Squat Variations: 10 Options to Choose From

squat variations

Well-known trainer Christian Thibaudeau breaks down one of the most basic exercises, explaining why different squat variations are more effective for different purposes (and body types).

First, about the depth

According to the range of motion, several categories can be distinguished:

Full squat

Here we include all the options from the deepest weightlifting (with maximum flexion of the legs) to the lifters’ one (hip joint below the knee or upper thigh just below parallel).

Half squat

The top of the thigh is parallel to the floor, the angle of flexion at the knees is about 80-85 degrees.

Partial squat

In this group, we have the squat variations when the knees are bent at an angle of 90 to 110 degrees.

Depth and hypertrophy

In this regard, the full squat is slightly more effective than the half squat and significantly more effective than the partial squat.

The fact is that one of the main growth stimuli is muscle microtrauma (This is not so – Thibaudeau did not study at the Association of Fitness Professionals. He does not follow the current state of the science. Micro-tears and muscle injuries are not a factor in their growth at all – Editor’s note). It is caused by the stretching of the muscle fiber under load/stress; the greater the range of motion, the more microtraumas.

But half-squatting also stimulates hypertrophy, so if for some reason you cannot sit below parallel, it’s okay. You will still grow.

Depth and strength

Strength can be developed in all squat variations, but, naturally, you will be stronger exactly in what you work out. For example, if you are doing weightlifting, then focus on the full-fledged weightlifting squat.

But not everyone needs it. For example, sprinters and shot putters can do half or even partial squats.

Top 10 squat variations

#1. Squat with a barbell on the back, high bar position (quad-dominant)

Originally it was just a squat with a barbell on the back, but when the lifters started rolling the bar down, the names had to be lengthened and split.

In this version, the bar rests on the shoulders and top of the trapezoid, the tilt of the body is minimal, the pelvis is not retracted far back, but the knees are pushed forward. So the muscles that extend the leg work more.


The bottom develops quite balanced, but the emphasis is still on the quads. It will help those who have skipped their leg day.


Not suitable for everyone anatomically. If you have relatively long limbs (especially when the femur is long and the tibia is short) and a short trunk, then in this position of the bar, you will still have to bow and transfer the load from the legs to the pelvis/back.

More effective for

It is awesome for people with short limbs and a longer torso. You can do nothing else for your legs, although squats with a barbell on your chest (see below) will be even more effective.

#2. Squat with a barbell on the back, low bar position (pelvic dominant)

Allows lifters to take more weight in competition. The point, of course, is not in the placement of the bar but in the movement of the body: the body leans forward more, the pelvis moves further back. The low position of the bar just makes life a little easier on the lower back. Thus, you can master 10-20% more than in a squat with a high bar position.

However, as I said, it depends on your physique. For some, this option will not add anything or even subtract it.


By connecting the muscles of the pelvic girdle (and indeed the back of the body in general) more, you can increase your working weight.


Overloads the lower back requires increased mobility of the shoulder joints—less stimulation of the quads, not suitable for people with a longer body.

More effective for

For powerlifters with long limbs and short torsos. The most anatomically suitable option, in which you can overcome the maximum weights. But it should be remembered that you cannot develop quadriceps with this option. This is an exercise for the muscles of the back surface.

#3. Squat with a barbell on the chest/ front squat variations

The bar rests on the anterior deltoid segments (and pectorals, if you have such prominent ones). Weightlifters hold the bar with their fingers, as they have superhuman joint mobility; mere mortals only have to cross their arms or use wrist straps.

The slope in this squat is even less than in the one with a high bar position, the pelvis is pulled back even less, and the knees are moved forward even more. That is, the load on the quads is even higher.

People with long limbs or tight ankles will need heeled barbells or heel plates to get down into full gray.


Builds quads well—additional load on the upper back and core.


Flexible ankles are required. Holding the barbell on the chest (front delts) is also not given to everyone.

More effective for

Of course, for weightlifters and, possibly, for bodybuilders with long but skinny legs, although you will already have to stand with your heels on the plates and place your arms crosswise.

For people with short limbs, it is also quite suitable, but their hips are already perfectly loaded with a squat with a barbell on their back.

#4. Safety bar squat variations

This is a specially designed squat bar with a soft mid-pad and handles. Thanks to this design, it sits comfortably at the very top of the trapezoid (even higher than in a squat with a high neck position). The body slope is also small, which again shifts the load to the hips.

Also seeTrap Bar for Deadlifts: What, Why and How


The intermediate option is more quadro-dominant than the squat with a regular barbell on the back, more pelvic-dominant than the squat with a barbell on the chest. Adds crust load, more comfortable for the shoulder girdle.


It is necessary to learn how to correctly place such a bar so that it does not put pressure on the neck (this is simply dangerous). The working weight is less than a regular squat with a barbell on the back. The highest bar position requires a low incline – difficult if you’re used to reclining squats.

More effective for

For older athletes and young people with problem shoulders. The benefits are the same as the high bar squat.

#5. Zercher Squat (with a barbell at the elbow bends)

Since the bar is again in front, the slope is minimal, as in the barbell squat. However, some do an oblique version of this squat.

For those who have not tried it, it seems that the working weight will be limited by holding the bar in your hands, but this is not the case. I have several clients who have reached 200-220 kg – more than in their front squats.

At first, of course, it will be uncomfortable. Thick bars, extender pads, or just towels/clothes help.


The body remains almost vertical. The quadriceps work as much as possible. The upper back and core are connected, as well as your favorite biceps. This even carries over to the deadlift.


You can’t call it super comfortable. It’s still heavy for your arms.

More effective for

For people with long limbs who dream of pumping up quadriceps. Also good for fighters and rugby players.

#6. Squat Anderson (from the bottom point)

Everything is as usual – but start from the bottom, in each repetition, removing the bar from the stops/skirtings.

If the squat from the bottom point is much harder than from the top one, then you have a problem with the development of effort by the muscles of the pelvic girdle. In this case, the inclusion of Anderson’s squat in the program will contribute to the growth of records in the traditional.


While a similar effect can be achieved with a regular pause squat, Anderson’s squat teaches the working muscles better to develop effort when lifting from a low point.

Mobility of the hip joints develops; simply dropping into a full squat no load is already an achievement for many. Works great on deadlifts as you no longer rely on the stretching reflex like you would on a regular squat.


Of course, there are also disadvantages: you already need to have sufficient mobility of the shoulder and pelvic girdle to take the starting position. And, of course, first, you have to significantly reduce the working weight, which will underload in the upper section of the amplitude.

More effective for

I rarely prescribe it as the main exercise, but Anderson’s squat perfectly complements the program for those who get stuck at the bottom of a regular squat or have difficulty lifting the bar from the platform in the deadlift.

Anderson front squat variations

If you are a weightlifter or crossfitter, have trouble doing full sit-ups, and regular front squats don’t work, here’s the solution.

Again, you lack the ability to develop an effort at the lowest point. You get up thanks to the stretch reflex. Add Anderson’s squat with a front barbell, and you will notice improvements after 4-6 workouts.

#7. Low box squat

This option, in my opinion, has a serious drawback (see cons), but sometimes I use it for certain purposes.

It should be understood that you are not just sitting on a box. You sit back and on the box: at the bottom, the lower leg is vertical (or even tilted back). That is, it is a more pelvic dominant squat with a low bar position on the back.


Greater includes the gluteal and hamstrings, teaches to descend to the desired depth (by adjusting the height of the box), and also to rise after a pause from the bottom point. An excellent utility room for the squad.


Potentially more dangerous than regular squats – there is a higher compression load on the spine, which is pressed against the box by the barbell.

Of course, if you try to do everything right, then the risk of injury is minimal, but it is too easy to make a mistake, for example, to relax too much at the bottom point, quickly flop on a box, or miss without reaching it.

More effective for

For powerlifters who perform in a special rig (squat suit helps to get up from the bottom). If you only squat wearing a weightlifting belt, practicing this option will not really improve your performance in competition.

#8. Frankenstein squat variations (with a front barbell, but no fixation by hands)

The bar simply lies on the delts and does not allow you to roll forward. Otherwise, it will roll down. The main purpose of this move is to work out the perfect technique, for example, if you strive to bend over or round your upper back in a regular squat with a barbell on your chest.


Just like all squats with a minimum slope, it works out the quads perfectly. Strengthens the upper back and core. Develops the technique.


Obviously, you cannot use a weight that is large enough (for the legs). In the best case – when you learn and can do this option with maximum load – you will get to 85-90% of the squat with a front barbell.

More effective for

As a warm-up – for anyone who squats with a barbell on their chest. Or they are learning to squat with a front barbell but so far leaning too much forward.

#9. Goblet squat

Great exercise, but too boring for experienced athletes – impossible to take too much weight. This is where the strength of the arms really limits: it is not so easy to hold a dumbbell or a weight of 50-60 kilograms, but what if the legs need 2-3 times more weight?


Better than others, he teaches the correct technique: you don’t particularly bow forward, the thoracic spine is kept straight, the projectile is comfortable to hold (while the weight is small).


Sooner or later, the load becomes insufficient.

More effective for

Ideal for children and older beginners.

#10. Squat with a “grounded” (wrestling) barbell/ Lumberjack squat variations

Adult Goblet Squat – more weight can be used, although the arms remain the limiting factor.

The bar in front of you prevents you from leaning forward and even forces you to slightly deviate at the bottom point so that even people with long limbs are forced to sit down technically, loading the quads.


Also useful for practicing the correct technique + gives enough stimulus to pump up the hips when doing multi-rep sets. The compressive load on the spine is minimal. You can safely work to failure.


The working weight will still be limited by what you can hold in your hands.

More effective for

For beginners with long and thin legs, as well as, for example, if for some reason you cannot squat with a barbell on your back/chest.

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