Love ‘em or hate ‘em, squats are one of the most effective exercises. They help you build muscle, burn fat, and boost testosterone. They’ll work your quads, hamstrings, calves, abs, lower back, and of course, your glutes!
When you think of squats, most people think 'back squats' or 'air squats', and maybe front squats for the more experienced lifters. But, did you know there are many different types of squat variations?
There are so many variations of squats that you can do to target your lower body and trunk in a completely different way.
Hitting your muscles from all angles and challenging your body in new ways is what fitness is all about. It’s how you become “all-around fit" and shock your muscles into making the changes you so desire.
How to make squats fun?
Do different types of squats! Trying new things always sparks interest. As people, we love new challenges…
For an added bonus, give the squats fun names!
We’ve decided to make this post “fun” by featuring squat variations that have names inspired by animals and elements of the past. These squat variations could be the perfect way to spice up your classes if you are a group trainer. You could use these as part of an “Animal” or “Warrior” workout. We are sure your class will love it.
So, here are 10 animal and ancient inspired squat variations that you can try in the coming weeks and months.
Some of these squat variations are best done with weights while others are perfect bodyweight leg exercises. We will let you know which is best (weights or no weights) for each exercise and we will also tell you what level of difficulty, how to perform the exercise, and what muscles it targets/what it’s good for.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
As a steel mace company, we figured we’d start with a squat variation that was birthed from the same land as the mace.
Weights or No Weights? No weights. This is a bodyweight exercise.
How to do Hindu Squats:
Start with your feet hip-width apart. Put your hands straight forward in front of you, aligned with your shoulders. Row your hands towards your chest while breathing in. Once your hands are near your chest, you are going to squat down and roll your hands/arms down, extending them past your back towards your feet. This motion will be simultaneous with the squat so once you reach the bottom of the squat your hands will be near your feet, at which time your will swing them up to parallel with your shoulder while also pushing up from the squat. Pause up at the top, and repeat.
Note: The form on Hindu Squats is much different from your typical back squat. You will be on your toes as you squat down and push back up. So it’s ok to keep your heels off the ground. This will also mean your knees are out in front of your toes.
Make sure you breathe in on the way down and out on the way up.
There is a very coordinated effort between the shoulders and hips during the Hindu Squat.
Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate. It’s a movement pattern that will take some time getting used to but we wouldn’t call it difficult.
What are Hindu Squats good for?
Hindu Squats will challenge your balance while also working your anterior lower body, core, and glutes. What’s more, Hindu Squats are done in very high reps. Typically 100 reps for each set. You’ll be using a lot of momentum, as this is a dynamic movement. This means you will get an extra fat burn effect. It’s a great exercise for muscular strength and endurance.
Most people know about Sumo Deadlifts but they aren’t familiar with the Sumo Squat. This is a fun exercise where you can stomp your feet into position like a sumo wrestler and make your class or anyone around you chuckle with curiosity before you start the exercise.
Weights or No Weights? Optional. For this one you can use a dumbbell or kettlebell, and even a barbell. Of course, it can also be done with just your bodyweight.
How to do Sumo Squats:
Get into a sumo stance by starting with your legs wide and your toes slightly pointing outward. Push your hips back and bend your knees. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with your knees. If you are doing a bodyweight sumo squat, your hands should be straight out in front of you the entire time, aligned with your shoulders; palms open and facing down.
From here, you can pulse at the bottom if you’d like, and return to the starting position. Then repeat.
This movement can also be done on your toes! This will put your calves into overtime. For this one, the instructions are the same, but you should be on your toes with your heels slightly off the ground for the entire set.
Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate. The form of a sumo squat is quite easy to learn as most people have hip mobility for this one.
What are sumo squats good for?
The sumo squat is a fantastic lower-body strength exercise. Sumo squats will work your quads, hamstrings, calves and it is especially effective for your inner thighs, glutes, and hip flexors.
This is one of our favorite variations of the squat because it incorporates two of our favorite tools, steel maces or steel clubs.
Not to mention, it has a very primal, warrior nature to it. You’ll see exactly what we mean by watching the video below.
How to do Barbarian Squats:
Gripping the Mace - Stack your hands on the mace like you would a baseball bat. The mace or steel club should be directly at your center in a vertical position.
Stand with your feet hip-to-shoulder width apart; neutral spine. Squat ready position. Squat down to parallel (or ass-to-grass) while keeping your arms in front you and the mace balanced vertically. When you come up towards the top of the squat, pull the mace directly over your head until the mace is centered vertically behind your back. Make sure you are keeping your ribs tucked on the back portion of the movement.
Note: Make sure you have complete control of the mace or club. Don’t let it control you!
Difficulty Level: Intermediate. Start with a lighter weight mace or club as you want to be able to control the weight when it goes behind your head. The club should not be hitting your back...that can happen if you are using one that is too heavy for you.
What are Barbarian Squats good for?
Barbarian squats are a great full body compound exercise that will target your core, lats, shoulders, and of course, your quads and glutes. Due to the nature of this exercise, you will not be able to go too heavy, so it is definitely more of an endurance exercise when it comes to your lower body. It will also strengthen your forearms and shoulders. Moreover, it is a dynamic exercise so it has an added element of improving proprioception.
Ninja Squats are one of the best exercises to work your inner thighs. Your inner thigh muscles are vital to sports performance, hip stabilization and creating explosive power from side to side...The adductor machine has nothing on this.
Weights or No Weights? Optional. If you decide to use weights, you could use a dumbbell held vertically, a kettlebell held with two hands on the bell instead of the handle, or a medicine ball. Another option is a barbell across your upper back.
How to do Ninja Squats:
Begin in a stable stance with your feet set wide (as far as you can). You should be standing straight up with your core tight. Shift your weight onto your heels.
From here, shift your weight to your right leg and bend your right knee and hip. Lower down until your right thigh is parallel with the floor (or until your right heel rises off the ground - this will depend on your hip mobility). Your left leg should be straight, toes pointing forward and your heel on the ground. Your upper body may lean forward slightly, but try to keep upright as much as you can.
Now, extend your right hip and knee and push up to the starting position. Then repeat to the opposite side. Continue like this, alternating sides, for a set number of reps. For this exercise, we recommend 3 sets of 10 reps each side (total 20 reps each set).
Difficulty Level: Intermediate. It’s not that this exercise requires a lot of strength, as you won’t go too heavy on this one. So it’s not “difficult”. The reason we label it intermediate is that doing Ninja Squats with the correct form requires good hip mobility.
What are Ninja Squats good for?
Ninja Squats target your entire lower body. They are designed to hit the smaller muscles of your inner thighs especially. These muscles are responsible for adducting your legs.
We chose to add the Goblet Squat into this post for two reasons. First, the word goblet just feels ancient. Second, the goblet squat is a fantastic exercise and probably the most well known of all the exercises featured here.
Weights or No Weights? Weights. You can use a kettlebell, holding it with two hands, palms on the bell or on the bottom of the handle. You can also use a dumbbell held vertically or even a medicine ball.
How to do Goblet Squats:
Start in a regular squat position; feet hip to shoulder width apart, neutral spine, core tight. Hold the kettlebell or dumbbell at chest level (not touching your chest) with both hands. Perform a typical squat without moving the position of the kettlebell. Return to the starting position. Repeat for a set number of reps.
Difficulty Level: Beginner.
What are Goblet Squats good for?
First, Goblet Squats will target your lower body, with emphasis on your quads and glutes. It’s very similar to a front squat in terms of the muscles engaged. Second, you will be activating your core and arms.
Goblet squats are great for people who have troubles with barbell back squats due to injuries or issues with form. They are great for beginners as the form is easier to learn.
Because you will be holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, you won’t be able to go as heavy as you can with a barbell back squat or front squat. This means it won’t be as effective for strength training, but you can definitely induce hypertrophy, and it is a very effective exercise for muscular endurance. We love doing Goblet squats as a finisher or as a superset during leg training. It’s also a great exercise to add to a HIIT or metabolic workout circuit. For trainers, this is the perfect exercise to get your beginner clients comfortable with squatting.
To start the animal-inspired squat variations portion, let’s look at the man (or woman) behind the animals, the Farmer. As a farmer, you are going to picking up heavy things around the farm and carrying them around. To save your back from an injury, make sure you bend down to pick up heavy objects, like bags of grain or buckets of water, without rolling your back!
Farmer Squats are a leg blasting total body exercise that we think you are going to love.
Weights or No Weights? Weights. You are going to use two dumbbells for this one. Kettlebells work as well.
How to do Farmer Squats:
Start in a regular squat position, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended and on the outside of your legs. Perform a deep squat (just past parallel) and return to the starting position. This is it! Super simple. The dumbbells should be almost touching the ground on the bottom portion of the lift. You will want to make sure you are not rolling your back on this deep squat. Return to standing and repeat for a set number of reps.
Bonus! We love to add the Farmer Carry into this exercise, as farmers need to take the weight somewhere! After all, they aren’t just picking up and putting it back down. So let’s deliver these weights to where they need to go…
To increase difficulty, perform 10 reps then walk 10 meters and perform another 10 reps, then another 10 meters and another 10 reps. That’s one set!
Difficulty Level: Intermediate. If you add in the Farmer Carry, this is going to be a very brutal exercise that takes will power to finish because it is a long set. Your traps and grip are going to be working overtime. And that doesn’t even begin to tell you how your legs are going to feel.
What are Farmer Squats good for?
Farmer Squats will target your entire lower body, and your lower back, shoulders, traps, and grip strength. This is a great exercise to build muscular strength and endurance, and if done right, you can build some good mass from your neck down to your calves.
Frog squats are unique in form, and an effective way to target your lower body differently. This is going to be a squat variation that you are definitely not used to!
Weights or no weights? No weights, this is a bodyweight exercise.
How to do Frog Squats:
Stand upright with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. Hold your hands in front of you in a prayer position. From here, begin the exercise by pushing your hips back while bending at the knees into a squat. Your knees should be aligned with your toes at all times, they shouldn’t come forward on this squat variation. Pause when your glutes are past your knees (this one is a deep squat, so your glutes should be a few inches above the top of your ankle. From here, you will just be moving your hips and your butt up and down. When you come up, you will stop when your back is just about parallel with the ground (so you will be in a bent over squat position) then go right back down to the deep squat. You won’t be returning to standing position until you are done with the recommended reps.
Note: Do not roll your lower back. Try to keep your back straight as you would with the first portion of a deadlift. Inhale on the eccentric part of the movement, exhale on the concentric.
Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate.
What are Frog Squats good for?
This wide and low stance squat variation is great for working deep into your glutes and quads. Secondarily, you will be working your inner thighs and hamstrings, and you will be improving the flexibility and mobility of your hips.
Grizzly bears are one of the most massive and powerful animals in the world, so for Bear Crawl Squats, we like to think of ourselves as Grizzlies.
This is going to be a squat unlike any other in this list of squat variations because you will be squatting horizontally, parallel with the ground…not vertically up and down. Sounds strange? You’ll see what we mean.
Weights or No Weights? No weights, this is a bodyweight exercise but you can wear a weighted vest for it.
How to do Bear Crawl Squats:
Get into a push up position with your hands at shoulder width and slightly forward. Your legs should be at 90 degrees with your knees in line with your hips. Back straight. You will push forward until your legs are pretty much straight and your hands are just below parallel with your shoulders (head about a foot in front of your hands); back should still be straight and parallel with the ground. Then return back to starting position but go a little bit deeper so that your glutes are going past your knees. You're going to continue this forward and back motion.
Note: Your knees should never touch the ground. They will be just a couple inches from the ground on the back portion of the movement and slightly higher on the front portion.
Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate.
What are Bear Crawl Squats good for?
Bear Crawl Squats are remarkably good for toning and strengthening your glutes and core. They will engage your shoulders as they will be working to keep your upper body in the correct position. Moreover, they will help improve hip and shoulder mobility. If you are looking for a full body compound movement that can burn some serious fat, Bear Crawl Squats are excellent.
Eagle Squats are inspired by yoga’s eagle pose. This is going to be a squat variation that challenges your balance through single leg movement. Practice this one enough and you will soar to the top of your fitness game.
Weights or No Weights? No weights, this is a bodyweight exercise.
How to do Eagle Squats:
Get into a standing position and cross your left leg over right and hook your left foot around the back of your right calf. Place your hands in prayer position in front of your chest, pressing them together. Lower down and sit as low into the pose as you can while keeping your chest up and shoulder back. Your body should be aligned with the working leg and the center of your face. Once you stabilize in the squatting position (you won’t be going too low on this one), return to up and then back down, repeating this movement for a set number of repetitions.
Note: Try to remain aligned the entire time, not leaning to one side. Essentially your head, chest, belly button, knee and foot should be aligned with each other the whole time.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate. This is a difficult exercise in that it challenges your balance big time. The Yogis out there will manage this one fairly easily, though, so we label it as “intermediate”.
What are Eagle Squats good for?
Eagle squats are great for balance training, core strength, and leg strength. It’s a single leg burner that will also improve the mobility by stretching your outer hips and glutes.
The Primal Squat is more of a position than an exercise. But there are many reasons why you should practice and hold this position. People who sit down at a desk a lot while greatly benefit from the Primal Squat.
This is a basic, fundamental, innate movement or position that we are all born with.
Unfortunately, the way our cultures have been set up (chairs, shoes, toilets, etc.), many people lose this natural ability to hold a deep squat position. You’ve probably heard of “third world squats” before. This is a relaxing position for many people from Asian countries, even much older adults, as they have done this their whole lives and never lose the mobility and functionality of their ankles, knees and hips. In certain countries, people eat like this, go to the bathroom like this, relax like this, and even give birth like this.
Weights or No Weights? No weights. This is not a strength exercise, it is a mobility exercise.
How to do Primal Squats:
Stand with your feet about shoulder to hip width apart. When you come down, it’s important that your heels are on the ground and your toes are pointing forward. If your toes are pointing out you will be putting unnecessary stress on your knees and ankles, as you will be holding this position for an extended duration of time. Work to get your toes as straight as possible.
Note: If you have trouble keeping your heels down, place your heels on a small elevation, like a weight plate or a book. Also, holding a weight can help you get down into this position...or grab onto a wall or pole to help you get into position.
This position is a deep squat hold, so your glutes will be almost aligned with the top of your ankles. Your back should be straight, not rolled over.
Your goal should be to hold and maintain this position for at least 10 minutes without discomfort.
If you can’t, do a total of 20-30 minutes a day in this position. Do it in short intervals throughout the day. For example 10 times 2 minutes or 20 x 1, until you get more comfortable in this position.
Answer your phone calls in the primitive squat, check your emails, watch tv, etc. Just make sure you are practicing this position daily, for life. As we all want to have bulletproof functional joints that make us move better and feel better. Don't we?
Difficulty Level: Beginner. However, a lot of people lose this ability to sit in a deep squat, so it may seem difficult at first but stick with it and you will quickly develop functionality to maintain this position.
What are Primitive Squats good for?
This exercise will help you correct and maintain healthy mobility of your ankles, knees and hips. Essentially, this just means a full range of motion in these joints. Healthy joints are meant to fully extend and fully flex.
Like anything in life, once you don’t use it, you lose it.
The Primitive Squat is really important as it helps with injury prevention, becoming more functional, or if you are trying to do more advanced exercises like the pistol squat.
Put simply, any human who has legs should be practicing this daily.
Try these different types of squats at your next workout! Let us know if you have any other animal or ancient inspired squat variations in the comments below :)
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