Behold the humble bodyweight squat. Dropping it like it’s hot will strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes while quietly working your core.
Squats are a compound exercise (meaning they work multiple muscle groups), so you’re getting lots of bang for your buck. Plus, the extra lower-body strength from squats may boost your performance and change-of-direction time, if you’re into sports.
And if you’re a fan of running, a 2014 study suggests that weighted squats can help you become a faster sprinter, as long as you stick to a consistent training schedule.
We’ve rounded up 40 variations in four different categories — bodyweight, plyometric, weighted, and equipment — for your squatting pleasure (or pain).
1. Basic squat
Mastering the perfect squat will help you with all of the upcoming exercises.
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, neck straight, and abs tight.
Hold your arms out in front of you. Keep them straight with palms facing down, bent at elbows. You can also do our favorite arm move: the “Aladdin” arm-cross (elbows out, arms crossed, hands on opposite biceps). Just don’t put your hands on your legs.
Bend your knees and slowly lower yourself until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push your butt back, as if you’re sitting in a chair.
Don’t worry too much about letting your knees go forward over your toes. Depending on your limb length, flexibility, and hip joints, your knees may naturally go over your feet as you squat. As long as it doesn’t hurt, you’re OK. Return to standing.
2. Single-leg squat
Got a dominant leg? It’s OK — we all do! Focusing your squat on one leg at a time can help even out muscular imbalances.
Start in the basic squat beginning position. Lift left leg, bending knee slightly to get foot off the floor.
You can hold your raised foot slightly in front of or behind you — whichever feels more steady. Using only right leg, lower yourself as far as is comfortable. Return to standing.
Try not to put your left foot down between reps. You can use a wall or chair for support if needed. Repeat on the other side — no one wants unbalanced biscuits.
3. Squat pulse
Do a basic squat, but instead of returning to standing, stay in the lowest part of the squat with thighs parallel to the floor and move up and down, keeping the movement small (a few inches up or down) and fast.
4. Pistol squat
If you want to impress people at parties by squatting (you know, like you do), bust out the pistol squat. It can be tricky to master, but the results are impressive.
Start in a beginning squat position. Hold left leg straight out in front of you and arms out in front, parallel to leg. Slowly squat all the way down until your butt is almost to your heel.
Your lifted leg should be fully extended in front of you, with foot hovering a few inches above the floor. That was the easy part. Now stand back up without falling over or using your lifted leg.
5. Chair squat
Nope, we’re not giving you permission to sit in a chair and take five.
Stand with feet and legs together. Sit back and down, pushing hips out behind you. Lift arms as high as you can, taking care not to let your chest drop. You can return to standing and repeat the squat or, for more of a challenge, hold it.
6. Chair squat on toes
Stand with feet and legs together. Hold arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Rise up on toes and lower yourself until your butt is almost touching your heels. While still on toes, return to standing.
7. Eagle squat
Anyone who’s been to a yoga class will likely recognize this move. And anyone who thinks squats are boring will love this challenge.
Stand with your feet close together and arms out in a T. Lift right leg over left leg and wrap right foot around the back of left calf.
Bring right elbow under left elbow, wrapping right hand around left forearm until palms are together. Once you have your balance, squat as low as you can. Return to standing and repeat.
If anyone looks at you funny, just tell them pretzels are your favorite food — that is, if you can still talk. If all this limb “wrapping” has you confused, just study our handy-dandy picture.
8. Grand plié
“Black Swan” fans, unite!
Stand with heels together, toes pointing slightly out, and legs straight. Without sticking your butt out, bend knees and lower as far as is comfortable.
Allow heels to come up at the bottom of the squat. Return to standing.
Tutus are optional, but know that if you do choose to rock one at the gym, we fully approve.
9. Figure-four squat
It’s a squat! It’s a stretch! It’s a… squatch? OK, that just sounds wrong.
Start standing. Bend knees and lower a few inches into a slight squat. Lift right leg, bend right knee, and cross right leg over left leg, with right ankle resting on left knee.
Being careful not to lose your balance, lower until your supporting thigh is parallel to the floor. Don’t let hips dip to either side! Return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
10. Sumo squat
Floor-stomping; 12,000-calorie meals; and lots of grunting: Why should sumo wrestlers have all the fun?
Try this variation of the traditional sumo stance by standing with your feet planted wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out.
Push hips back and bend knees, squatting until thighs are in line with knees. Return to standing or pulse at the bottom of the movement. We’ll leave the outfit up to you.
11. Sumo squat on toes
To up the cool factor (and add more work for your calves and core), do the sumo squat with your heels raised. Try not to put your feet down through the entire movement. Feel free to make grunting noises — maybe it’ll help.
12. Butt-to-heels squat
Stand with feet close together, arms out straight in front of you. Bend knees and lower until butt is touching heels. Your heels will come off the floor, and your knees will be way forward past your toes. That’s OK!
As you squat, lower your arms and lightly brush your fingers on the floor. Raise arms back to shoulder height as you return to standing.
13. Curtsy squat
Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands on hips. Move right foot behind left leg, as far past left foot as is comfortable. Using a “curtsy” motion, squat. Keep your weight in your front leg. Return to standing, fancy-pants.
14. Cross-leg squat
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lower into a basic squat. As you stand back up, lift right leg (still bent at knee).
Bring right leg across your body as you crunch forward with abs until right knee touches left elbow. This takes butts and guts!
15. Squat jump
A plyometric movement is any movement where both feet leave the ground at the same time. (That’s code for “jump.”) Plyo moves not only work your muscles but also add some cardio to your strength training. So, to take your basic squat to the next level, add a jump!
Start in a beginning squat position. Lower yourself about halfway, then jump up in the air before landing on your feet. You can swing your arms for momentum, if you like.
16. Frogger jump
Frogs are known for being great jumpers, so let out your inner amphibian — you know you have one.
Stand with feet planted wide. Keep toes and knees pointed slightly out and butt low to the floor.
Place hands on the floor in front of you. Hop up, preferably while making your best “ribbit” sound. Then land back in the frog squat.
If you’re getting funny stares at the gym, don’t worry — they’re just jealous.
17. Surfer squat jump
Duuuuude, this one is gnarly.
Start in a low, wide squat position with arms out to your sides. Pretend you’re balancing on a surfboard, getting ready to ride a rad barrel (that’s wave, in surf-speak).
Jump and turn sideways so you land in the same surfer squat but with the other leg forward. If it helps, you can listen to “Wipe Out” and get low, bro.
18. Squat box jump
This is a squat jump for people who like an element of danger in their workouts!
Stand in front of a large, stable box. (Cardboard is a bad option. Wood is best.) Lower into a basic squat. Instead of standing up, jump from both feet, landing squarely on the box in a squat position. Step or jump off and repeat.
Start with a fairly low box — no higher than 1 foot. Work up to progressively higher boxes as your strength and confidence improve. Be very careful to land with both feet all the way on the box or your shins will pay the price.
19. Squat tuck jump
Start in a low squat with feet hip-width apart. Jump as high as you can, tucking knees up to chest and slapping knees with your hands — or slapping shins, if you’re fancy. Land back in a low squat and repeat.
It’s kind of like a reverse cannonball. Or the move you might do if you saw a rattlesnake. Make sure you don’t return to standing between reps — that’s where the burn gets good.
20. Squat jack
Why stick to plain jumping jacks when you could be upping your “belfie” (read: butt selfie) game too?
Start in a squat position. Jump legs out like you would in a jumping jack, but stay low in the squat. Jump feet back together. Don’t come out of the squat until you’ve finished all your reps.
21. Half-burpee to squat
As if burpees aren’t painful enough on their own, now you can combine them with squats — oh, joy!
Start in a crouching position, with knees between your arms and tucked under your chest. Jump legs back into a plank position. Jump legs back in, this time landing on your feet in a low squat. Repeat.
22. Ninja tuck jump
These are easier than they look (trust us). You’re going to want to chicken out right before the jump, but you can do this. You’re a ninja!
Kneel on the floor with arms bent at your sides and feet flat. Engaging glutes, quads, and hips, spring up onto your feet. Yes, both feet at the same time.
Land in a low squat. Swinging your arms helps. As does having a high threshold for embarrassment.
23. Russian squat jump
Start as you would for a sumo squat (No. 10), with feet planted wide and toes pointing slightly out. Arms can be on top of your head or crossed in front of you at shoulder height.
Lower into a low squat. Transfer all your weight to left foot while kicking right foot out to the side. Switch your weight to right foot and kick left leg out to the side.
For more work, add a slight jump with each weight transfer. For more fun, see if you can do the entire bottle dance routine from “Fiddler on the Roof.” And then send us video. Please.
24. TRX pistol squat
A traditional pistol squat (No. 4) can be tough to master. It requires a unique blend of muscle control, strength, balance, and coordination. There’s a lot of falling on your bum between your first attempt and the perfect pistol.
Using a TRX can help you master the motion without the butt bruises. Stand in front of the TRX, grasping both handles with arms extended. Lift your left leg.
Slower lower with right leg, using the TRX to stabilize yourself. Try to stand up using as much of your own strength as you can. Allow the TRX to give you that last little pull back up to standing.
25. Upside-down BOSU squat
Who hasn’t wanted to be like one of those elephants on a ball at the circus? (Without the animal cruelty, of course.) Live out your dream by practicing your squats on a BOSU with the bubble side down.
Stand in front of the BOSU. If you’re brave and trust your balance, the easiest way to get on is to hop with both feet and land on top of it.
If you’re a little more cautious, step one foot at a time into the center and then heel-toe your feet out until they’re hip-width apart. Do a basic squat. Sing “This Is Me” me from “The Greatest Showman” as loud as you can.
26. BOSU squat
This move is just like the upside-down BOSU squat, but this time you’re standing on the bubble. It doesn’t require as much balance, but it works the small muscles in your legs and core so much more.
27. Wall squat
The bane of middle school gym class has come back to haunt you! But no worries: This time there won’t be a coach standing over you with a stopwatch and a look of disapproval.
Stand with your back against a wall and feet hip-width apart. Lower until tops of thighs are parallel to the floor and back is flat against the wall. Don’t rest arms on legs or the wall.
Now hold. Keep holding. Nope, you’re not done yet. Stop whining! Seriously. Embrace the burn. Just stay there — we’ll come back and check on you. Maybe.
28. TRX single-leg squat
Stand facing away from the TRX. Bend right leg up behind you, reach around, and put your foot in the stirrup.
Take a small hop forward to put some distance between your feet. Slowly lower on your standing leg as far as is comfortable, keeping back leg suspended. Return to standing. Try not to cry.
29. Uneven squat
This is just like a basic squat but with one foot up on a low bench or box. To get the good times rolling, put all your weight on your raised leg and stand up straight. Your bottom leg will come up off the floor.
Be sure to maintain proper form. Don’t let your head drop or your back round. This move helps you practice shifting your weight while keeping your balance — and helps for all those times you walk down the street with one foot on the curb and the other in the gutter.
30. Resistance band squat
Crank up the Sir Mix-a-Lot and get ready to build your butt!
Loop a resistance band around your legs, just under your knees. Keep your knees stable by pushing out against the band — that’s the hard part. Lower into a squat until thighs are parallel to the floor.
Take one step to the left while maintaining your squat. Step back on the left. Keep switching sides. You can also do all one side and repeat on the other. To amp up this butt-blaster, add a second band around your ankles.
31. Smith machine-assisted squat
You know that moment when you really want to try a heavier back squat, but as you look around the gym, you can’t find anyone to spot you that isn’t a) totally into their own workout or b) creepy? (What? Just us?)
A Smith machine has catches built in so you can squat heavier without risking injury from dropping the bar. To use it, simply position the bar just below shoulder height. Stand under it, facing forward, and grip the bar with both hands.
Stand up to release the safety catch (the thing that holds the bar in place). Squat until thighs are parallel to the floor, then push back up. If you ever get stuck, roll the bar forward slightly to engage the catch.
32. Figure-four wall squat
If regular wall sits aren’t challenging enough for you (you squatting maniac), try the figure-four squat. Not only will it work your supporting leg more, but you’ll get a nice stretch as well.
Stand with back against a wall and squat slightly. Lift right leg and cross it over left leg, with right ankle resting on left knee. Lower until right leg is parallel to the floor and hold. Repeat on the other side.
33. Squat walk on treadmill
Treadmills: Not just for running anymore! You paid a lot for that piece of machinery (or your gym did), but did you know you can get a full-body workout on it? Work your quads, butt, and inner thighs with these sideways squat steps on the ’mill.
Start the treadmill at a very slow speed. One mile per hour is a good starting point. Step carefully onto the belt sideways, with one foot near the display and the other near the rear. Lower into a squat and step “up” the belt. To make it more difficult, add an incline.
When you’ve mastered that, grab and buddy (or three) and work on this choregraphed treadmill dance by OK Go. Even better if you have a crowd watching.
34. Back squat with barbell
Once you’ve mastered doing tons of reps of a basic squat, you’ll realize that you’d need to do them all day long to keep getting a good workout. To make better use of your time, try adding a weighted barbell across your shoulders.
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place the bar across your shoulders, taking care not to put it on your neck. Most people use a “clean and press” to get it up and over their head.
Squat with your best form. Since you don’t have a Smith machine to help you, your core will work extra-hard to keep the bar balanced and stop it from slipping. Return to standing.
Remember: Even though squatting feels like a basic move, when you add weight, you increase the risk of injury. Check with a coach or trainer to make sure your form is spot-on.
35. Front squat with barbell
Like cars, playground swings, and mobsters, you’d think a barbell would be one of those things that’s safer to have in front of you than behind you.
Yet the front squat is much harder for most people. Chalk it up to your back generally being stronger than your core (which is exactly why you need to try this move).
Start in a beginning squat position with the bar in front of you. Lift it up and place it on the front of your shoulders, keeping your fingertips back toward you under the bar.
Be careful not to whack yourself in the neck with it (not that we’ve ever done that…). Keeping your head up and back straight, squat as far down as is comfortable. Return to standing and feel like a boss.
36. Overhead squat
This one looks deceptively easy, but for most people it’s the hardest of the barbell squats. Maybe it’s the strength, coordination, and balance required to hold a barbell overhead while maintaining good squat form.
Take a wide stance and lift the bar straight up over your head. Keeping the bar above you, slowly perform a basic squat. Return to standing.
37. Squat press with barbell
Do a front squat with a barbell (No. 35). As you return to standing, use your shoulders to push the bar up over your head. You can also do this holding a dumbbell in each hand.
38. Farmer squat
Picture a beautiful, bucolic farm on a sunny day. You’re walking and admiring your fields, maybe picking a tomato or two for a snack.
Then, you’re grunting and sweating as you carry two buckets full of slop to the pigs. That second one is a farmer carry, except without the fun part at the beginning.
Start in a beginning squat position, holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand. Tighten your core and back. Do a basic squat, keeping the weights outside your legs. Return to standing.
39. X squat with shoulder press
Start in a wide stance with toes pointing forward and a light dumbbell in each hand. Squat with the dumbbells on the inside of your legs, almost touching the floor. As you stand, press the dumbbells overhead and out, so your arms and legs make an X. Repeat.
40. Goblet squat
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest with both hands. Pretend it’s an adorable baby. (Just go with us here.)
Do a basic squat without jostling or dropping the baby. Keep it close to your chest and steady. Return to standing. If you want to put the baby to bed and have a goblet of wine after, that’s cool with us.