Seven Squat Variations and Their Clinical Significance

The squat is a highly variable exercise that can be used to strengthen and retrain the entire body. While commonly used in fitness programming, the variations of the squat also can be used clinically, helping individuals recover from a variety of injuries.

In this week's article we break down seven of the most common squat variations and discuss how each can be used in a clinical/rehabilitation setting. 

1. Back Squat

The back squat is performed by placing the resistance on our upper shoulders (behind the head).

Clinical Significance: Strengthens lower extremity posterior chain and so is great for hamstring, hip and low back rehabilitation. Good indicator of hip and ankle mobility. Demonstrates movement overall quality (ability to hip hinge, keep trunk upright, etc.)



2. Front Squat

The front squat is performed by holding the resistance in front of our body with elbows pointed forward.

Clinical Significance: Places a stronger emphasis on the quadriceps making it  great for knee rehabilitation. Also a good indicator of hip and ankle mobility while also demonstrating any deficiencies in shoulder/elbow/wrist mobility.  


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3. Sumo Squat

Performed with a wide stance with toes pointed outward (generally a 45 degree angle). 

Clinical Significance: Requires greater hip mobility and places a stronger emphasis on the adductor (groin) muscle group. Great for improving hip mobility and adductor length.

4. Bulgarian Split Squat

Performed in a split stance with rear leg elevated on bench (box jump etc). Any resistance placed on shoulders.

Clinical Significance: Unilateral movement allows for training of side to side imbalances. Incorporates a balance challenge. Strengthens the quadriceps muscle for improved knee stability.


5. Goblet Squat

Similar to a front squat but performed holding a kettlebell or dumbbell (in front of body).

Clinical Significance:  Similar to front squat, lighter weight allows you to sit in squat position and work on hip/ankle mobility. Weight distribution often allows for greater squat depth.

6. Pistol Squat

Also called a 'single leg squat.' The pistol squat is performed by squatting with one leg, while other leg and arms are flexed forward to provide counter balance.

Clinical Significance: Improves hip and ankle mobility. Unilateral stance allows correcting side to side imbalances and furthers balance challenge.


7. Overhead Squat

Full squat performed while holding weight over head.

Clinical Significance: Demonstrates mobility/stability of the entire body. Increase demands for shoulder stability and core strength. Improves overall movement quality.


At Evolve Performance Healthcare we specialize in combining conservative medicine with functional fitness to achieve long term pain relief and improve performance.