Squat Variations Starter
For this article, I’m going to get into some squat variations: which ones are my favorites, and how I choose to program them for certain people. To start, I’ll just lay out the variations I can think of--Single Leg Squat, Cambered Bar Squat, Duffalo Bar Squat, Safety Squat Bar Squat, and Zombie Squat. Each has their own benefits and I’ll get into them below:
Single Leg Squat
I like to use single leg squats with all of my athletes. These are probably my favorite squat variation to program. Long-limbed athletes are usually pretty good at these, but I really love them for short-legged athletes. These lifters are usually more quad dominant, and the single leg squat forces them to recruit their hamstrings and glutes more. Single leg squats are also great for mobility for all individuals.
Cambered Bar Squats
Cambered bar squats are great for several things. While there can be a variation in the depth of the camber, generally I like to use a very deep camber for these squats. Because of the unstable nature of the bar, they are really good for improving core stability. Fighting the oscillation every rep will get your core very active. The lower center of gravity with these squats can also help improve an athlete’s deadlift or clean pull. This squat is another staple for long-limbed athletes.
Duffalo Bar Squats
For those of you who don’t know, the Duffalo bar is a bar that has only a slight camber in the center, making it a great in-between bar for straight bar squats and cambered bar squats. The header photo for this article is me set up with some huge weight on the bar! Similar to the cambered bar, the Duffalo bar forces very vertical posture and makes the athlete fight the oscillation of the weights with their core, thus making it excellent for increasing squat posturing and core strength. I find the Duffalo bar has a great turnover into regular back squat improvements, and so I see it as probably the best teaching tool for squatting skill.
Safety Squat Bar Squats
Again, for those of you who don’t know, the SSB is a bar that has a slight camber on the end, as well as a shoulder girdle setup that includes front-facing handles for the user to hold onto. Most obviously, SSB squats are great for people who have some sort of upper body restriction that stops them from holding on to a normal back squat. Further, the lean of the weight placement on this bar moves the center of gravity forward, and so this forces the lifter to really recruit the upper back musculature to stop from rolling forward. This can also help an athlete improve their squat posture if they have trouble with upper back weakness, and can help to improve the deadlift. I like to use these with long limbed athletes who can then progress to Duffalo bar squats, and then to regular back squats. This progression really develops skill and comfort in the squat movement, as well as touching up some core and back weakness issues that many athletes see.
This front squat variation is so-called because the bar rests across the shoulders with the arms straight out in front, like a zombie. This variation is great for people with poor shoulder, tricep, and/or wrist flexibility who struggle with the front rack position. Much like many of the other variations here, zombie squats are great to improve an athlete’s core strength, primarily because if they assume almost anything other than vertical posture, the bar will dump off of their shoulders. I also really like to use zombie squats to increase hip mobility and address squat depth issues.