Welcome to Modify This Move, a series that will provide you with all the information you need to modify a common exercise to suit your needs, your body, and your mood. Each tale explains a fundamental fitness action in detail before offering a variety of variations based on your current level of fitness or energy, any current or past ailments, or the muscles you wish to focus on the most. So leave your ego at the door and make sure every workout is appropriate for where you are right now.
You may not be aware of it, but squats are a routine part of daily living. You ‘pop a squat’ into your favorite chair and squat to the floor to look at the treats on the bottom shelf at Trader Joe’s before dropping it low to pick up your dog’s toy off the floor.
The squat exercise should be a mainstay in your workout regimen given how functional the movement is, advises Keri Harvey , a NASM-certified personal trainer in New York City. She says it’s beneficial to develop the right movement patterns so as to reduce injuries. Additionally, Harvey notes that regular squat practice can help you build strength and stability in your hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes as well as your core, which aids in keeping your upper body stable and upright during the action.
Although the bodyweight squat is the most well-known variation of the exercise, there are other ways to work your lower body. Listen to your body and take into account a squat variant that is a little less strenuous on the body and mind when you need a light workout. Additionally, Harvey says that there are squat modifications you may utilize if you have knee or lower back problems in order to reap the advantages of the exercise without aggravating your symptoms. Just keep in mind that changing a move for any reason does not equate to “going easy” on oneself. It’s also acceptable to select the type of squat that feels most comfortable to you at the time.
Are you prepared to try the lower-body exercise? After mastering the bodyweight squat, use the instructions below to see how Harvey varied the workout with eight other squat variations that are suitable for people of various fitness levels and abilities.
A. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, your toes pointing slightly outward, and your hands clasped in front of your chest.
B. Keeping your chest up and keeping your back from rounding, sit back into your hips and bend your knees to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or nearly so.
C. Press through your feet to straighten your legs and get back to standing as you exhale.
Even if you are familiar with how to perform a bodyweight squat, it doesn’t guarantee that you will constantly feel motivated to do so. Don’t be afraid to try a squat variant that will help you achieve your specific objectives and goals, whether the original motion feels a little too difficult or you want to target particular muscle groups.
In this section, you’ll find squat variants that scale the workout up or down, such as squat variations for knee and lower back discomfort, squat variations to increase your balance and mobility, and squat variations to work your hamstrings and quadriceps. Whatever you decide, keep listening to your body as you push through your reps. If something doesn’t feel right, try a different activity.
BOX (OR BENCH) SQUAT IS A SMALLER VERSION OF THE SQUAT Consider trying a box squat if you’re completely new to squatting or if you simply want to perfect your form before progressing to the standard bodyweight squat. According to Harvey, “you sometimes don’t really know how deep to squat, or maybe you don’t really trust yourself to sit back in your hips just yet.” To learn that you won’t fall to the ground at the bottom of the squat, she suggests setting up a box or a bench behind you at a reasonable height. It’s a terrific method for you to develop confidence that you can relax, she says.
A. Stand in front of a box or bench with your arms lifted over your chest and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
B. Keeping your chest up and keeping your back from rounding, lean back into your hips and bend your knees to lower yourself until your butt reaches the box or bench.
SQUAT VARIATION TO LEVEL UP: FRONT SQUAT According to Harvey, this squat variation challenges your core, shoulders, and back by requiring you to hold two weights in front of your shoulders the entire time. It will be simple for you to round your back when you squat down because the weight is largely at the front of your body, she continues. But if you want to squat correctly and avoid straining your back, you’ll have to battle against that to hold your chest up high and your shoulders back.
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes slightly pointed outward. Hold a dumbbell at your sides in each hand. Lift dumbbells up to the chest while bending your elbows and resting the end of each weight against your shoulders.
SUMO SQUAT IS A TARGET HAMSTRINGS SQUAT VARIATION According to Harvey, this squat variation uses a wider stance than a standard bodyweight squat, which changes how your weight is distributed and, consequently, the muscles the exercise recruits. As you push the hips back, she says, “it’s a lot more hip and hamstring involvement because you’re already in a broader stance.” You’ll notice that your hamstrings activate a little bit more quickly than they would in a bodyweight squat.
A. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly outward. Hold a dumbbell in front of the hips with each hand.
Bad-knees Squat Alternative: Stability Ball Wall Squat If you’re worried that a full squat will be too much for your knees, try including a stability ball and a wall into the exercise. According to Harvey, because your back will be in continual contact with the ball as you squat, you may feel more steady and as though your knees are being less stressed. After a few tries with that, she says, “I would definitely move them to the box squat,” adding that she would do it for someone who is extremely concerned about their knees. You may always adjust a box so that it is higher or lower so that you can practice using your own knees and core to squat.
A. Place a stability ball against a wall and lean forward so that the ball rests against your lower back. With your toes turned slightly outward and your feet shoulder-width apart and about six inches in front of your body, lean against the ball. Bring both arms up to your chest.
B. While maintaining your chest up, push into the ball, lean back into your hips, and bend your knees to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to or almost parallel with the floor.
KETTLEBELL GOBLET SQUAT IS A VERSION OF THE SQUAT FOR LOWER BACK PAIN In this squat variant, holding a kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands serves as a reminder to maintain a tall chest as you lower yourself to the ground. As a result, it can really aid in preventing the onset of lower back pain or the aggravation of current symptoms. According to Harvey, “it’s already compelling you to have the right upper-body posture, so we have no choice but to sit back into the hips.” Lower back pain occurs when the hips are not properly hinged back.
A. Hold a kettlebell in front of your chest with your hands on either side of the handle while standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, your toes turned slightly outward.
ELEVATED HEEL SQUAT: A SQUAT VARIATION TO TARGET QUADS This squat variation is very similar to the bodyweight squat, with the exception of one small change: Instead of standing flat on the floor, you’ll prop your heels up on a pair of dumbbells. You can squat a little bit deeper than you would if you were simply standing on a level surface when you’re in that position with your heels raised, according to Harvey. “As a result, you’re going to have to work your quads a little bit more to get back up,” I said.
A. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, your toes turned slightly outward, and both heels resting on top of a dumbbell’s grip. Bring both arms up to your chest.
SQUAT MODIFICATION FOR BALANCE IMPROVEMENT: BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT According to Harvey, performing this squat variant while supporting one leg on a bench increases the balancing challenge while also allowing you to focus more intently on your squat form. It aids in furthering the breakdown of the squat, she continues. Is my hip the cause of my feeling a little unbalanced? Is it possible that I’m not piercing the earth all the way? It enables you to examine your overall squat form more closely and identify any imbalances.
A. With your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, stand in front of a bench while gripping a dumbbell in each hand. Take a step forward, then place your right foot with the instep resting on the bench’s top behind you.
B. While exhaling, sit back into your hips and lower your left leg until both of your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Keep your chest up to keep your back from rounding.
C. Press through the left foot to straighten the leg and get back to standing as you exhale. On the other side, repeat.
AN ALTERNATIVE SQUAT FOR MOBILITY: THE COOSSACK SQUAT This squat variant can be compared to a side lunge, but instead of stepping out to either side, you’ll maintain a sumo stance with both feet and move your weight from side to side. The outcome? Since you’re moving back and forth rapidly, Harvey explains, “you’re working hip mobility and you’re also providing some attention to the joints in the knee.”
A. Stand with your hands clasped in front of your chest and your feet somewhat wider than shoulder width apart.
B. On an inhalation, shift your weight to your left side and reposition your hips while keeping your right leg completely extended out to the side. Keep your chest up and your back from arching.
C. Press through the left foot to straighten the leg and get back to standing as you exhale. Take a moment, then repeat on the other side.
Artist and photographer Jenna Brillhart Keri Harvey, a fitness professional and model
Makeup and hair: Tee Chavez hosiery: Aerie Workout Bench: SPRI’s Ignite