5 easy things you can do to make squats way more effective

Whether you love them or hate them, squats are a key move if you want to tone your butt or your thighs. If the idea of doing reps upon reps fills you with boredom, however, why not try sprucing your humble squat up to make it doubly effective?

There are loads of easy tweaks you can make to ensure your squats are challenging you more, and we asked a range of fitness experts and personal trainers to recommend their personal favourite. Try some of these suggestions and you’ll be queen of squats in no time…

1. Change the pace

“The squat is such a great full-body exercise; while focusing on the legs and glutes; the core and back play a huge part in the successful completion of the move. I would add different tempos to change the intensity of the move, so instead of going at a random pace, try one of these:

  • 3:1 – Moving down for 3 counts and up for 1
  • 2:2 – Moving down for 2 counts and up for 2
  • Pause squats – Moving down for 3, hold for 2 and up”

– Melissa Weldon, Head of Training at Sweat It

squats, more effective

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2. Switch up your stance

“If you have been doing the same type of squat for a long time, then changing up how you do the squat can help push you further and make it more effective. Increasing your weight is one way to make things a little more challenging, but you may also like to vary your stance into sumo or bulgarian split squat [a single leg squat where the back leg is elevated on a bench] to target different muscles and help you work up a sweat.”

3. Use different shoes

“Depending on your foot and ankle mobility I would recommend using weightlifting shoes. This is due to the increase in power which a shoe provides you with. I realised this when testing people using power meters and testing platforms. Although some may argue that barefoot is more natural, this won’t automatically mean that people can do it! Therefore, to give general, safe advice (and to improve your squat) I would recommend the right shoes followed by a good hip-based mobility workout to ensure you are getting an effective depth and technique. You can then start to increase the weight and gain greater, further benefits.”

4. Try a single leg squat

“Coming from a high jumping background, I did a lot of single leg work that I absolutely swear by and it’s a great way to improve your squats and push you further. Single leg squats to a bench are great way to improve your squats. Sit on the edge of a bench, straighten one leg out with your heel touching the floor, and carry out your squat putting the pressure on just one leg – then switch legs. You can perform these with or without a weight and the stronger you become in this position, the better your squats will become because it will help improve your range of movement.”

5. Use a box

“The most common flaw I see with squats in the gym is a poor range of motion. It’s all good and well if you can load the bar with a bunch of weight, but if you don’t hit a decent range of motion then you’re limiting the stimulus and therefore the benefits on strength, joint health and general lower body function. If this is a struggle of yours, have a go at doing pause box-squats. Set a box to a height that allows you to achieve about 90 degrees knee flexion (or lower if your mobility allows it). When you squat down to the box, pause for one to two seconds whilst maintaining your position and tightness before standing back up. Along-side specific mobility training, this should help to improve your range of motion.”