Who doesn’t love to squat? In my opinion the squat is the king of all exercises, but there are times when plain squats get boring. The Strength Agenda gave you an introductory article on squats and some variations to use in training, but we came up with more. Below are some variations that guest writer John Grace uses with his athletes and clients.
John Grace is a coach at Athletic Lab, based out of Cary, North Carolina. John has his CSCS and USATF Level 1 certifications and coaches youth to professional athletes at Athletic Lab.
Squats need to be a staple in any weightlifting or strength program. Squatting is an incredibly demanding movement; both mentally and physically. Sometimes our bodies can’t take the beating squats dish out. Maybe it’s a small nagging injury or maybe a chronic issue that doesn’t allow you to put a maximal load on the bar. In any case, the following variations of the squat will allow you to reduce overall load while still providing a high training stimulus of this fundamental movement.
Three Step Squats:
These will automatically become part of your “exercises-I-hate-to-do” list. “This variation of squatting involves squatting through three increasingly larger ROMs. The time under tension for this exercise is very high and it provides an incredible endocrine boost and are excellent for breaking through squat max plateaus.” (1)
Slow Eccentric Squats:
In this squat, the tempo of the descent will be much slower than that of your normal squat tempo. Upon initial descent begin counting (time to ‘bottom’ could be anywhere from 3-10 seconds) and when you reach your desired count, you should be at the rock bottom position. Once you’ve reached the bottom, return to the beginning position with a normal tempo.
Pause squats are a simpler variation. You’ll want to use the same tempo on the descent as a normal squat, but when you hit right below parallel, pause for a predetermined amount of time (3-5 seconds). The pause will isometrically contract the musculature as well as force more recruitment of muscle due to the demands of the ‘pause’. It is important that you do not rest at thigh-calf contact (all the way at the bottom) and disengage the muscles of the leg. Doing so will diminish the effectiveness of the exercise and pose a threat to injury to the lifter.