Squats are extremely effective in toning and strengthening the muscles of the legs, thighs and hips. There are many variations of squats and you can use different types of equipment to make your routine more challenging. Here are 10 types of squats that do the trick for me.
However, keep in mind that if you get the technique wrong you could place too much stress on the knee joints and end up with a bad ache or worse. When you go down, imagine you are sitting on a chair -- the angle of your knees should not be more than 90 degrees, and you should be able to see your toes when you bend down. The only exception here is the Hindu squats where the knees go beyond the toes, but this is balanced by the fact that you lift your heels and stay on your toes.
1. Squats with Swiss ball or gym ball:
Women have a broader pelvis than men for evolutionary reasons, but this means that, unlike men, they cannot keep their backs very straight while squatting. A gym ball helps overcome this problem. Place the ball between your back and the wall. This will help you to squat without bending your back forward. This also supports the back.
2. Squats with kettlebells
The reason the double kettlebell squat is so much more challenging than its barbell cousin is due to leverage. Consider the rack position: with a barbell, the load rests near the top of the spine, across the collarbone and the front of the deltoids, just below the head. In this arrangement, the barbell becomes virtually one with the lifter, making it easier to move the external resistance. This allows you to move much more weight.
With a kettlebell, it's almost the opposite. In the rack, the weight rests low, against the outside of the forearms, with the elbows pointed down rather than out. The bells try to pull your body forward and off-balance, which forces your entire midsection to reflexively contract in order to keep you from folding in half.
To start with, you'll become a better squatter. Because the spine is protected due to the increased reflexive core activation from the rack, lifters can usually squat deeper with kettlebells than they would with a barbell. The difference here is one you'll likely feel on your backside for days after the first time you try it, so consider yourself warned.
3. Hindu squat
These are similar to traditional squats but instead of stopping parallel to the floor, go full down. Going through full range of motion, gets your heart rate up and uses more muscles. Do not be afraid: Contrary to the popular belief, research now says that squatting full will not hurt your knees.
4. Prisoner squats
Done with hands behind your head. Keeping the hands up above the heart, helps to escalate the heart rate.
5. Sumo wrestler's squats
In this you bring the hands from down under your thighs and fold your hands. Now squat up and down.
6. Dumbbell squats
Dumbbells are held to overload the muscles. You can choose to keep dumbbells down by the side of hips or up towards the shoulders.
7. Balance board squats
The balance board has a small round ball, under it. You stand on the board, holding a bar for support and do the squats. These are challenging because the uneven surface activates the muscles more. Your calf and core muscles are also activated.
8. Squats on top of Bosu balance trainer
Balancing on the bosu can initially help develop some stabilisation muscles. It is of course more difficult than standard body weight squats, and more of a skill-based exercise.
This exercise is excellent to activate all of the muscles in your upper legs and your core. It requires a lot of control and balance and is a bit harder than it looks.
9. Squats with medicine ball
Stand with a wide stance while holding a medicine ball with both hands. Fully extend your arms straight out in front of your body at shoulder level or to increase the intensity, hold it overhead. Next, simply perform a full squat -- imagine that you are sitting down on a chair. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
10. Squats with TRX
Regular squats are essential to build a strong lower body. Add a TRX to the mix to help improve your form or even give you some stability and support (if you need it). Start off by holding both handles in front of your waist, elbows bent by sides. Lower down into a squat, extending arms in front of you at eye level. Push yourself back up to start.
Also see on HuffPost: