There's a reason squats are a workout staple: they're a guaranteed way to sculpt your entire bottom half in just one move. But, there's a secret to making them work even better—and, it's also an excuse to give your legs just a teeny, tiny bit of a break.
According to new research published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, a combination of partial squats, which is considered bending up to 100 degrees, and full squats, meaning bending below a 90-degree angle, is better for your body than just full squats. In fact, the study participants who combined both in their workouts gained more explosive power than those who just did full squats.
The researchers also found that partial squats allowed the study participants to move through a workout faster, building up the kind of stamina and power that will help you not just in strength training, but also in running and jumping. We're just pumped to hear that science supports a workout move that doesn't burn out our legs in one set.
And, since regular ol' squats can get old fast, we rounded up some of our favorite, trainer-approved variations on the full and partial move. Add these to your workout routine.
Squat and Rise
Holding one dumbbell with both hands, squat in to hips bringing dumbbell outside right thigh, keeping hips back and chest lifted. Stand up lifting heels off the floor and bringing dumbbell overhead with straight arms. Repeat alternating sides on each squat. Do 20 reps.
Start in a squat position, then explode upward to extend your legs. As you come down, land softly (like you are trying not to squash eggs!) and go back into a squat position. Repeat rapidly. Do ten reps to complete a set for three sets total.
Leg Lift Squat
Begin with your feet on the ground, hip width apart. Take a bend in your knees and rock your weight back so that it's supported in your heels. Take your arms out front and bend from the elbows, drawing your hands up in fists. Flatten your back and try to hold this posture. Lift one leg off of the ground and open it up toward the ceiling. You should feel a pinch in the side of your seat. Bring it back down and lightly tap the ground with your foot before lifting your leg back up. Repeat 10 to 20 times. Keep your hips square and your body low for the entire movement.
Squat to Press
Stand with your feet hip distance apart, keeping knees and ankles in line with hips. Center your weight over your feet, holding weights at your shoulders. Lift your chest and pull your shoulders back. Bend at the hips and slowly sit back into an imaginary chair. As you come up to stand, push off your heels and press the weights up straight over head. Aim for 10 reps.
Stand with feet 2 to 3 inches wider than shoulder width. Bend knees, placing the outside of elbows against inside of the knees and palms together. Squat below parallel (so your butt moves toward calves), then with press up with heels so your upper legs are parallel with the ground. Do 3 sets 20 reps each.
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