3 Great Squat Variations

Speaking as someone who has a long term shoulder injury I am incredibly lucky that I had some kind of foresight several years ago and I shipped a whole load of equipment over to Darkside Barbell of London (UK), all the way from Elite FTS in London Ohio.   Included in this crate of goodies amongst other things was a Safety Squat bar (SSB), and a Monster Cambered bar (MCB).


These bars came to be hated by all who used them. The SSB throws your head forward, thus putting extra stress on your upper back; whilst the MCB puts more stress on the mid-back.   Using the SSB feels pretty good until you get to a challenging weight and then you get squashed very quickly. Conversely the MCB feels like crap on every set but most of the Darkside lifters end up using a similar weight to a straight bar Squat.  


OK Chris, thanks for that; but I had to argue with the gym manager for 6 months  before we got a Power Rack to go with the one Olympic bar they have; I’d have to kidnap his daughter and hold her to ransom before I’d get my hands on bars like that! What can you say that’s useful to me?   Well my friend there are several excellent variations you can perform in most gyms.   The first variation I’m going to discuss can even be done without a Power Rack; this is the Zercher Squat, where the bar is held in the crook of the arms.  


The Monstrously Strong Bud Jeffries performing a partial Zercher Squat  


The key point about performing the Zercher Squat is that one will simultaneously push their chest and abs into the bar while pulling the bar into their torso.   If you do this variation then you are allowed to wrap a towel around the bar to reduce the discomfort on your arms; just this once I won’t call you a pussy. The Zercher Squat puts great stress on the mid-section whilst still keeping a good amount of stress on the lower body; it’s a variant I sometimes use despite all the toys I have.  


The Front Squats places more stress on the quads, and is generally easier to learn than the Squat, although Box Squats fixes this issue with the classic back Squat. The Front Squat can be performed Olympic style, with what’s known as a “Clean” grip. With this grip the elbows must be kept ahead of the bar; as you ascend think “elbows up”.   These days most Front Squats are done with a cross arm position, see both variations below –  




Once again with this variation the cue is “elbows up”.  


The “Hack” Squat, named after the great wrestler and strongman of the late 19th and early 20th Century, George Hackenschmidt is simply a Squat performed with the bar held behind the back.     Beware, this is very stressful on the knees; usually this lift would be performed with the heels elevated by a couple of 5kg plates. Again this variant is excellent for stressing the quads.  


The final variation I’m going to talk about is the “Manta Ray” Squat. The Manta Ray clips onto a standard Olympic bar. This moves the bar to a higher position on the back making it a cheap way of mimicking a Safety bar Squat. This also enables lifters with tight / injured shoulders a better chance of actually holding a bar on their back.   These excellent devices are quite hard to get hold of in the UK, you might have to import from the USA, but I’d consider it worthwhile.  


So now if you’re bored of the usual Squat variations such as Box Squats, Paused Squats, and Anderson Squats (bottom up); you now have a few more to keep you entertained. You had no excuse not to Squat before and now you have even less excuse.  


Be Mighty,