Alternating Squats – Three Great Variations

Squat progressions
Squats have been an integral part of exercise programs for decades.  There are dozens of variations on the “squatting” theme.  However, performing alternating squats challenges the body differently than traditional bilateral squats.  Consequently, this week, we will feature three great progressions of alternating squats.

Progressions utilizing external resistance such as dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags or barbells may be added once you have mastered that particular version without external resistance first.  The key is to reach a point where you are no longer achieving momentary muscle failure during each set and require further challenge to progress.  This is when attempting the alternating squats on the step platform or BOSU may continue providing you with variety and challenge.  That said, due to the stability requirements of the step platform and to a greater extent on the BOSU, do not assume that the external load you can manage on the floor may be achieved on the step, or BOSU.  As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

*For all three alternating squats, begin with the head/neck a natural extension of your spine, shoulders rotated back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, pelvic floor engaged and the knees relaxed. Perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions (i.e., R/L equals one repetition) of one of the following variations, two-three times/week on non-consecutive days.

Alternating Squats – Floor

  • Stand with the feet shoulder distance apart, shoulders/hips/knees/toes facing forward.
  • Step out to the right, leading with your right heel, hinging from the hips, so that the body weight rests in both the right and left heels.  Knees should remain over heels, as your tailbone is directed to the wall behind you.
  • Keep the torso upright/vertical, remembering that the hinging is initiating from the hip joint, not the waistline.  
  • Step back into the beginning position with the feet and then squat to the left, leading with your left heel duplicating the right lead progression. *Avoid leaning toward the lead side. 

Alternating Squats – Step Platform

  • Stand with both feet on top of a 4-12 inch step platform facing one of the ends of the step (i.e. short side of the step).
  • Step out to the right, leading with your right heel, hinging from the hips, so that the body weight rests in both the right and left heels.  The legs will “stagger” somewhat from front to back with the right leg slightly behind the left.
  • It is essential that both heels remain down as you squat out to the right.
  • Step back on top of the step with the right foot and then squat to the left, leading with your left heel duplicating the right lead progression.

Alternating Squats – BOSU Balance Trainer

  • Stand with both feet on top of the BOSU.
  • Step out to the right, leading with your right heel, hinging from the hips, so that the body weight rests in both the right and left heels.  The legs will “stagger” somewhat from front to back with the right leg slightly behind the left.
  • It is essential that both heels remain down as you squat out to the right.
  • Step back on top of the BOSU with the right foot and then squat to the left, leading with your left heel duplicating the right lead progression.

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