You never want to get into a routine of doing the same exact thing in all of your workouts. When you stop switching things up, you will stop progressing. Here are a few of my tips on how to upgrade your squats to make your workouts more challenging and exciting!
- Increase the weight (slowly)
If you aren’t squatting with weights yet… it’s time to start! Adding weight to your squats will challenge your entire lower body. As you start lifting heavier weights, make sure you do so gradually. Start with light dumbbells, and then increase the weight in stages of 5lbs. When you feel comfortable working with the squat rack, do the same thing. Start by squatting with the bar (typically 45lbs) and then gradually add 5lb plates, then switch those out for 10lb plates, and so on. Increasing the weight too fast is dangerous and not helpful… stick with slow progress!
- Do banded squats
One of my favorite ways to switch up my squats is by adding resistance bands. I put a circular band around my thighs to create more resistance on the outer thigh and glute muscles. Every time I do banded squats at the gym people ask me questions. Banded squats help you engage your glutes more… and make the exercise more difficult. You can either do regular squats with the band wrapped around your thighs or try walking squats (stepping side to side) with the band around your ankles. Bands come in different resistances, so if you are a beginner select a lighter resistance.
- Add some variety
You don’t have to do standard back squats all day every day. In fact it is better for your overall strength and appearance to switch up the style of squat you perform. Back squats are great, but so are front squats, overhead squats, sumo squats, plie squats, and narrow squats. Switch it up for a more intense workout.
- Make it more complex
If you’ve done any of my MFit workouts, you know that I like to make exercises more complex my including multi-planar movements. A squat and press would fit into this category. So would a walking squat or a squat with additional arm movements. If one of your main goals with exercise is weight loss… you have to include this type of training into your routine. Take a standard squat and make it complicated by adding an arm movement or additional leg activity. Some of my favorite “complicated” exercises are: squat kick backs, squat directly into a back lunge, pulsing squat into a lateral raise.
- Pulse it out
Pulsing squats are simultaneously the best and the worst things ever. Best because pulsing at the end of a set (or in its own set) is great for the legs and booty. Worst because it hurts, so much. Pulsing squats are simple – you are going to pulse up an inch and down an inch at the bottom of the movement. Keep your pulses slow… they will burn more but be more effective.
- Pause reps
Pause reps are another great way to add variety to your sets. Pause reps are simply pausing at the bottom of the movement. So you will start your squat, get to the bottom of the movement and hold for a couple seconds before rising back up. Be super aware on your form during these squats. When holding at the bottom of the squat, it can be easy to drop your chest or break form – but it’s very important that you stay in the correct position.
- Switch up the workout structure
We are all guilty of this… we find a workout structure that we like and never change it. Does this sound like you: go to the gym, pick a few exercises and do 4 sets of 10 for all of the movements. The numbers may be different but this is how a lot of people train. I see people always doing the same amount of reps and sets in their workouts. If you want to amp up your routine, try switching it up. Try some sets where you lift super heavy for just 3 reps, or super light for 25 reps. Or try super-setting two exercises together (one exercise right into the other without rest). Drop sets are one of my go-to structures for squat workouts. For drop sets you are going t do a high amount of reps with a lighter weight and then increase the weight and drop the number of reps. Then keep switching back and forth until your legs are dead. Ladder workouts are also great. Ladders are similar to drop sets because you change the amount of weight your lifting and number of reps you are performing every set.