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3 Must-Try Squat Variations for Leg Day

We all know that the squat is considered the “king of exercises”, but for many lifters the traditional barbell back squat just isn’t a good fit whether it be due to previous injuries or the individual’s biomechanics.


But, just because the back squat doesn’t work for you means that you have to give up squats altogether and resort to just leg presses and leg extensions.


We’ve got three awesome muscle-building squat variations you need to try next leg day.


Must-Try Squat Variations


Zercher Squat


If you thought goblet squats were a test of core strength, you ain’t seen nothing yet!


Zercher squats involve holding a barbell in the crooks of your elbows instead of across your back. This change in loading position truly makes the Zercher squat a full-body exercise as it challenges your back, shoulders, and core to hold the weight without toppling forward.


This unique position also helps eliminate lower back strain -- a common complaint for many back squatters.


Make sure to start light when first attempting the Zercher squat -- it’s far more demanding than you might think.


Landmine Squat


Landmine squats are an excellent exercise to properly teach the squat pattern, allowing individuals to safely progress towards front squats and back squats. They’re also a great alternative for individuals who have a history of knee or back issues.


Place one end of a barbell in a landmine unit or in the corner of the room with a towel wrapped around the end so you don’t scratch the wall.


Grab the free end of the bar and hold it against your chest instead of away from your body so that you maintain an upright torso throughout the entire range of motion. Due to the natural arc, the bar will move in as you squat, it forces your torso to remain upright -- that is unless you enjoy the sensation of a barbell ramming through your chest.


Bulgarian Split Squat


Also known as the rear-foot-elevated split squat (RFESS), the Bulgarian split squat is a true test of physical and mental strength. Stand in a lunge position with the back foot on a bench, box, or raised platform. Maintaining an upright torso, bend your front knee and lower your hips down and back as you would in a traditional squat, stopping when your thigh is parallel to the ground. Powerfully squeeze the glutes and quads to extend the knee and hips and drive up to the top.


Unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian split squat benefit athletes of all kind from physique competitors to field sport athletes. Training one leg at a time helps address muscle imbalances that exist between the two sides of your body, improves balance, and allows for increased training volume without having to use extremely heavy weights.


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