Top 6 Bodyweight Squat Variations

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
May 19, 2016

When considering bodyweight training as an alternative to using heavy weights, a common concern is that there are limitations on lower body exercises. Now to be fair, that is somewhat true. But unless you’re looking to get huge, bulky muscles (the kind necessary for football, for example), there really shouldn’t be any issue.

And in any case, most of those heavy weight exercises aren’t the healthiest activities anyway. We’ve covered this before, but using a traditional leg press machine can be very dangerous. The motion used and the position in which you’re placing your body isn’t very functional at all. And the strain you put on your joints as you try to lift plate after plate is only doing you harm.

And that is why we’re such big fans of squats, which is what we’d like to focus on today. Squats are among the best bodyweight workouts you could possibly do. They’re sometimes considered “the king of bodyweight exercises.” Whatever you call them, you really can’t call yourself a serious bodyweight trainer if you’re not utilizing them.

Now, that’s not to say that all squats are good. Weighted squats are can be just as dangerous and ineffective as a leg press machine. And if you have trouble believing that, this video should give you an idea of what we mean. to support that statement. But bodyweight squats, when done correctly, can be a game-changer for your health and fitness. And let’s not forget, they can be done anywhere!

Like we said, if you are serious about calisthenics and advancing your bodyweight training, you cannot ignore the squat. It’s the foundation of most bodyweight exercises that strengthen the lower body. But as you’ll see, that’s just the beginning of what utilizing the squat will do for your health.


Oh boy … Where to start?

Squats offer more benefits than you probably realize. They’re basically the perfect bodyweight exercise because they check all the boxes of what you’re looking for in a workout.

Predictably, squats are great for the muscles in the legs, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. But they benefit the rest of the body as well. You will strengthen the glutes muscles needed for a toned butt, for instance.

And one area in which you may not expect to get a workout in a squat that definitely does is your core. Your abdominal and lower back muscles will be needed in order to maintain balance, so if you make an effort to tighten up your core during the squat, it’ll result in a tighter stomach and toned lower back.

But if you thought it was only good for your lower body, think again! Squats create an anabolic environment, which promotes muscle building throughout the entire body.

Knee Health Score 2

And if you regularly incorporate squats into your workout regimen, you’re going to see an improved ability to perform normal, non-workout activities. That’s because squats are a functional exercise, meaning they’ll help you with the typical movements you use in everyday life. This is different from exercise machines, which pretty much only improve your ability to operate that machine.

There’s a reason squats are utilized in the training of just about every competitive sport: they’re great for improving your performance on the court, field or wherever else you play. Your explosiveness, jumping ability, balance and speed will benefit greatly from an emphasis on the exercise.

And if one of your goals of exercising is to increase flexibility, look no further. Deep squats increase your range of motion in your entire hip complex, which will result in lower back pain.

In fact, squatting is so good for you, research suggests it’s the healthiest way to use the bathroom. And yeah, this isn’t usually our area of expertise, but hear us out. A 2010 study conducted by Daniel Lametti concluded that squatting over a toilet is more ergonomic for our bodies than traditional sitting.

We’re not just saying this for the sake of talking about potties — this is a matter of health. Because according to the Mayo clinic, squatting can help prevent conditions like hemorrhoids, or swollen veins in the rectum, symptoms of which occur in “about half of adults” by age 50.


So, now that we’ve established just how beneficial (and essential) squats are to your bodyweight training, let’s take a look at what we consider the best variations out there. Each one has its own challenges and strengths, but they will all help you build strength throughout your body. And as you’ll see, there are enough squat options to keep you from getting bored in your exercises.

Take a look and let us know which ones you utilize — and if we’ve left one of your favorites off the list!

5) Bodyweight Squat


4) Sumo Squat


3) skater squat


2) pistol squat


1) Dragon squat


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1 Comment
  1. Harry Simonis

    Hi Todd,

    Another great post! I try and incorporate lots of different variations of squats into my workouts, thanks for adding some to the list! The dragon squat looks good haha, I will see how that one goes! Not sure if I am flexible enough as of yet!

    All the best,

    Harry Simonis

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