If you want to start a weight training routine, you already know that the squat is a staple exercise. Unfortunately, too many people jump straight to squatting with a barbell. Although it’s a fantastic exercise, it turns out to be one of the most complex squat variations out there. This means that you should work towards it, but that it isn’t necessarily the best beginner weight training movement to start with.
In this short article, I’ll lay out 5 simple squat progressions that you can use to learn the squat safely while still getting a great workout!
#1 – Quadruped Rock Back
It might surprise you that we’re starting on the floor. However, this very stable position is a great way to get the basics done right.
You can include this exercise in your warm up before any workout. It will teach you how to control your core and hips during a squatting movement. Use a long exhale (pushing air out) to tighten your core and proceed to rock your hips back while keeping a flat back and your abs engaged.
Pro tip: Ask a friend to tell you if your hips are “tucking under” at the end of your rock. On the next attempt, focus on keeping your hips aligned with your spine and stop just before the “tuck” begins. over time, gradually increase the depth of the movement.
#2 – Pole Assisted Squat
This exercise can be used either in the warm up or the workout. This will depend on your level of control, your body weight, and your strength. If you are carrying excess body fat that you are trying to shed, adding more weight could do more harm than good. Instead, use this variation to accommodate yourself with the squatting motion while remaining safe and secure.
Pro tip: As you progress and get stronger, you can gradually let go of the pole to transition into an unassisted bodyweight squat.
#3 – Goblet Box Squat
This is one of most under-utilized, beginner weight training exercises for the squat. Using the box will provide you with a lot of feedback and help you feel your body moving through space. This awareness will develop steadily as you progress through your training, and exercises like these will help you learn while you get stronger.
You can virtually use any implement for the goblet box squat: a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a medicine ball, a plate or any other object that you can easily hold in front of your chest.
Pro tip: I see a lot of people going down too fast and hitting the box hard. Don’t make that mistake. Use the box by slightly grazing it before going back up, instead of slouching down on it and letting go of the tension in your core.
#4 – Double Kettlebell Front Squat
If you have access to kettlebells, this is a great progression to get you closer to using a barbell safely. Once you’re set with the bells in the front rack position, give a big exhale to tighten your core. Maintain a straight back throughout the squatting motion and don’t let the weight pull your upper body forward. Keep pushing up into the bells with your elbows.
Pro tip: Once you are proficient with this movement, try using only one kettlebell to challenge your core from all sides.
#5 – Landmine Squat
Our last exercise today, popularized by the one and only Ben Bruno. I’ll let him take it away with the demo and the explanation:
Beginner Weight Training: Master The Squat
With these beginner exercises under your belt, you can now safely transition to learning the barbell squat and its multiple variations.
[Question] What is your favorite exercise to master the squat? Leave your answer in the comments below!