When it comes to figuring out your workout routine, there are a handful of “no brainer” choices. Regardless of age, sex or fitness goal, you usually include fundamental movements like push-ups, pull-ups, torso rotations and—for the lower body—squats.
Squats are the one of the most effective ways to work the lower body, but how do you keep this fundamental movement from getting monotonous session after session?
Try implementing these three effective alternatives: Kettlebell variations, changing the load and tool or opting for single leg exercises instead of using both legs. For these three suggestions, there are two variations of each below.
Next time you’re a bit bored with your regular squat routine, give one of these alternatives a try and watch your lower body take shape.
1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat2 of 7
Hold a kettlebell at chest height, right under your chin. Take a slightly wider than shoulder-width foot position with your toes pointed out slightly. Upon descent, keep your chest up, abs braced and push your butt back as you think about "opening your knees." Keep your head position neutral (eyes looking forward) throughout the movement.
Squat down as low as you can without breaking form and then return to the starting position by driving your hips through the extension and standing up tall. You can hold the bottom of the squat for an extended period if you need to work on hip and groin range of motion. This gives you an effective "weighted stretch" in that bottom position.
2. Offset Kettlebell Squat3 of 7
Much like the previous exercise, in this one, you are only using one hand to hold the bell. Using just one arm will secure the bell off-center, which will challenge your core control and stability.
Do not let the uneven load negatively affect your form or movement pattern.
3. Sandbag Bear Hug Squat4 of 7
Hold a sandbag in front of your body. As you squat, maintain a firm squeeze on the bag. This variation will allow you to squat a little more upright and will engage the anterior core a bit more than in a traditional back squat.
4. Barbell Zercher Squat5 of 7
This unique barbell squat variation (named after former strongman Ed Zercher) places the barbell on the inside of the elbows. Like other front-loaded squat variations, this will allow you to squat a little more upright and will engage the anterior core a bit more than in a traditional back squat.
Keep the arms in a flexed position throughout the movement to target your biceps.
5. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat6 of 7
Begin by standing a few feet in front of a bench. Reach one leg back to the bench and place the top of the foot on the bench. Keeping your chest up and the front foot flat on the ground, lower yourself down until the back knee nears the ground.
Focus on driving through the entire front foot and don't let that front heel come off the ground.
6. Single Leg Squat Off a Bench7 of 7
Standing on a bench, hang one leg off the side. As you squat down, focus on keeping your chest up, and only go as low as you can control.
The goal is not to touch the floor. Instead, focus on maintaining balance and control throughout the exercise.