase, of the squat with a slower than normal tempo.

So instead of squatting down quickly, you do a slow count of 3-4 seconds.

This is one of the most effective ways to build strength in your lower body.

For example, in a meta-analysis comparing the effects of eccentric and concentric training upon muscle strength and mass, eccentric training was shown to promote increased muscle mass and overall size measurements.

However, tempo squats can also focus on the concentric phase since this has advantages as well.

For instance, by slowing down the squat as you stand up you can focus on any issues you are having with your form during this phase while also increasing time under tension during the workout and enhancing muscle growth.

Since you are focusing more on the quality of the movement, you can use a lighter weight, or even just your body weight, and still get a huge strength-building benefit.

Not only this, but by slowing the tempo you can also improve your squat technique.

There are a lot of different variations with tempo squats since you can change the amount of time you spend lowering down and standing back up.

You can also hold at the bottom of the squat to increase the burn.

If you are reading a workout that includes tempo squats, this is usually signified by four numbers.

The first number is the time (in seconds) spent lowering down into a squat.

The second number is the time to pause at the bottom, while the third number is the time count for standing back up.

The fourth number is how long to rest before beginning the next rep.

For example, 4-1-0-1 means you count to 4 as you lower into a squat, pause for 1 second at the bottom, stand back up immediately, then take a 1-second pause before beginning the next rep.

This video will show you how to do tempo squats!

Holly Smith, M.D.
B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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