he “Squat” is a cornerstone movement that everyone looking to make gains should be implementing somewhere in their training regime. Coming in many forms, it can be confusing to know which squat variation is best suited to you.
Everyone has to start somewhere – and anyone that comes to see me (or a like minded strength coach/personal trainer) will be put through a basic movement assessment to establish where that starting point is.
Tip: Most of the more advanced variations of barbell squatting will have little to no appropriate application to MOST people.
And ironically it’s the more advanced lifters that tend to stick solely with the most basic of possible variations.
There is no designated length of time that someone must remain at any particular level of squat progression AND there are many variations that may prove to be more ideal alternatives. However, the following 5 variations are my preferred progressions from initial assessment through to the completely self-sufficient and experienced lifter.
The starting point of any initial movement assessment is to identify how an individual moves without any load and/or assistance.
The first/easiest way to load the squat is to simply hold a weight on your chest as you perform the movement. This can often help improve overall balance, bracing and positioning (compared to the bodyweight squat) as the load provides more feedback to the lifter (and coach).
Loaded in front of the body (much like the goblet squat), this variation forces an individual to brace their core and involves their hips to a greater degree. It also allows for a greater load to be used without altering positioning (compared to a goblet squat whereby increasing the load also increases the cumbersome size of the weight).
Transferring the load from in front of the body to across the top of the back carries with it a range of new elements to become aware of. What requires the most attention is the now direct compressive load on the spine and the common mobility issues associated with thoracic spinal extension and general limitations of the shoulders. Limiting the range of motion (ROM) helps to address this transition whilst also providing adequate psychological comfort to what can be a daunting movement.
Believe it or not, but many people will NOT get to this stage – or at least earn the right to perform this variation efficiently and safely through a full ROM to maximise its potential benefits. And that’s totally ok! There are tonnes of variations that will suit the wide range of body types and shapes out there – it’s just a matter of going through the process and finding what works for you!
This does NOT mean that once you progress in variation that the previous become obsolete – you’ve simply now increased your exercise knowledge pool for you to dip in to when necessary.
Some variations may feel better with lighter loads and higher volume whilst preferring others for heavier loads and low repetition sets.
Ultimately it’s up to YOU to work out what works for YOU!
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