Squat & lunge variations

Here’s a quick article and short video with some ideas of squat & lunge variations that you can use to make your home workouts more effective. If you’re currently doing my #tmf60x60 challenge these are ideal for you…

Body weight exercises are a great way to train because you can literally do them anywhere – at home, in the office, on holiday, in the park, while you’re filling up with fuel…ANYWHERE! If you have a body you can do body-weight exercises…

squat & lunge variations

Basic lower body movements:

There are three basic lower body exercises and pretty much everything stems from one of these:

  • squats – usually with both feet on the ground, but can be done as single leg options instead; can include propulsions eg. jump squats
  • lunges – starting with both feet on the ground but moving one foot to a new position; can move in any direction
  • split squats – looks like the end position of a lunge (ie. one foot further forward than the other) but without any stepping movement; can include propulsions eg. split jumps

Variations:

There are some really easy changes you can make to these basic moves which will each target the muscles differently and give a different training effect –

  • foot position – you can change the width of your feet for all the basic lower body moves – a narrow, neutral or wide stance will vary how the exercise feels; in particular lunges & split squats will be more challenging with a narrower stance
  • angle of the feet/knees/hips – a neutral angle is where your feet, hips and knees naturally live; internal rotation brings your toes closer together with your knees & thigh bones rotated towards the centre; external rotation takes your toes further apart with your knees and thigh bones rotated away from the centre; your internal and external rotation will vary but should always feel comfortable in all the associated joints
  • speed of movement – changing the speed of any exercise will obviously change how it feels to your body; here are some common speed variations based on an 8-count phrase which is used for teaching exercise to music –
    • single count – one down, one up
    • double count – two down, two up
    • slow count – four down, four up
    • three & one – can be three down, one up or one down, three up
    • pulses – smaller range of movement, usually bottom half, twice the speed of a single count
    • move & a half – full range down, half way up, all the way down, all the way up (or easier to think of as bottom, middle, bottom, top)

Other variables:

Once you have had a play with the basic movements, using different foot positions, angles and speeds, there are a few more things you can try if you want an added challenge:

  • alter the surface you’re standing on – bare feet will feel different to trainers; a yoga mat will feel different to a hard floor; airex mats are great for giving you less stability
  • have one foot higher than the other – try any of the basic moves with one foot on a low step; with split squats & lunges you can either have your front leg or your bag leg on the step – it will feel different each way
  • add some balance – all the basic moves work really well with a balance move added in between repetitions eg. squat & knee lift, side lunge and leg abduction, split squat and hip extension
  • try single leg squats – a split squat is almost half way between a full squat and a single leg squat, but to really load the front leg, take the back foot off the floor completely!
  • try repeater lunges – this is a great way to overload one leg; simply repeat all of your repetitions on one leg and then swap over to the other leg; works really nicely with some added balance work too eg. reverse lunge repeater with knee lift
  • add some power – propulsion (or jumping) will take your squats & split squats to the next level BUT only do this once your legs are strong enough and if your core, pelvic floor and joints can manage the extra load (ie. if jumping causes stress incontinence, don’t do it until you have resolved that issue first); remember that you want to land softly with soft knees and quiet feet; use your arms for extra drive; examples of propulsion include, jump squats, jacks, spotty dogs, split jumps, tuck jumps, skipping, etc. etc.

Summary:

Body weight exercises are easily accessible and make a useful addition to any fitness routine, but it can be easy to get stuck doing the same things over & over again. Hopefully these ideas will gives you endless options to pimp your home workouts for the foreseeable future. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list so feel free to add any other variations that work for you.

Remember to listen to your body – harder exercises are only better when they serve you. Always seek professional advice if you need help with your exercise programme or medical advice about suitability of an exercise for you.

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