5 SQUAT VARIATIONS EVERY RUNNER SHOULD DO

Welcome to the latest edition of “Workout Wednesday” when each week I share a new running or strength training for runners workout. This week is all about the squat. The squat is the perfect exercise for runners. It strengthens all the same muscles you use for running. Add in some squat variations to maximize your training for improved running performance.

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1. BODY WEIGHT SQUAT

Master the body weight squat before moving on to advanced variations.

Push your hips back and lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor (like you are sitting back in a chair) or as low as your flexibility allows. In the low position, engage your core, squeeze your glutes and push up to standing in an explosive movement. Take a deep breath in as your lower into the squat and breathe out as you return to standing.

 body weight squat

body weight squat

If your heels come off the ground as you lower your body weight, spend some time foam rolling your calves before you do this exercise.

Add dumbbells or a medicine ball to make it more difficult.

Try holding the squat in the low position for 20-30 seconds for an isometric hold.

Try a wall squat. Stand with your back flat against a wall and lower your body until the thighs are parallel to the ground. How long can you hold it?

 wall squat. How long can you hold it?

wall squat. How long can you hold it?

2. SUMO SQUATS

With your legs in a wide stance and toes pointing out, Keep your back straight and lower into a sumo squat. Push your weight into your heels and return to standing position.

Hold a weight, kettlebell or medicine ball at chest level to increase the difficulty.

 sumo squat. how low can you go?

sumo squat. how low can you go?

Another way to increase the challenge is to increase the time under tension. Stay in the low position and pulse the reps by coming up a couple on inches and lowering again without returning to standing. Pulse for 20-30 seconds to feel the burn!

3. SINGLE LEG SQUATS

Unilateral (one side at a time) exercises build single leg strength and balance. It can help to prevent and correct strength imbalances if one leg is stronger than the other. Single leg squats are an advanced exercise.

Balance on leg keeping the knee soft. Straighten the elevated leg and lower as much as possible while maintaining control. Do not allow your standing knee to cave in.

 single leg squat

single leg squat

If this to too challenging or if you knee caves in, try it using a bench. Start by sitting on a bench and pushing your weight into your heel, stand up using one leg. Then while still balancing on one leg lower back down to the bench maintaining control all the way down (don’t plop down). If these are difficult, do 1-3 reps at a time until you get stronger.

 single leg squat with bench

single leg squat with bench

If you have suspension straps, a single leg squat can be performed safely and effectively using your own body weight as leverage. Do not lift your heels from the floor when returning to standing position.

 single leg squat with suspension straps

single leg squat with suspension straps

4. JUMP SQUATS

A jump squat is a fantastic way to add a high-intensity movement into your workout. Plyometric exercises like a jump squat build strength and power. When done safely and appropriately they can increase the strength of your tendons, which can help avoid injuries.

Start by lowering into a squat position. From the low position engage your core and jump up. Land softly with bended knees in the low squat position. Hold the low position for 3 seconds before repeating the jump.

 jump squats

jump squats

5. LATERAL SQUATS

The lateral squat strengthens the gluteus medius which can help ward off hip and knee pain in runners. 

With your feet about hip-width apart lower into a quarter squat. While in the low position take a giant step with your right leg to the side. Now step in the same direction with your left leg. Push through your heels with each step. Continue to side step for 6-8 reps in one direction while staying low. Change direction to repeat the reps on the other side. 

For an additional challenge add a resistance band above your knees. Keep the tension tight on the band for the duration of the exercise.

 lateral squats with bands

lateral squats with bands

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