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Squats Made Simple - Seventeen Different Types of Squats

Updated on June 6, 2020

Because this single exercise, squats, serves to activate close to 200 muscles in our body, this one exercise has the power to quickly sculpt our body and change our metabolism. Yet all too often we are stuck in a rut with our exercise program and forget the many different variations that the squat can offer. Additionally, the proper form of the squat is often called into question. Join us as we explore over 17 different versions of the squat, explore in detail the proper form of the squat,and the controversy around the preferred form and view some outstanding example exercises of advanced squats such as the Bulgarian Squat and much more.

Squats Sculpt Our Body and Offers The Power to Change Our Metabolism

gorgeous girl who obviously does weightlifting and squats
gorgeous girl who obviously does weightlifting and squats | Source

Squats Are a Beauty Exercise - But They Are More - They Are A Functional Exercise

Many in the fitness world look to the squat and other target toning exercise for beautifying their body. Yes, muscle will build a beautiful physique but our health should be our first focus.

Fun Fitness Quote - With Beauty As a Focus

"Look like a beauty, lift like a beast."

"It is a shame for anyone to grow older without seeing the strength and beauty your body is capable of."

"You create beauty with your attitudes, your behaviors and you actions."

"I don't sweat for pounds and inches, I sweat to make the outside match the inside."

"Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction." Anne Frank

"The human body is the best form of art." Jess C. Scott


"Exercise has been found to cause health happiness."

Three Types of Squats

Three Types of Squats Demonstrated Parallel Pile or Wide and Single Leg Squat
Three Types of Squats Demonstrated Parallel Pile or Wide and Single Leg Squat | Source

Three Types or Categories of Squats

There are dozens of varieties of the squat exercise but all can essentially be categorized into parallel, wide and single leg.

But before we begin with all the various varieties of these three types, let's address a popular controversy in the fitness industry - the proper form for performing squats.

Muscles Protect the Knee

muscles surrounding the knee
muscles surrounding the knee | Source

Squats and Your Knees - What You Must Know

Client: I don't do squats because I have bad knees.

Trainer: You have bad knees because you don't do squats.

Good and Bad Squat Form - Knee Position

Right and Wrong Demonstration of the Placement of the Knees Over the Toes for Performing the Squat Without Injury
Right and Wrong Demonstration of the Placement of the Knees Over the Toes for Performing the Squat Without Injury | Source

Build Muscles Around the Knee To Prevent Pain

Building muscles around the knee can also be achieved with leg raises. While the squat will be a stronger exercises that directly engages and places more resistance on the quadriceps, if you have severe knee pain, I would recommend starting with side lying leg lifts. This low impact exercise will introduce your body to building up the muscle in your legs.

Remember, I am fitness professional not a medical professional. The rule for always seeing your physician before beginning any fitness program is essential. Do learn what exercises are available so that you can ask your physician or the physical therapist specific questions. Do not perform or start any exercise program without a full consultation with a medical professional.

Body Builders and the Controversy Over Squat Form

In the fitness industry, there is some controversy over the proper squat form. When in doubt, be safe. My opinion as an individual with knee problems as an instructor and certified personal trainer is what is right for weight builders is simply different for the rest of the population. That does not make either group right or wrong but highlights the fact that fitness must be customized. Physicians attend school because medicine is so complex and the human body is the most complex machine ever built - technology getting closer to mapping some of our human functions but it is still copying and lacks the many advantages the human body offers of growth and healing.

Body builders, I feel can perform squats differently because they have developed their muscles.

For the rest of the populace, we must take great care with the form that we engage for our squats.

To this end, please take a few moments to closely study the four box demonstration by Brad Wark who clearly showcases the right and wrong form. Once you are an elite body builder, you might consider another form but for the majority of the non-elite, taking great care with you knees is high recommended.

Starting with a wide, shallow squat is always my starting point with my clients. And yes, most of my clients will give me allot of push back and baulk with the saying "I have terrible knees so I cannot do the squat" when in reality the wide, shallow squat or a wall sit with the invisible chair will help them prevent knee pain.

Squat Form - Examples of Good and Bad

Good & Bad Squat Form Demonstration Poster by Brad Wark - ck out where the knee is in relation to the toes
Good & Bad Squat Form Demonstration Poster by Brad Wark - ck out where the knee is in relation to the toes | Source

Squat Safety Check List

1. Always begin a new exercise program with your physician's approval.

2. Keep your knees in line with your toes.

(Our knees are a valuable joint that is prone to injury)

3. Squat as low as your knees are comfortable.

(Shallow squats are better than no squats)

4. Do not lock your knees.

If you feel any pain stop immediately.

Bulgarian or One Leg Squat with Weights

Poster with Pretty Blond with a Long Ponytail Demonstrating the Bulgarian or One Leg Squat with Weights
Poster with Pretty Blond with a Long Ponytail Demonstrating the Bulgarian or One Leg Squat with Weights | Source

Do Incorporate a Variety of Squats and a Variety of Exercises

"Man shall not live by squats alone." Easy Exercise

Squats are similar to the crunches and cardio, they are a fundamental exercise. A great exercise program is one designed with a variety of exerises. Do not live on squats alone. Do incorporate squats into your weekly exercise program and I promise you, you will see more results.

Don't forget good nutrition!

Exercise without the proper fuel to run your engine is not enough. We must change our diet and take in the nutrients that our body and muscles need.

Squat and Leg Lift

Pretty Girl Wearing Purple and Black Demonstrating the Movements of the Squat and the Leg Lift in Split Screen -
Pretty Girl Wearing Purple and Black Demonstrating the Movements of the Squat and the Leg Lift in Split Screen -

Take Your Exercise Program Up a Level

  • Add repetitions
  • Add weights
  • Try a couple of the different varieties of the one leg squat

Activate The Leg Muscles - Leg Lifts and Squats

Leg lifts and squats concentrate beautifully upon the muscles in our legs. Both the leg lifts and the squats also offer the added value of target toning the glutes. Incorporating leg lifts and squats together will provide greater overall muscle tone and assist you in changing your metabolism.

18 Different Bodyweight Squat Variations

"Squats activate over 200 muscles."

What are your thoughts about wide squats?

See results

Do Use Proper Form To Prevent Injuries

If you have knee pain, do consult a physician. If you are under the care of a physical therapist do discuss the proper form of the squat for your specific needs. Remember all of us are seeking simply to be the best version of ourselves, we are not all meant to be elite body builders (nor do many of even desire to take our body to that extreme). We must do the exercise properly for our fitness level.

Proper Form for the Squat Exercise

diagram of the proper form of the squat exercise with a man and labels detailing Knees, back and neutral head and weight on heels
diagram of the proper form of the squat exercise with a man and labels detailing Knees, back and neutral head and weight on heels | Source

Proper Form for Squats - Hands Hips and Heels

Summary of Proper Form

  • Technique is More Important Than Intensity
  • Maintain Proper Form of Hands Hips and Heels
  • Go As Low As Comfortable

Proper Form Begins with Shallow Squats

If you can bring your toes up, your heels are back and you are performing the squat correctly.

"As long as you can maintain your form, the lower the better." "You will get lower eventually."

Feel the difference in your quads as you turn your feet outward.

"Abs are in and chest is high."

100 Squat Challenge with Variations

Take the 100 Squat Challenge

If you are in good health and cleared by your physician, do take the 100 squat challenge.

Are you able to complete the 100 Squat Challenge?

See results

My Favorite Squat - Wide with Barbell

woman exercising with barbell with the wide squat working the interior of the thigh
woman exercising with barbell with the wide squat working the interior of the thigh | Source

Find Your Favorite Squat

Find your favorite squat and add it to your weekly exercise routine. Do try a variety of different squats and do know the list is not limited to 17 or 18 versions, the options for this essential exercise is just about endless. Do your research, do try a couple of different versions and I promise you - you will see the results you are seeking in increasing your muscle tone and metabolism.

In Support of the Wide Squat Stance for Those Plagued with Knee Pain

"For individuals with prior knee pain

The narrow stance squatters had forward knee movement of 4-6cm more than the wide stance squatters. This may imply that selecting a medium or wide stance squat may help reduce knee shear forces, which may be helpful for people who have had a knee injury previously."


Tiny Turtle Squat - A Little Bigger than a Match Box

 Chinese box turtles are quite social and congregate in groups. In captivity they have been known to live up to 50 years.
Chinese box turtles are quite social and congregate in groups. In captivity they have been known to live up to 50 years. | Source

Tiny Turtle Squat - Variation on the Squat - Slow, Wide and A Sure Winner

If you are just beginning, as a certified personal trainer, I would always start with wide and shallow squats that I nicknamed the tiny turtle. For this version, it is a very slow movement, very shallow but very effective in taking the time to feel the muscles that are engaged. The wide squat is exemplary at engaging the inner thigh muscles without any fancy equipment.

As the tiny turtle next to the match box details, this form of the squat exercise is meant to be engaging for the client who is brand new. It is simply an introduction to this great fundamental exercise.


One Leg Squat - Split Squat

One Leg Squat - Split Squat
One Leg Squat - Split Squat | Source

30 Squats In Exchange for a Bus Ride

Would you do 30 squats for a free bus ride?

See results

Share Your Exercise Program

Do you or will you add squats to your workout?

See results

Squats Are Not Simple But They Are An Essential Exercise

As you can see, squats are not simple. You must first find the proper form that is right for you. Squats are an essential exercise that I feel all of us must incorporate into our weekly exercise program.

The Winter Olympics had a unique challenge for those seeking to ride the public transit bus. They offered a free ride to anyone who could perform 30 squats!

Take the squat challenge today and share with us your thoughts and experience with this essential exercise. Share with us what variety of squat you started with and have graduated to so far. We learn from each other so it is wonderful to hear each individual's experiences with exercise.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Kelly A Burnett


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    • profile image

      Patti Zielinski 

      2 years ago

      Sometimes clients have bad knees from injury and a totally different exercise needs to help strengthen the muscles around the knee. It's probably not a good idea to blame the customer for bad knees

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      The Bulgarian one leg squat graphic should be removed. It shows bad form. The correct form is shown further down in the article.

    • Easy Exercise profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly A Burnett 

      4 years ago from United States

      Hi Erzulie,

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing. I am now a follower - glad I found you! Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • Erzulie LM profile image


      4 years ago

      Well written and informative page. I'm going to start a squat programme and this is exactly what I need! Good job

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      How to loose some surface area from my abnimodal area?How to loose some surface area from my abnimodal area?I'm 19 and a college student. I work at a Quiznos (standing up but having to stand still for 4-6 hours on M, W, F, Sa, Su) and I have to sit in class from 930am til 215pm (45 min break from 1215-1pm) Its a community college so I must drive 45 mins to and from before i can get home. I pick my gf up from school and we go to the library to do our homework every day except for thursdays (in which i have a class from 6-10pm)Since i've been back at school these last 3 weeks. I feel i have gained some weight. Not on a scale, (only 2lbs) but my belly looks and feels a bit larger. I havent been eating right, missing breakfast some days and having to settle for fast food for lunch and I have missed a few dinners sometimes, and been having to hit the snack foods a bit more than i like. This time last year, I started working out after never working out before and gained 20-30lbs but lost some fat. Now I'm 6'0 -6'1 and 200lbs (was 170-180lbs this time last year) but I'm the biggest around I have ever been in my life. (pants still need the belt, but the fat is accumulating above the waistline on my belly) I also have had man boobs (though I've been relatively thin most of my life despite my eating habits and lack of exercise)I'd like to be in the best shape of my life since I'm not even 20 yet, not start on a path towards an unhealthy life. Any suggestions on workout routines and foods. (I normally don't drink sodas, but have recently, and more junk food. I'm thinking that I'd loose some water weight when I change my habits and drink more water and green tea like I used too) And I plan on weightlifting and jogging regularly, I suppose I was just wondering if there was any more advice/ recommended exercises (not a miracle thing, I mean I want to work hard and and know that it will not be an instant procedure) I would also like some advices on lunches I could pack from home and food meal ideas for breakfast and diner (even if they are having to be from town)I've also been tired the last few months, even when I sleep and I'm wondering if it could be related to my lack of eating or exercising healthily/regularly. Whats a recommended amount of time a 19 year old male should be sleeping. My lack of activity recently was when my toe got smashed at work and I had to stay off of it for 2 months. Its really been since then that I started to get more belly fat and man boobs.I'd like to thank everyone now that will be answering my question. I'm turning life around and spending less time gaming and more time focusing on expanding my mind and building my body (not body building, but being in shape) I realize what my prioritys should be and am trying to become a better person in general.Thought about this after I posted. It took about 2 months of being a lazy gaming teenager to become the biggest i've been before (belly fat wise) Though I'd still consider myself medium build. I also only took from about november til december of going to the gym about 2-3 times a week to gain the muscle. What body type would I be?Thanks everyone:~Newly inspired teen

    • Easy Exercise profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly A Burnett 

      6 years ago from United States


      I agree completely with you! The Bulgarian Split Squats are exceptional but they are not a beginner squat and they may not even be an intermediate squat, I would place those and the pyrometic squats in the category (if there was one) of advanced.The possibility of injury is greater for the Bulgarian Split Squat because it is a more complicated move and often we are adding significant weight.

      The first time I tried this squat I was all left foot - felt very funny. It can be a graceful move but it will definitely separate the men from the boys as they say!

      Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Easy Exercise profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly A Burnett 

      6 years ago from United States


      Many years ago I had a wonderful personal trainer (yes, certified personal trainers need trainers too!) and he exposed the glory of squats and detailed that his wife who was a body building champion basically centered her exercise routine around squats. Sadly when I received and studied for my certification, we "learned" about squats but weren't fully informed. Understanding the dramatic change that the squat can do for our metabolism, I feel is a game changer in motivating myself to add squats to my fitness routine.

      And yes, when I taught group swim fitness, I was unique in offering squats (I call them tiny turtle to get my clients to slow down) and in adding in frequently to breath deeply.

      I am currently stuck with land exercises and am loving the variety of squats that are available. I hope you too are able to incorporate squats into your daily exercise program.

      I do hope cities and mass transit districts take note of the Olympic events and add a day where rides are given for free if they can perform x number of squats. I loved that idea! Combining public transit with public health in the most empowering fashion - kudos to the Russian mass transit authorities!

    • Easy Exercise profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly A Burnett 

      6 years ago from United States

      K Kiss,

      The beauty of the squat is every squat is great if you do not hurt your back. The wide squat will target the inner thigh more, The traditional squat will target tone the upper part of the thigh more. All are good but mixing it up is the best routine. We want all the muscles of the legs to be engaged.

    • Danida profile image


      6 years ago from London

      I love squats! I'm a fan of Bulgarian Split Squats -- they hurt like hell (in the good way)!

      It's really important to do them with good form though, for if you don't you're on a highway to snap city.

    • TomRy profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      I usually skip squats, but I am now making sure to add them. Great Hub.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Great additional info. It's great to be reminded of how helpful simple leg lifts can be for strengthening the leg muscles and overall charging our metabolism. I looked in the mirror today and wondered where did my upper inner thigh muscles go?? This hub has motivated me to step up the game! Thanks.

    • K Kiss profile image

      K Kiss 

      6 years ago from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

      woah! I guess I have been doing my squats all wrong..but even with that I always saw great results!! Gotta start my daily routine again. Thanks for the inspiration

    • Easy Exercise profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly A Burnett 

      6 years ago from United States


      Thank you so much! I always enjoy your work and am honored you stopped by. I prefer the wide squat for the engagement of the inner thigh. Am I the only female plagued by this muscle abandoning me as I age?

      I think it is always important for a physician's review but also important is the right kind of squat. Not everyone has the same muscle tone, not every has the same fitness goals. The squat is not just for body builders and those seeking a tight and sexy behind, it truly is a functional exercise that will train some of the largest muscles in our body. The sartorius (longest) and the quadriceps (largest) reside in the legs and the glute is another large muscle so for changing our metabolism, this exercise in combination with climbing stairs is a sure winner for results.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      You've given so much useful information about an exercise that can make such a difference in our fitness routine. I also love that you encourage a doctor approval first before starting a new program. I haven't tried all of these squats that you've featured. The Bulgarian looks somewhat challenging. I think I will try the wide with the barbell to help with the inner thigh muscles. I've noticed that muscle tone is more challenging to maintain as a woman ages even though we may be relatively fit. The famous quote comes to mind, use it or lose it! Excellent hub and glad I saw it on the feed.


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