You most probably scooch front and back when it comes to squats, well there is a list of great barbell squat variations to choose from, and each variation is different from each other and has its own characteristic. So based on your fitness level and goal, you can do some of them or all of them on different days.
Benefits of Doing arious Types of Barbell Squat
The different barbell squat variations increase strength, power, endurance, mobility, and mass and help you build bigger legs and glutes.
For example, squats are the compound movement that requires intense effort from various muscles at once. So if you do them consistently, they will help you gain strength and mass over time.
Moreover, squats can speed up weight loss. Research has shown that squats can reduce 4 to 6 percent of body fat in 8 weeks of the training period in adolescents boys.1 Effects of Body Mass-Based Squat Training in Adolescent Boys – Journal of Sports Medicine and Science You’ll feel more physical and physiological benefits of squats once you start doing them.
Okay, let’s begin the main topic and uncover all squat exercises.
Different Barbell Squat Variations For Beginners
- Barbell Back Squat
- Barbell Sumo Squat
- Barbell Front Squat
- Barbell Box Squat
- Barbell Landmine Squat
- Barbell Split Squat
1. Barbell Back Squat
The back squat is one of the most popular squats that is widely performed by various athletes, powerlifters, Crossfiters, and bodybuilders. It strengthens multiple muscles at once, primarily the quads.
Steps to perform:
- Put the appropriate weight into the bar and place it on the back of your shoulders.
- Stand tall in the shoulder-width stance with your back straight, chest up and core tight.
- Pushing your hips back, bend your knees to squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pressing your feet into the floor slowly return to the standing position.
- Your should keep your knees slightly outward throughout the movement.
2. Barbell Front Squat
The front squat is an excellent variation of squats to improve your balance. It engages more of your quads than the back squat. Moreover, it will be more beneficial for people with knee problems such as meniscus tears as it puts less stress on the knees.2 Gullett JC, Tillman MD, Gutierrez GM, Chow JW. A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):284-92. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818546bb. PMID: 19002072.
How to perform a barbell front squat:
- Put the loaded bar on the front of the shoulders and stand straight in the shoulder-width stance.
- Keep your back straight and chest up and perform a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
3. Barbell Sumo Squat
The Sumo squat is an excellent workout to develop the side muscles of your thighs which are skipped during the front and back squat. Moreover, it engages glutes and hamstrings and helps in building a sturdy lower body.
How to do it:
- Load the barbell according to your strength and place it on the back of your shoulders.
- Stand straight with your feet two times wider than hip-width and toes pointing out.
- Slowly push your hips back and bend your knees to squat down, as low as possible.
- Push through your feet to return to the start.
- Keep your core tight, back straight, and chest up during the entire movement.
4. Barbell Box Squat
If the above three squats are challenging for you, you should do the barbell box squat. The box squat is easy, and good for beginners, and will help you scale up for the other barbell squat variations.
To do the box squat:
- Place the bench or box behind near the rack and stand against it.
- Pick a loaded bar and place it on the back of your shoulder and stand upright.
- Get into the squat position until your glutes touches the bench.
- Return to the start and repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.
5. Barbell Landmine Squat
If you want to maximize your quads and hamstrings simultaneously, the landmine squat is for you. A study suggested that the landmine squat may be useful to balance hamstring to quadriceps activity in males and females.3 Collins KS, Klawitter LA, Waldera RW, Mahoney SJ, Christensen BK. Differences in Muscle Activity and Kinetics Between the Goblet Squat and Landmine Squat in Men and Women. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Oct 1;35(10):2661-2668. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000004094. PMID: 34341315.
Steps to perform landmine squat with a barbell.
- Place the one end of the bar in a corner to stay intact and insert the appropriate weights into another end.
- Stand in the shoulder-width stance, so the weight is in between your legs.
- Lower yourself to grab the working end of the bar with your hands (at your chest height).
- Press your feet into the floor to stand straight until your knees are fully extended and your body slightly leaning forward. And from that position, do as many squats as possible.
- Suggested sets are three, and repetitions are 8 to 10.
6. Barbell Split Squat
The barbell split squat work similar to lunges and strengthen various muscles simultaneously, such as the hamstring, quadriceps, and glute. So if you want to train your lower body in the most effective way, you should incorporate split squat in your muscles building workout plan.
How to perform a barbell split squat:
- Put the desired weight into the bar and hold it on rear shoulder.
- Take a large step ahead and stand in the split stance with you back straight.
- Bend your knees to squat down until your rear knee touches the floor. Make sure your front knee doesn’t pass your toes.
Advanced Barbell Squat Variations To Challenge Your Strength
- Zercher Squat
- Barbell Overhead Squat
- Barbell Hack Squat
- Barbell Pin Squat
- Barbell Squat Thruster
- Barbell Squat Clean
- Anderson Squat
7. Zercher Squat
The Zercher squat is different than all other barbell Squat variations because you need to hold the bar on your arms instead of shoulders. It engages muscles throughout the lower body, especially the quads. However, it’s challenging and requires good strength and endurance.
Here are the steps to do it:
- Put the desired weight into the barbell and hold it on your arms (in the crooks of your elbows).
- Stand upright with your back straight and core tight. That’s the starting position.
- Squat down as low as possible so your elbows can reach inside of your knees.
- Push your feet into the floor the stand up back.
- Keep your chest up throughout the squat.
8. Barbell Overhead Squat
The overhead squat is an advanced barbell squat where you have to hold the bar over your head with straight arms. It works primarily on the lower body but also activates shoulder and core muscles.
How to do it with steps by steps instructions:
- Grab a loaded bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and hold it over your head with straight arms.
- Stand upright with your back straight. That’s the starting position.
- Squat down until your hips are parallel to the floor and then return to the standing position to complete one rep.
- Do the required number of sets and reps.
9. Barbell Hack Squat
Most people refer to leg press machines when it comes to the hack squat but you can also do it barbell. The barbell hack squat activates the entire lower body muscle, especially the quadriceps. It is also called a reverse deadlift because of its position.
Let’s learn how to do a barbell hack squat step by step:
- Put the loaded bar on the floor and stand against it with your calves are close to it, assume shoulder-width stance.
- Pushing your hips back, slightly bend your knees and grab the bar with an overhand grip.
- Pressing your feet into the floor, return to the standing position until your hips are fully extended.
10. Barbell Pin Squat
If you face challenges going deep during the standard squat, you may try the barbell pin squat. The barbell pin squat is an excellent way to improve your squatting and can be used as an accessory lift for the squat in powerlifting.
It is performed by setting the pin on the rack and allows you to customize the height depending on your height and goal.
Let’s see how to do it:
- Set the pins at an appropriate height and put the desired weight into the barbell .
- Unrack the bar and hold it on rear shoulder and stand upright in the hip to shoulder width stance.
- Lower into a squat position until the barbell touches the pins.
- Return to the standing position in a quick manner, as fast as you can.
11. Barbell Squat Thruster
The barbell thruster is a high-intensity exercise that is typically included in the CrossFit training program. It works on many muscles from the lower to the upper body and helps you increase endurance, strength, mobility, and speed.
How to perform a barbell thruster step by step:
- Put the appropriate weight into the bar and hold it on the front your shoulder.
- Stand upright with your back straight and chest up. That’s the start.
- Squat down as low as you can go, and as you return to the standing position, press the bar over your head in a explosive way until your arm are straight overhead.
12. Barbell Squat Clean
The barbell hang clean is another CrossFit workout that builds muscles and enhances power and balance. Doing it properly will engage your upper and lower body muscles.
Below are the steps you can follow to do this movement:
- Pick a loaded barbell from the ground.
- Stand straight in the shoulder-width stance.
- Hold the bar in front of your thighs with your palms are facing in.
- Pull the bar over your front shoulder in quick manner and perform a squat simultaneously.
13. Anderson Squat
The Anderson squat is an advanced barbell squat variation where you have to start from the squat position. It helps in improving overall squat performance and 1RM. So if you want to break your plateau, it can be a useful exercise.
Here are steps to perform an Anderson Squat:
- Set the bar on the rack depending on your height and put the appropriate weight.
- Get under the barbell in the deep squat position so the bar is on the back of your shoulder. That’s the start.
- Brace your core, take a deep breath, and pressing your feet into the floor, slowly stand up until your knees are fully straight.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which squat variation is best?
Each squat is different from each other and works engages muscles differently so you can give it try each of them on different days. However, when you have to pick the five Best barbell squats from the above list, you can do barbell back squat, Sumo squat, hack squat, Anderson Squat, and pin squat.
What is the hardest squat variation?
Barbell hack squat, Anderson squat, overhead squat, and squat thrust are some of the hardest barbell squat variations. Although, the other squat exercises will help you scale up for these hardest ones.
How many times a week should I squat?
You should do any of the above squat variations at least once a week if you’re a beginner and once to twice if you’re an advanced lifter.
- 1Effects of Body Mass-Based Squat Training in Adolescent Boys – Journal of Sports Medicine and Science
- 2Gullett JC, Tillman MD, Gutierrez GM, Chow JW. A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):284-92. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818546bb. PMID: 19002072.
- 3Collins KS, Klawitter LA, Waldera RW, Mahoney SJ, Christensen BK. Differences in Muscle Activity and Kinetics Between the Goblet Squat and Landmine Squat in Men and Women. J Strength Cond Res. 2021 Oct 1;35(10):2661-2668. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000004094. PMID: 34341315.