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15 Bodyweight Squat Variations for Any Fitness Level

Are you tired of doing the same old basic squats every leg day? If you’re looking to add some variety to your workouts, these bodyweight squat variations are a great way to challenge your muscles and switch things up. Not only do they target different areas of your legs, but they can also help improve your balance, flexibility, and overall athleticism.

There are many different types of bodyweight squats that you can incorporate into your routine, from the classic squat to more advanced variations like the pistol squat and jump squat. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, there’s a variation out there that can help take your workouts to the next level. By incorporating these variations, you can keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom, while also challenging your body in new ways to help you reach your fitness goals.

Oh, and if you need help with your squat form, check out our step-by-step guide to a better, deeper squat.

Why you should do your squats

Bodyweight squats are a simple yet effective exercise that can help you build strength, improve mobility, and tone your lower body. Here are just a few of the many benefits of incorporating bodyweight squats into your workout routine:

  • Builds lower body strength: Bodyweight squats primarily target your legs, glutes, and core muscles. By performing squats regularly, you can increase your lower body strength, improve your overall fitness, and be better prepared to take on bigger adventures.

  • Improves mobility: Squats require you to move through a large range of motion, which can help improve your hip, knee, and ankle mobility. This can be especially beneficial for older adults and people who sit for long periods of time or have sedentary jobs.

  • Functional exercise: Squats are a compound exercise, which means they work multiple muscle groups at once. They also imitate movements you would perform outside of the gym, preparing your body for the demands of the outdoors.

  • No equipment required: Bodyweight squats can be done anywhere, anytime, without any equipment. This makes them a convenient exercise to add to your routine, whether you’re at home, in an RV, at the gym, or on the go.

  • Variety of variations: Bodyweight squats can be modified and varied to target different muscles and add variety to your workout routine. Some popular variations include jump squats, pistol squats, and sumo squats.

Overall, bodyweight squats are a versatile exercise that can help you build full-body strength, improve mobility, and develop athleticism. By incorporating them into your workout routine, you can achieve a stronger, more capable lower body.

See our favorite squat variations:

By the way, if you’re still learning basic squat form, be sure to check out our step-by-step guide to a better, deeper squat first.

Beginner-friendly Squats

Assisted Squat

The assisted bodyweight squat is a great variation for beginners. Using a sturdy anchor, such as a squat rack upright or heavy piece of furniture, lower yourself slowly into a deep, controlled squat.

You might include a 5-10 second pause at the bottom to help build up your strength and mobility for unassisted squats. The more time you spend in this position, the easier it will become.

Box Squat

This exercise is a great way to build up to a full bodyweight squat. Using a plyo box, chair, bench, or sturdy cooler, squat until your butt hits the platform, then stand. Squat to a lower platform as you get stronger.

Pro tip: don’t rest all of your weight on the platform. Keep as much of your weight in your legs as you can.

Air Squat

This is your basic bodyweight squat. We call it an “air” squat because that’s all you’re squatting, compared to loading it up with a barbell, dumbbell, sandbag, sack of potatoes, family dog, etc.

For a full breakdown on the squat, check out our step-by-step guide on how to squat better and lower.

Split Squat

The split squat is deceptively effective. The lead leg provides most of your power; the rear leg really only acts as a kickstand for balance and support. Doing higher rep sets of these can result in an impressive leg and glute pump.

Place your hand on a wall or table for balance until you feel more stable. Keep good control and avoid crashing to the bottom of each rep. Work your way down as you build strength and confidence.

Assisted Cossack Squat

This beginner-friendly version of the Cossack can help build your strength and mobility until you’re ready for the full movement.

These squats are a favorite of ours because they develop so many things at once.

Intermediate Squats

Cossack Squat

Simply put, Cossack squats are awesome. They are great for developing lots of lower body strength, mobility, and coordination, plus they look and feel super cool.

Turn the toes up on the straight leg to help open up the hips and take some lateral stress off the knee.

When you first start doing these, limit yourself to just 5 reps per side at a time. As your hips get stronger and more mobile, work up to doing sets of 10 or more at a time.

Jump Squat

Jump squats are a quick way to take your squat up a notch. Start with very small jumps, where your feet just barely leave the ground. As you build confidence and strength, increase the height of your jumps.

This variation is especially good for developing resilient bones and ligaments throughout the lower body. The repeated low impacts of jumping combined with controlled deceleration is a powerful combo for joint and bone health.

Staggered Squat

You won’t always have the option to plant your feet perfectly for a squat outside of your workouts. The staggered squat is a good way to prepare your knees and ankles for unlevel terrain and less-than-ideal positions.

This variation may also help you build up to more advanced single-leg movements.

Lateral Deficit Squat

Like the staggered squat, the lateral deficit squat helps prepare your lower body for irregular terrain while improving mobility throughout the hips and ankles. Plus, odd movements like this are a great method to add some variety to your routine.

Use a low step or slope that still allows you to squat to full depth for best results. It’s not necessary to take a wider squat stance; your regular stance will do.

Front-foot Elevated Split Squat

Elevating the front foot on the split squat means the glutes and hamstrings will be stretched more at the bottom of each rep. As a result, this movement can build a stronger, more defined backside than doing regular squats alone. Having stronger glutes can help take stress off your hips, back, and knees during long runs or hikes.

Focus on pushing through the platform with the lead leg. Use the back leg mainly for balance and support.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Also known as a rear-foot elevated split squat, the bodyweight Bulgarian split squat can develop a TON of functional strength. When doing these, the lead leg should do roughly 80-90% of the total work. Be sure to keep the lead knee behind your toes throughout the movement. Keep the knee tracking in line with your middle toe to reinforce good movement mechanics.

Fair warning: these are tougher than they look. Try doing a small hop at the top to take these up a notch.

Elevated Single-leg Squat

The lower you go, the harder these will be. Work up to squatting as low as possible here to really unlock the full benefits of the single-leg squat.

You may not be able to get very low at first – that’s fine. Go as low as you can with good control, then hard through the platform to stand. Use a wall, squat rack upright, tree, etc. for balance and support as you develop your strength.

Advanced Squats

Shrimp Squat

The shrimp squat is a fantastic exercise to develop lower body strength and balance using nothing but your own bodyweight. Use assistance to help work your way up to doing one of these tough squat variations.

The version shown here is also known as a skater squat. Try grabbing the heel on your non-working leg and pulling it into your body for a conventional shrimp squat.

You can work your way into a full shrimp or skater squat by using a wall or sturdy object (like a squat rack) for balance.

Pistol Squat

Pistol squats are a single-leg squat variation done by holding the non-working leg out in front of your body. You can grab your toes for extra balance and support or hold that leg out on its own. These squats are super advanced and take a lots of strength, balance, coordination, and mobility.

Learn how to work up to a pistol squat using our step-by-step guide!

Sissy Squat

While the name implies these squats are for wimps, they’re actually a super tough movement to perform well. In fact, this exercise is named after Sisyphus of Greek mythology, the king punished with pushing an enormous boulder uphill for eternity. The only reward for his labors was probably a set of massive quads, hence the name.

The sissy squat is an advanced squat variation that can develop significant quad, core, knee, and even foot strength. It also requires a good amount of practice to execute correctly.

Use a squat rack upright, door frame, tree, or sturdy stick for balance. Control is a must; avoid crashing to the bottom of the rep, then pull yourself back to standing by squeezing your quads. Flex your glutes for the whole rep to help keep your body straight. Be sure to lean back as your knees move forward.

As you get stronger, use less assistance or only one hand for balance. With practice, you may be able to do these without any support at all.

Making your own squat workout

Ready to put some of these movements together for a workout? Let’s do it!

Start by selecting 2-3 exercises that are within your ability to do. The more advanced you are, the more options you have.

  • A beginner workout might consist of just assisted squats and box squats.
  • An intermediate workout could take Cossack squats, jump squats, and split squats.
  • An advanced workout might include pistol squats, Bulgarian split squats, and air squats.

Once you have chosen your exercises, determine your rep and set scheme.

A classic way to put these together in a workout is to do 3-5 sets of each exercise for 6-12 reps each. Complete all sets of one exercise, then move to the next exercise. The harder the movement, the fewer reps necessary for it to be effective.

Alternatively, you could aim to do a given number of each exercise before moving onto the next one. For example, you might do 30 pistol squats, then 60 Bulgarian split squats, and finish with 120 air squats. Or you could 50 each of Cossack squats, jump squats, and split squats.

Switch this up by doing multiple rounds of a given number of reps. You might do 3-5 rounds of 5 shrimp squats, 10 lateral deficit squats, and 15 split squats, each per leg.

Another option is to use an interval timer to give yourself a set amount of time for each exercise. For instance, you could set a 1-minute timer and cycle between a squat variation and rest. Repeat for 3-5 rounds and you’ve got a simple way to measure your progress over time. As you get fitter, you’d be able to do more reps in the same amount of time.

Whatever you do, you would generally want to do more difficult exercises first, then finish with easier ones. This allows you to give closer to 100% on each exercise, getting the most out of your efforts.

The possibilities are endless. Whatever you do, have some fun with it.

Need help?

This may be enough for some people. Others may need a little more guidance. You want to know what to do, when to do it, and how to progress from where you are now to where you want to be.

That’s exactly how we can help.

For those who want step-by-step guidance and a coach to keep you accountable, check out our awesome Trained For Adventure online coaching program:

If you are looking for something to make the difference in your fitness, keep this in mind while shopping around:

Fitness should empower you to do the things that excite you.​

You deserve a program that helps you become confident, strong, and capable in the outdoors (and in life). That’s exactly what we do.

All the best,

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