MY 5 FAVOURITE SQUAT VARIATIONS
Squatting is easily one of the best exercises you can program into your training. Being a compound exercise, it’s one of those ‘bang for buck’ movement patterns that targets your entire body, a must have for anyone looking to build their quads and booty. Whilst it’s predominantly a quad focussed exercise, focussing on building my strength in the squat has been a massive contributor to building my glutes too.
The squat is a complex movement pattern - if you’re a beginner I suggest starting out with a body weight squat to get used to the movement and adding weight as you build your strength. I really like goblet squats (which you can read more on below) as they help us to sit more upright.
I’ve listed 5 of my favourite squat patterns below with a breakdown of each and when you might use them plus some programming tips. These are all squat patterns you’ll find in my Train With Soph training programs.
1. HIGH BAR
In a high bar squat, the bar will sit on your traps (refer to the photo). This will hit your quads, like all squat patterns, however compared to the low bar squat, the high bar will place more emphasis on the quads. A great exercise to build your quads and core strength with carry over benefits to your other squat exercises and quad movements. I recommend using the high bar if you’re a newer trainer before advancing to the low bar squat and if your focus is on building your quads up.
2. LOW BAR
The low bar squat will have the bar placed lower down your back compared to the high bar - just on top of your delts. You’ll push your elbows back and up behind you to create a ‘shelf’ for the bar to sit on to keep it in place. Being lower down your back means you’ll have a slightly greater hip hinge (less upright) and more posterior chain (glutes) focussed. You’ll also notice that because you’re recruiting more power from the posterior chain your ability to lift heavier weights will be greater with the low bar. Refer to the image for the bar position on my back.
3. SAFETY BAR
I love the safety bar squat for all levels of trainers - but I’d recommend anyone nervous about squatting or moving from body weight/ goblet squat to having the bar on your back to first start with the safety bar. As the name suggest - it’s a safe position - it keeps you upright and you don’t have to pull your arms up on the bar to keep it in place. You’ve can focus less on technique and more on building your strength and feeling confident under a bar before advancing to high bar or low bar squats. You’ll notice your strength isn’t as high on the safety bar compared to low bar as it is a very quad dominant squat without as much posterior chain recruitment. Don’t be disheartened by this - there will be a large carry over to your other squat patterns building your strength and confidence with the safety bar.
4. GOBLET SQUAT
The goblet squat is similar to the safety bar in that it keeps you upright, helps you engage your core and quads and gets you used to the movement pattern before loading up the bar on your back. I really love using goblet squats for newer trainers as the primary squat movement, and for more advanced trainers further down the exercise list in programming for higher rep work to burnout the quads with a heavy weight!
5. BOX SQUAT
Another great exercise for newer trainers to start to build their confidence under the bar. But also really good for anyone who is trying to build strength in their other squat patterns. Because you’re not going to full range of motion, you can load up more weight than you’re used to and get used to the heavier loads on your back as well as working on the weakened position if that position is the midpoint for you coming back out of the squat!
Each of these squat patterns should have a place in your programming. As a rule - I always program the big compound lifts as the first 1-2 exercises in my Train With Soph programs as this is when you’ve got the most energy at the beginning of your workout. They require the most physical energy but also the most mental energy to focus on technique and the heavy loads. The less demanding exercises such as goblet squats and box squats can be placed further down the exercise list with a variety of reps and sets.
Which is your favourite squat?