9 Squat Variations to Change Up Your Leg Day

Take this staple exercise to the next level by trying a few variations that will give your legs a good burn on your lower-body days!

9 Squat Variations to Change Up Your Leg Day
Photo by Pavigym Prama / Unsplash
María Rubio María Rubio
6 min read

Whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or you’ve been training for a long time, it’s more than likely that squats have been part of your routine at some point. Maybe they never left! And with a good reason, because squats are a killer compound movement that can really give your legs the workout they need to grow and get stronger.

When you’ve mastered the standard bodyweight squat, the next step is adding some weights as well as different movements and stances. Sticking with the same routine and doing it over and over can lead you to a training plateau, and you definitely want to avoid that if your goal is to build muscle!

The best way to keep your journey effective is by trying different variations of the best exercises, such as squats. We have compiled a list of different squat variations that you can add to your routine for stronger and more sculpted legs, so keep reading!

Pistol squat

A well-known squat variation, the pistol squat is a unilateral exercise that will truly challenge your balance while you move. Not only will it give you a killer leg workout, but it will also help you improve your functional strength and fix any muscle imbalances you might have.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your right leg in front of you, making sure your left foot is firmly planted on the floor.
  2. Extend both arms in front of you and begin the movement by lowering yourself into a squat position, keeping your right leg up as you go down. Allow yourself to go into a deeper squat to keep your stability.
  3. With your right leg completely parallel to the floor, squeeze your muscles, then push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat.
  4. Finish your reps and switch to the opposite side.

Surrender squat

This variation of squat is perfect if you’re looking to give your quads a good workout by staying close to the floor at all times, really challenging your lower-body strength and your balance as your change positions.

How to do it

  1. Kneel on the floor while keeping your upper body upright and place both hands on the back of your head as if you were surrendering.
  2. Begin the movement by taking a half-kneeling stance, placing your right foot on the floor while your left knee stays down.
  3. Without skipping a beat, push through your right heel and place your left foot on the floor so you’re in a squat position.
  4. Come back to a half-kneeling stance by placing your right knee on the floor, then place your other knee on the floor to go back to the full kneeling position.
  5. Continue doing this cycle until you’ve completed your reps.

Landmine squat

Landmine exercises are always a great choice no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing because it’s better for your shoulder joints. You only lift one side of the weight and it goes through an angled path, allowing you to keep your workouts safe but effective!

How to do it:

  1. Load one end of a barbell and secure the other end against a rack or a corner.
  2. Grab the loaded end with both hands in a neutral position and place your feet shoulder-width apart firmly on the floor.
  3. Keeping your back straight and the end of the landmine close to your chest, begin the movement by lowering yourself into a squat while you hold the weight, making sure you’re at the appropriate distance so that the weight goes down smoothly.
  4. Drive it down with you until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then squeeze your muscles, push through your heels to stand back up, and repeat.

Dumbbell thrusters

Another unilateral exercise that will help you develop a well-rounded lower-body strength. This weighted squat movement requires holding a dumbbell in each hand, but you can also use a pair of kettlebells to mimic the overhead press movement.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip at shoulder height, so that your arms and forearms are folded and close to your body.
  2. Keeping your back straight, begin the movement by lowering yourself into a squat position and back up again.
  3. As you straighten your legs, push the dumbbells up and overhead so that your arms are completely extended upward while you stand upright again.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders as you go back down to a squat position and repeat.

Squat jack

Just like the name sounds, this exercise combines a standard squat with a (jumping) jack, making it a high-intensity and explosive jump squat movement that you can add to your cardio days or your HIIT training!

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet close together and begin the movement by jumping your feet out around shoulder-width distance.
  2. Without stopping, go down into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the floor. You can clasp your hands together in front of you for stability.
  3. Push through your heels to explosively go up and jump your feet back together and repeat, squeezing your muscles each time you squat.

Squat with crunch

Similar to the last exercise, this movement combines the squat with another well-known exercise, the crunch! It’s a great way to increase the strength in your lower body and core while also improving your hip mobility.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your hands behind your head and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keeping your core engaged, begin the movement by lifting your right knee and driving your right elbow down so that they meet, twisting your core without removing your hand from your head.
  3. Bring your right foot back down and as you do so start lowering yourself into a squat position.
  4. Push through your heels to stand back up, now lifting your left knee and lowering your left elbow until they meet, then squat down again.
  5. Repeat this pattern alternating each side until you’ve completed your reps.

Side step squat

This movement will have you working your lateral mobility which is key in many other lower-body exercises, as well as help you develop stronger glutes, calves, hamstrings, quads, and even your core!

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly bend your knees so you’re in a half squat position.
  2. Begin the movement by stepping with your right foot to the side, lowering yourself into a full squat position as you step out.
  3. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, come back up from the same side you came from by pressing through your left foot and bringing your right foot back.
  4. Perform the same movement on the opposite side by stepping out with your left foot and doing a squat, alternating each side until you’ve completed your reps.

Goblet squat

Going back to the classics, the goblet squat is one of the natural progressions that most people try when they’ve mastered the classic squat form. You only need a kettlebell to do it and it’ll help further develop both your strength and balance!

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart while holding a kettlebell by the handle or the ball with both hands in front of you.
  2. Begin the movement by lowering yourself into a squat position as you hold the weight in front of you, keeping your elbows close to your sides throughout the movement.
  3. Squeeze your muscles at the bottom of the movement while keeping your balance with the weight, then go back up to the standing position and repeat.

Bulgarian split squat

Last but not least, the Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral variation that will really help you target your quads by modifying your stance! You’ll place one foot on a bench, making one leg support your weight while you stretch the other leg behind you.

How to do it:

  1. Find a bench and stand with your back to it so you can place your left foot on the edge of the bench at a comfortable distance.
  2. Engage your core and begin the movement by lowering yourself with your right leg into a split squat position without taking your left foot off the bench.
  3. Without losing your stability, squeeze your muscles in this position, then slowly push yourself back up and repeat.
  4. Finish your reps and repeat on the opposite side.

Squats are one of the most modifiable exercises out there because the basic movement is so simple, so definitely try and add some of these to your routine next time you want to challenge your lower body. You can perform your squats on a yoga mat, a squat rack, or a Smith machine, as well as use a variety of different pieces of equipment like barbells and resistance bands for a more effective workout.

Looking to expand your strength training routine with new exercise variations?

The Fit With Iulia app can do that for you! Iulia creates weekly goal-focused workouts to help you get closer to your strength training and weight loss goals with the help of the appropriate training splits and a variety of different exercises. Try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choosing a goal, and trying the first workout of any goal – no subscription required!