13 Squat Variations for Runners: From Basic to Weighted, Transform Your Running Game

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Let’s talk squats, shall we? Imagine if I could serenade every runner with a strength training love song, it’d be crooning “Squat, squat, squat…” on a never-ending loop! Because if there’s one golden nugget of exercise that I’d shout from the rooftops for every runner to embrace, yup, you guessed it – it’s the squat.

Here’s the lowdown for my fellow pavement pounders: whether you’re just stepping into your running shoes or have countless miles under your belt, squats (with their trusty sidekick, planks) deserve a standing ovation in your training routine.

Do Squats Help with Running?

So what makes the squat such a fantastic exercise?

Here are some of the reasons:

Increased strength

To truly thrive in running, strength isn’t just a bonus; it’s a necessity. It’s your shield against injuries and your ticket to top-notch performance.

Enter squats.

They’re like the Swiss Army knife of exercises – efficient, versatile, and oh-so-effective. From your quadriceps to your glutes, squats ensure that every running muscle gets a piece of the action.

Check “The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review” by Rønnestad et al., which explores the impact of resistance training on endurance athletes.

Boosted Core strength

Think of your core as the control center. When you squat, it’s working overtime to keep everything in check, making sure you’re moving right and staying injury-free. Want to level up? Add some front squats, overhead squats, and those sassy twisting squats to the mix. Your core will thank you (maybe not immediately, but definitely in the long run!).

Don’t take my word for it. Check out a research like “Core Muscle Activation During Swiss Ball and Traditional Abdominal Exercises” by Escamilla et al. This study delves into the activation of core muscles during various exercises, including squats.

Prevents Injury

Ever heard of pesky nuisances like the iliotibial band syndrome or runner’s knee? Well, by turbo-charging muscles like your hip abductors and quads, squats are like your personal bodyguards, shielding you from these running woes.  Studies such as “Prevention of Running Injuries” by Fields et al. are a perfect example.  This research examines strategies for injury prevention in runners.

Improve Bone Mass

Squats, as well as other weight-bearing exercises, help fortify your bone mass. So, as you gracefully dance through the years, squats are ensuring your bones remain as sturdy as a fortress, keeping issues like osteoporosis at bay.

Improved Flexibility

Imagine squats as your personal yoga instructor, guiding your body to stretch, bend, and twist, exploring its full potential.

Every time you squat, you’re granting your ankles, knees, hips, and glutes a ticket to the flexibility fiesta! Embracing this complete range of motion? It’s not just a boon for turning you into a human rubber band, but it’s pivotal for elite performance and sidestepping injuries.

The 11 Best Squats For Runners

Squats can be performed in so many ways.

So here are 13 squat variations for your squatting pleasure.

Squat For Runners – 1. Basic Squat

This is the standard squat.

Master this basic move before you move onto the more challenging variations.

Here are a few pointers to help you master the basic form:

Before you dive headfirst into the ocean of squat variations, let’s get you acquainted with the OG: The Basic Squat. It’s the foundation, the bedrock, the ‘original’ in your squat playlist. And nailing this down? It’s your golden ticket to all the cool, fancy versions out there.

Want a visual? Check out this handy tutorial: YouTube Tutorial on Basic Squat

Step-by-Step to Squat Perfection:

Set the Stage:

Stand tall, feet hip-width apart. Point those toes out just a tad.

Let your arms chill by your sides.

Channel a proud peacock: shoulders back, core engaged, and stand as if you’re trying to impress someone cute across the room.

The Descent:

Now, the fun part! Lower down, bending those knees. Aim to get those thighs chatting with the floor, becoming parallel buddies. But hey, if you two don’t hit it off right away, just get as low as feels right.

Quick checkpoint: keep those knees playing nice with your toes. And those toes? They’re glued to the floor, no lifting!

Push through those heels, straighten up, and give your glutes a good squeeze as you ascend.

Pro-tip: Imagine you’re in a love triangle with your knees and toes. Keep the knees tracking over your toes the entire time. It keeps the drama in check!

And voila! You’ve just done the basic squat. Keep practicing, and soon, you’ll be the talk of the squat town!

Squat For Runners – 2. Weighted Squat

Once you get the hang of the basic squat, then you can up the ante by adding weights.

In this variation, make sure to have a set of dumbbells of a challenging weight.

Proper Form

Ready to turn up the intensity a notch?

Let’s introduce a little extra “oomph” to your squats with some added weight! Once you’ve danced with the basic squat and feel like you’ve got the rhythm, it’s time to jazz things up.

Why Weighted Squats?

When you add weights to your squat routine, you’re essentially challenging your muscles to work a bit harder. And guess what? They love a good challenge! It’s like turning your squat from a casual stroll in the park to a delightful uphill hike.

Need a step-by-step visual? Dive into this tutorial: YouTube Tutorial on Weighted Squat.

Let’s Break Down the Weighted Squat:

Starting Strong:

Grab a pair of dumbbells that give you that “just right” challenging feel. Not too light, not too heavy.

Stand athletic. Feet? Shoulder-width apart. Dumbbells? Held by your side, palms giving each other a secret handshake.

This is home base. Your starting position.

The Mighty Descent:

Engage that core, it’s your secret weapon!

Squat on down. Imagine there’s an imaginary chair you’re trying to sit on. Bend at those hips and knees.

Hold that squat for a moment.

Climbing Back:

Time to rise back to stardom. Slowly and powerfully push up, coming back to your starting pose.

Remember, it’s a performance, not a race. Grace over pace!

Your Challenge: Go for 10 to 12 reps.

Additional resource – The Myrtl routine

Squat For Runners – 3. Wall Squat

This variation is relatively easy and can help you build mobility and endurance in your lower body.

Do this variation more often if you are often plagued with runners’ knee or knee pain because wall squats are safe and target the quads more than the standard version; according to a study, weak quads are linked to knee pain in runners.

Proper Form

Ever felt like taking a bit of a lean against a wall while working on those legs? Well, the wall squat is your buddy!

It’s the cool cousin of the standard squat, giving you a mix of ease and challenge at the same time. Plus, for those of us who’ve felt the pesky sting of runner’s knee or the occasional knee twinge, this might just be the balm you need.

 Why Wall Squat?

The wall squat, while seemingly chill, is great for enhancing your lower body’s endurance and mobility. It’s especially nifty because it zones in on those quads. And a little birdie (actually, some smart research) says that beefing up those quads can be the key to waving goodbye to knee pain for runners. So, let’s give those quads some love!

Breaking Down the Wall Squat:

Start with the Wall:

Your back? Cozy against a wall. Your feet? Placed confidently about two feet out in front of you. Remember, stand tall and proud; this is your power pose!

Slide & Glide:

Now, imagine you’re about to sit in a chair that’s not there. Push those hips back against the wall and slide down. The goal? Get those knees to a comfy 90-degree angle.

Hold the Magic:

Here’s where the fun (and burn) starts. Hold that pose! Aim for one to two minutes. Feels long? Just think of all the strength you’re building!

Level Up:

Finding it too breezy? Let’s play a game. Lift your right foot for a few seconds, then the left. It’s like you’re dancing but also toning those calves.

When done, slowly glide back up, standing tall and feeling the victory in those legs.

So the next time you see a wall, you know it’s not just for leaning against casually. It’s your workout buddy! Happy wall squatting!

This will also engage more of your calves.

Squat For Runners – 4. Tiptoe Squat

Dreamed of dancing on your tiptoes but never signed up for ballet? Well, the tiptoe squat has got you covered. Not only is it a fun variation, but it’s also fantastic for getting those calves and quads in shape. And here’s the best part: If you’ve ever thought, “I wish my quads were more toned without enlarging my glutes,” then this is your golden ticket!

Why the Tiptoe Squat?

It’s all about targeting those specific muscles. This squat dives deep into the calves and quadriceps, ensuring you get that sculpted look.

Need a visual? Here’s how it’s done: YouTube Tutorial on Tiptoe Squat

Mastering the Tiptoe Squat:

Stand confidently, feet a hip’s distance apart. Now, channel your inner ballet dancer and elevate onto the balls of your feet. Voilà! Your power stance is ready.

With grace, lower into a squat. Remember, slow and steady wins the race here. Once you’ve gone as low as feels good, take a moment to appreciate the burn, then rise to your starting position, keeping those heels lifted.

Feeling wobbly? It’s natural. Engage that core for balance. This isn’t just about keeping you steady; it also acts as a shield for your lower back.

Tip: If you’re new to this and need some added stability, don’t hesitate to use a chair or wall for support.

Squat For Runners – 5. Figure-four Squat

This variation targets the glutes and legs (just like the standard squat) but with the added bonus of stretching out those often-ignored glutes.

In other words, It’s a squat and a stretch at the same time.

Figure-four squats are also ideal for boosting balance and endurance in the quadriceps and glutes.

Proper Form

The Technique

Start with a mini-squat: keep your back straight your core on alert. Now, lift that right leg, bend the knee, and gracefully cross it over the left, resting the right ankle just above the left knee. There you are—in your poised starting position.

The Dive & Rise:

Dive into a squat. Feel the glutes stretching? That’s the magic! Push those hips back, and bend that left leg. Once you feel the depth, ascend back to your starting grace. Voilà—one rep down!

Steady as You Go:

If you’re thinking, “This feels wobbly,” you’re not alone! So, if balance is a challenge, grab a chair or align with a wall. And always remember—core engagement isn’t just about abs; it’s your balance guardian.

Tip: Aim for eight reps on each side for a full set. And don’t rush; the beauty lies in the stretch and control.

Let the Figure-four squat be your go-to for those days when you desire both muscle engagement and a sweet stretch. Let’s get squatting—and stretching!

Squat For Runners – 6. Sumo Squat

Sumo squats engage about every muscle in the lower body, including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Not only that, this variation also increases muscular endurance and mobility.

The bodyweight sumo squat is challenging enough, but if you are looking for more, feel free to use a barbell or dumbbell for more training effect.

Proper Form

Mastering The Sumo Stance:

Start with Swagger:

Plant your feet wide apart, wider than your usual squat. Channel your inner sumo wrestler – toes confidently pointing outwards just a tad. That’s your power stance.

The Drop & Pop:

Now, dive! Ensure those heels are glued to the floor. As you descend, think “proud chest” to keep that back straight. Lower until those thighs greet your knees. Relish the depth, then ascend back to that mighty sumo stance. Looking for an extra burn? Throw in a pulse at the bottom.

Rep It Out:

Go for 10 to 12 reps to seal one set. As you groove into this move, you’ll feel the power of the sumo taking over!

Incorporate the Sumo Squat into your routine and feel the comprehensive engagement it offers. From strength to flexibility, it’s all wrapped in this one squat style.

Squat For Runners – 7. Squat Jumps

Add a plyometric effect to your squat by incorporating this variation into your training arsenal.

The squat jump hits the core hard, targets just about every other muscle in the lower body, and will push your endurance and cardio conditioning to the breaking point.

Proper Form

Why Squat Jumps?

Elevate Your Heart Rate: This move doesn’t just sculpt your legs; it gives your heart a workout too. Say hello to better cardio conditioning!

Core Galore: Feel that? That’s your core working overtime to stabilize during those jumps.

Total Lower Body Fiesta: It’s a party down there! Quads, hamstrings, calves – everybody’s invited.

Curious? Dive into it: Squat Jump Video Tutorial

Nail That Form:

Ready Position: Begin with that athletic stance we all know and love. Feel grounded and strong.

Dip & Drive: Now, descend into a half-squat, then – boom! – power up with all your might. Aim for the clouds!

Graceful Landing: Remember, you’re a ninja cat – land softly, absorbing the impact through bent knees. And voila, you’re set for the next explosive jump!

Repeat: Flow through 12 to 15 of these, and you’ve nailed a set.

Additional reading – How to Prevent Overuse Injury

Squat For Runners – 8. Single-leg Squat

This isn’t just another squat variation—it’s THE variation that will redefine strength and balance for you. A challenging move? Absolutely. Rewarding? You betcha!

Why Single-leg Squat?

Solo Spotlight: By using one leg, you really hone in on and target those muscles.

No Weights? No Worries! Perfect for home workouts or when you’re on-the-go. Your body weight is the only resistance you’ll need.

Balance Bonanza: Engage that core! This move requires (and builds!) fantastic balance and stability.

Mastering the Move:

Start in an athletic stance, but let’s mix it up. Ground yourself on your right foot, with the left one stretched out ahead.

Lower yourself, imagining you’re sitting back in a chair. How low can you go while keeping that form pristine?

Pushing through your heel, rise to the starting position. Feel the power of that solo leg!

Stay Tall and Proud: Keep that back straight—no hunching! Posture makes perfect.

Repeat: Target 8 to 10 reps on each leg, and you’ve aced a set.

Squat For Runners – 9. Frog Jumps

This plyometric variation is vital if you are looking to build faster running muscles and power.

I read somewhere that frog jumps are Usain Bolt’s favorite exercise.

Proper Form

Get into your athletic stance, squat down, and let your arms touch the floor. Remember: chest up, gaze forward.

Explode upwards, drive those knees high, and don’t forget to snap those feet together. Feel the power!

As you rise, swing your arms overhead. They’re not just for show—they’ll give you that extra push!

Cushion your landing in a deep squat. Use those legs to absorb the impact.

Repeat: Looking for a full set? Aim for 8 to 10 power-packed jumps.

Squat For Runners – 10. Squat Box Jumps

This is another plyometric squat variation that can help you build explosive power and turbo-charge your running speed.

Just be careful here, there is an element of danger in it, so be safe the entire time. This is, after all, an advanced squat.

Tread carefully.

Proper Form

Jump with Precision:

Stand in front of a sturdy platform. Feet hip-width apart, arms ready for momentum.

Drop into a squat, then explode up, aiming to land softly on the box. Engage your core; this is key!

Land gently in a half-squat on the box. Balance is crucial!

Jump off, but be controlled. Land soft, ready for the next rep.

Challenge Yourself: Feeling unstoppable? Up the box height for a tougher challenge. But remember, always be safe!

Rack up those reps! Shoot for 8 to 10 to finish a set.

Squat For Runners -11. Overhead Squat

This is one of the most sought-after moves in the CrossFit world, and it’s famous for one reason: it delivers.

The overhead squat is vital for improving athletic movement, whether you are a recreational runner or an elite athlete.

Nonetheless, they require high degrees of balance, strength, and flexibility.

So be careful and only do the overhead squat once you have mastered the above variations (and the front squat as well).

Proper Form

Setup: Assume a confident stance, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell overhead with a grip wider than shoulder width. Your arms should be fully extended.

Steady: Engage your core, ensuring stability. Remember: this squat tests balance, too!

Descend: Push your hips back and squat down, ensuring your arms remain straight and the bar stays aligned overhead. Your hips should sink below your knees.

Rise & Shine: Push through your heels, extending your hips and knees to return to the starting position.

Flexibility & Form: It’s essential to have a limber lower body and strong core activation for this squat. Don’t rush; aim for precise movement.

10-12 reps make a set.

Squats for Runners – The Conclusion

Here you have it!

I hope you liked my 13 squat variations list. Just make sure to start doing them as soon as you can.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.


David D

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