Despite the clear benefits, though, the exercise is not for everyone.
Whether you have physical limitations or you want to add some variety to your workout routine, there are plenty of alternatives to one of the most common exercises. These squat variations require all your body's strength to complete—from your arms to your core and lower-body—and they're suitable for beginners and the advanced alike.
Bulgarian Split Squat1 of 7
Targets: Quads, gluteus maximus, adductors
Stand with your feet parallel, a few feet in front of a low bench or step that's 4 to 12 inches high. Facing away from the bench, place the top of your left foot on top of the bench and square your hips forward.
Slowly lower into a single-leg squat, making sure to bring your hips down and back in a smooth motion without leaning forward or back. Make sure your front knee doesn't go past your toes. Descend until your front thigh is parallel to the floor before returning to the starting position.
To make this exercise more difficult, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand or a light barbell across your shoulder blades.
Sumo Squat2 of 7
Targets: Glutes, inner thighs, quads, calves
Stand slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes facing out at about a 45-degree angle. Initiating with your hips rather than your knees, descend into a low squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
Hold for two counts at the bottom before returning to the starting position. Press your knees out throughout the squat and squeeze your glutes at the top.
To make this exercise harder, hold the movement at bottom for longer and/or rise onto the balls of your feet at the top of the movement. The pause at the bottom takes away any momentum you've generated and makes the squat harder to ascend from.
Curtsy Squat (Curtsy Lunge)3 of 7
Targets: Glutes, adductors, quads, quad sweep (area just above knee)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells or keep your hands on your hips. Descend into a squat, sending your left foot behind and to the right of your right foot, until your front thigh is at least parallel to the floor.
Squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position, placing your left foot back on the floor. Immediately descend into the next curtsy squat.
Goblet Squat and Hold4 of 7
Targets: Biceps, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes facing forward. Hold a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball in front of your sternum with your arms bent.
Initiate the movement with your hips, not your knees. Press your hips back and drop into a squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Hold at the bottom for one count before returning to the starting position.
The pause at the bottom takes away any momentum you've generated and makes the squat harder to ascend from. Press your knees out throughout the squat and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Single-Leg Squat5 of 7
Targets: Obliques, glutes, adductors, quads, quad sweep (area just above knee), Hamstrings
This exercise is one of the most difficult lower-body movements, and you have to work hard to have the posterior chain strength, knee strength and stability to execute it safely.
Stand with your feet parallel to each other and close together. Hold your hands together in a fist in front of your chest and gaze straight ahead. Lift your left leg slightly off the floor with your toe pointed upward.
Initiate the movement with your hips and press them back as if you were sitting in a chair. Lower your body into a squat as low as you can go. Press through your right heel, squeeze your glutes, and bring your arms down to your sides to return to the starting position. Immediately descend into the next rep.
Cat Perry6 of 7
Cat Perry is a fitness magazine deputy editor and writer, and a fit-travel blogger, covering breakthroughs in exercise, gear, action sports, wellness, nutrition and travel. Her work has appeared in Men's Fitness, MSN, Muscle & Fitness Hers, Muscleandfitness.com, Dealnews.com, and Pride Life.
Her blog, Over and Outside, features her experiences as she travels the globe to find the latest trends in fit, healthy and adventurous living. To unwind, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, trail running, and pushing limits while strength training.