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2.4. Variations and their purposes

Goblet squat

Teaches the lifter to squat with a natural style and between their legs. The heavier the weight used, the more auto-correcting the lift is.

To perform hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of you close to the chest. Squat down and make sure the elbows are inside the legs - this is what it means to squat between your legs rather than behind them.

While the goblet squat is exceptional for teaching natural squatting, you're sure to come across someone who squats perfectly with the goblet squat and then makes every mistake imaginable once you put a bar on their back. Be sure to remind them what they did in the goblet squat in that case.

No no no squat

Powerlifters who always use a belt and knee sleeves will get weak without them. Also helps build strength in the bottom.

No no no means "no belt, no wraps and no spotters" because of a video of the Olympic weightlifter Ivan Chakarov squatting very heavy weights in this manner. For powerlifting it simply means "don't use any supportive gear", including belt and knee sleeves. You may use a spotter. Other than that it's identical to a squat.

Pause squat

Teaches the lifter position, depth, mobility, "no fear", and getting strong in the bottom.

To perform, simply squat down and pause briefly in the bottom before standing up. The length of the pause is not very important. For a correctly performed pause squat ensure that there's no additional bounce before standing up. This means avoid squatting down, pausing, dropping quickly and bouncing then standing up. Performing it in that manner makes the lift significantly easier for many people which is not the goal.

Box squat

Strengthens posterior chain, improves lockout, teaches bar path.

Box squat is different from "squat to box". In a proper box squat the lifter actually sits fully on the box before standing up rather than simply touching it. There are several points to consider and be sure to demand each of them from the lifter every repetition.

First, it's of the utmost important that the lifter sits with control. If they drop down it places significant stress on the lumbar spine and can be dangerous. Furthermore it doesn't build the strength necessary. Even if they drop only the very last cm tell them to control it better. If they can't then remove weight or add height to the box. Sometimes a lifter can't sit down under control even without weight. This can often be fixed in a matter of minutes.

  1. Add the necessary height to the box for the lifter to sit down with control, even if it turns it into a half squat.
  2. Remove a few cm and have the lifter sit again. You'll often find that they now can because their body understand the movement.
  3. Repeat until you reach the necessary depth.

Second, in the box squat it's often beneficial to sit back more than in the regular squat. This places more emphasize on the posterior chain which is why we use it. A slightly wider than normal stance can also be used sometimes. But there’s no need to go ultra wide if that’s not the lifter’s style of squatting.

Third, have the lifter stand straight up. Do not let them push the knees forward, doing so shifts the stress to the front of the legs and away from the posterior chain. A very easy correction to this problem is to simply put your hand on the front of their knees. Very little force will be necessary and they will feel the difference immediately.

Front squat

Improves depth, leg strength, and upright position.

Hold the bar in either the Olympic style rack position or, if flexibility won't allow it, a crossed arm position. Alternatively the bar can also be held with straps. The bar should be placed on muscle, not on the clavicle bones. Squat as normal.

Because the bar is in front and high, the position of the body will be very upright. If you find the lifter leaning forward instruct them to push their elbows up. This cue can be used both during the descend and the ascend. The position of the front squat results in significant front leg development, usually greater depth, and often significant soreness in the core the day after introducing it.

5s Eccentric squat

Improves control during descent.

This is a normal squat but with a 5 second lowering phase. It can be useful if the lifter is sloppy with tension while lowering themselves. It’s therefore mostly used as a teaching lift.

Safety squat

Relieves shoulder- and elbow stress, allows for significant overloading (Hatfield squats).

This variation is done with a safety squat bar. Because the hands are held in front it doesn't require the sometimes strenuous elbow and shoulder position coming from regular squats which makes it a perfect candidate when a lifter has nagging injuries or issues with the regular squat for some reason.

A special variation, called the Hatfield squat can be done for overload. Have the bar on the back as usual but hold onto a power rack in front of you rather than the handles of the safety bar and assist yourself coming up. Another way is to push on your knees. Be careful doing either of these variations, they should be considered for the advanced lifter only.

Belt squat

Relieves the spine.

While machines exist for belt squats they're not necessary. Simply add weights to a chinning belt and stand on two boxes. Squat down so that the weight drops between the boxes.

The benefit of this lift is that it deloads the spine. It's therefore very useful for lifters with back injuries or those who simply need a break from having a heavy bar on their back after a longer period of significant loading.