As a runner, what one strength exercise mimics running? A squat. For what is running but is a series of coordinated single-leg squats. Once you master the proper form a body weight squat, you can challenge yourself with countless squat variations.

We’ll cover the following squat variations in this Workout Wednesday: Body weight squat, Lateral squat, Wall squat, Seat Tap squat, and Single-leg squat.

Before we begin, here’s a quick note about posture, foot stance, and knees. Maintain the curves in your spine, look straight ahead and engage your core. For more detail, see 5 Keys to Improving Your Posture. Use a hip or shoulder-width athletic stance with toes slightly pointed outwards. A wider base provides more stability. If feet are turned out too far (12-15 degrees), you can put undo stress on your joints. Alternatively, you may want to practice your squats with feet parallel with toes pointing forward. If you are unable to squat with toes pointing forward, you may need to do some mobility work. (Watch for future posts about mobility drills). For either foot placement, knees should track toward your second toe (the toe next to your big toe).  And, overall, the key is to perform each exercise with good form, slowly, through a full range of controlled motion.

To perform a perfect body weight squat, you will use a combination of glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and core muscles. The depth of the squat should be comfortable. With practice, your squat depth will have your thighs parallel to the ground. The flexibility of your hips and ankles impact the movement and depth of a squat. For example, if you have tight ankles/calves, your heels may lift. If this happens, raise your heels with a support. Tight hips and hamstrings might hyperextend your low back. So aim to keep the spine neutral.

BASIC SQUAT

man demonstrating basic squat form

  • Stand with feet wider than hip width and toes turned out slightly (or feet parallel). Stabilize your shoulders.
  • Engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine. Keep the chest lifted and chin parallel to the floor.
  • Downward phase: Inhale. Hinge at the hips, shift them back and down while your knees bend. The torso will begin to lean forward. Keep the spine neutral without tucking the tail or arching the low back. Continue to lower until your thighs are nearly parallel or parallel to the floor. Knees shouldn’t go too far past your toes.
  • Upward phase: Keep the knees aligned with the toes and weight evenly distributed between the balls and heels of the feet. Exhale and press into your feet as the hips and torso rise to standing.

Start with 10 repetitions. Perform multiple sets of 2-3x.

LATERAL SQUAT

Runners need to perform lateral movements to reduce the risk of injury. A lateral squat is an easy variation.

  • Stand tall with proper posture and abs engaged.
  • Step sideways wider than hip distance. Squat down and return to standing.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Start with 10 repetitions. Perform multiple sets of 2-3x.

WALL SQUAT

man demonstrating wall squat form

The dreaded wall squat is an isometric or static hold in a squat position against a wall. If you’ve taken a yoga class, Chair pose is the same positioning as a wall squat. If your muscles start to shake, that is fatigue setting in.

  • Standing with your back against a wall, bend your knees and lower to nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Stay here and breathe steadily. The goal is to stay here for a period of time: 15 seconds or more.
  • Return to standing. Rest and repeat.

SEAT TAP SQUAT

man demonstrating seat tap squat form

This variation will require a stationary, stable chair (no office chairs or chairs on wheels). This squat variation fires up your core stability. While maintaining proper form, perform as many squat taps as possible for 30 seconds or 1 minute.

  • Stand in front of your chair with hands on hips or with arms crossed at shoulder height.
  • Squat down to just tap your glutes to the seat of the chair then return to standing.
  • Repeat performing as many squat taps as possible for the desired amount of time.

SINGLE-LEG SQUAT

man demonstrating single leg squat form

Maintaining proper form during a single-leg squat is really challenging (I mean REALLY challenging). This is when muscle imbalances start to appear. So, be mindful of ankle stability, knee tracking (toward the second toe), and hinging (not hiking or lifting) at the hip. Practice doing this type of squat with the support of a wall, counter, or chair until everything is tracking properly. Additionally, you may want to perform these squats while facing a mirror or take a video yourself.

  • Stand near a support surface.
  • With a strong spine and stable core, squat down hinging at the hip and bending the knee.
    Note: You may not find the same depth in your single-leg squat. That’s OK!
  • Return to standing. Repeat.

Start with 10 repetitions. Perform multiple sets of 2-3x.

There you have it, a few squat variations that will make you stronger and help make you a better runner.


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