What are the best variations of squat? – Head Coach Milo

As ever team, it depends! 🙂

Because it depends on what you are training for? If you still don’t have a set goal that you are chasing then seriously stop reading this and go take some time to figure it out. Even if it’s a mini goal for now like losing some weight. But I’d try and challenge you here and go be brave and ask yourself some deeper questions. Pick something that scares you and go for it! It will give you a little fear and a drive to go be better every day!

Ok, mini grasshopper speech over.

As I stated above it depends on what you are training for in what kind of squats you should do. If you are training for general fitness, powerlifting, competitive CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting or even a field sport athlete then I’d recommend different things for all of you.

CrossFit/General Health & Fintess
We can start with CF as that is our wheelhouse. If it’s for general health and moving then any and all forms of squats are going to be good for you. If for example you really struggle with a back squat and it leaves you sore then it’s not helping you with your goal of general health and fitness really is it. Now, I defo wouldn’t recommend getting rid of it entirely but address the issue of why you can’t comfortably do it and fix those reasons. That alone will make you a better and healthier human! In the meantime, if you can Front squat or can use the safety bar comfortably then do that whilst you are working away at those other key areas that are hindering you.

Competitive CrossFitter
CrossFit athletes should generally keep their squat training exclusive to the high bar back squat and front squat. This is due to the need of being proficient at the Olympic Lifts these two will have the biggest and best transferability for you to those squat patterns. A high bar back squat for example will “reinforce” certain elements that you would want to avoid when squatting during a snatch. (angles and leaning of body positions)

Another thing to consider with the training of competitive CrossFit athletes and the squat is that due to the extremely high volume and variety of skills and movements they need to be proficient in, and the fact that max squats are rarely contested, it wouldn’t make much sense devote excessive energy to pure squat development. You need to squat well to build your Olympic lifts and bolster your lower-body-dominant skills but that can be achieved with only those two previously-mentioned variations, and you do not need anything exotic to drive your squat to the necessary levels.

Now although having done many courses for Olympic Lifting with a variety of coaches I don’t necessarily claim to be a weightlifting coach but I feel I can confidently tell you the only squatting variations the Olympic weightlifter needs to concern themselves with are high bar Olympic squats and front squats.

The low bar squat, causing a forward-leaning torso angle, is not for weightlifters to use. Same as with above and Competetive CrossFitters this will reinforce bad habits and bad angles for your catch position. Don’t do them.

The squat is not a competitive movement in weightlifting, so despite how important it is, its purpose is to drive the development of the competitive lifts, so perform them in a manner that will achieve this.


The goal of the squat in powerlifting is simple: lift the most weight. With that in mind, whichever technique allows you to do this is the one you should use. A lot of people would argue here that the Low bar is the king of powerlifting and I would agree to a point. But it’s going to depend greatly on you and your leverages as well. As above your style, stance/foot width and positioning is going to be whatever you can do for the most weight possible. The styles that the worlds best lifters use is what they have found to be best for them – you aren’t built the same as any of them so you need to find what is best for you. Whatever you find, you will need to practice that technique and develop strength in that specific movement pattern. While your specific technique should be at the forefront of your training, other variations including high bar, front squat, close stance, wide stance, etc. all have their place in your training and will all be good variations to include to keep driving that adaptation and making your squat a monster lift 🙂

Field Sports
Now this one is the worst “It depends” than all the above! There are so many variables here that its a little silly to even try and put it in an article.

It depends on the sport, position you play, where are you in the season if you are currently playing, where is the end goal and then how do you move as an athlete.

For example, if you play rugby then yes I’d suggest back squatting to get you strong(er). But if it messes you up and then you can’t perform during practice or worse during the game day then its had a negative effect. Everything you do needs to support and supplement your performance on the field. Vice versa, you can have the prettiest/ sexiest back squat the world has ever seen and lift an amazing amount of weight but if you can’t translate that to performance on the field then it is wasted.

The squat is an extremely valuable exercise to strength athletes and field sport athletes alike but it serves different roles in different sports. Hopefully these ideas have given you a good jump on properly selecting squatting styles for you and your athletes. Know what and when and if you don’t then ask questions!

Milo – Milo@crossfitthames.com

Wednesday Oly Club

1)Snatch + Hang snatch
4 x 2@ 70-80% or RPE 7-8

2) Back squats
4 x 2@75-80%

3) Snatch pulls
3 x 2@RPE 8
1 x 1 @RPE 8

4) Pull ups
3 x 5-10

5) Side plank rotations w/db
3 x 8-12

Sunday Oly Club

1) Power clean + Hang Power clean
3 x 2@75-82.5%

2) Front squat
3 x 2@75-80%

3)Jerk dip+ Split jerk
3 x 1+1@75-80% or RPE 7-8

4) Clean Pulls
3 x 2@RPE8

5) Hamstring curls
3 x amap

6)Tricep work
3 sets