10 Great Squat Exercises for the Glutes Hips and Thighs

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Squat with an Exercise Ball

Paige Waehner

Squats are a great exercise for the glutes, hips and thighs and adding a ball to the move can add great support for the back while allowing you to get into perfect squat position to protect the knees.

  1. Stand with about hip or shoulder-width apart and place an exercise ball behind your lower back and against a sturdy wall for support.
  2. If you choose to hold weights, you can keep them at your sides, hold them just over the shoulders or prop them on the upper thighs.
  3. Bend the knees and lower into a squat, keeping the knees in line with the toes.
  4. Lower down as far as you can (but no lower than 90 degrees) and push into the heels to go back to starting position.
  5. Do 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

Tips:

  • Keep your knees in line with your toes.
  • Press through the heel of you foot as you push up from the squat.
  • Avoid letting the knee bend over the toe.

Next Exercise:  Plie Squats

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Plie Squats

Plie Ball Squat
Paige Waehner

Plei squats are a great way to target the inner thighs along with the hips and glutes. In this version, you want to keep the knees in line with the toes.  Always work with your own flexibility and only go down as low as you comfortably can.

  1. Stand with feet wide, toes out at about a 45-degree angle and place an exercise ball behind your lower back for support.
  2. If you choose to hold weights, you can keep them at your sides or prop them on the hips.
  3. Bend the knees and lower into a squat, keeping the knees in line with the toes.
  4. Lower down as far as your flexibility allows and push into the heels to go back to starting position.
  5. Do 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

Tips:

  • Keep your knees in line with your toes. If your knees want to angle inward, adjust the angle of your toes to a more comfortable place.
  • Press through the heel of you foot as you push up from the lunge to engage your inner thighs.
  • Avoid letting the knee bend over the toe.

Next Exercise:  Ball Squat with a Medicine Ball

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Ball Squat with Medicine Ball

Paige Waehner

Another variation on the squat is to squeeze a medicine ball between the knees. This targets more inner thigh at the same time you're firing the muscles of the quads, glutes and hamstrings for added intensity.

  1. Place an exercise ball behind your lower back and against a sturdy wall for support.
  2. Squeeze a medium-weight medicine ball between the knees. If you choose to hold weights, you can keep them at your sides, hold them just over the shoulders or prop them on the upper thighs.
  3. Bend the knees and lower into a squat while squeezing the medicine ball to keep it in place.
  4. Lower down as far as you can (but no lower than 90 degrees) and push into the heels to go back to starting position.
  5. Do 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

Next Exercise:  Bounce Squats

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Bounce Squats

Paige Waehner

The Bounce Squat is yet another way to work the lower body, this time in a more dynamic way. You'll use the ball to bounce up and down, pausing at the top of the movement, which will really work the hips and thighs. You'll find this is a great warm-up move before moving into heavier strength training and it's also a great way to help exhaust your muscles when you don't have a lot of time to workout.

  1. Begin by sitting on the ball with your feet about hip-width apart, abs engaged and hands resting on the ball.
  2. Bounce up into a half-squat, keeping your fingers on the ball to make sure it doesn't roll away.
  3. Sit back down on the ball and immediately bounce up again, pausing at the top before repeating for 1-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
  4. Make sure you keep the ball under you the entire time. You may want to steady the ball against a wall if you feel nervous about this one.

Next Exercise:  Wall Sits with a Leg Lift

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Wall Sits with Leg Lift

Paige Waehner

Wall sits are a great exercise for warming up the lower body, building endurance and pre-exhausting the legs before a lower body workout. This can also be an option for people who have trouble with traditional squats and lunges because of knee pain. Because you're lifting one foot off the floor, you'll have to work hard to keep your balance. Hold onto a wall or chair for balance if needed.

  1. With a ball against the wall and supporting your back, stand with feet about hip-distance apart.
  2. Lower into a squat until the thighs are parallel to the floor, knees behind the toes.
  3. In the same sitting position, shift your weight to the right foot and lift the left foot off the floor a few inches. Try to keep the weight in the heel of the right foot.
  4. Lower the foot and shift your weight to the left leg, lifting the right foot off the floor. Try to keep the squat position without lifting up.
  5. Continue alternating leg lifts while staying in your squat as low as you can.
  6. Hold onto a wall or chair for balance if needed and add intensity, if desired, by holding weights.
  7. Repeat for 30-60 seconds, 1-3 times.

Next Exercise:  Tiptoe Squats

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Tiptoe Squats

Paige Waehner

Another variation of traditional squats is the tiptoe squat, a move that really challenges the quads and calves and requires no equipment. This is a great exercise to do when you want to warm up the legs, especially if you're traveling or don't have weights available. The key to keeping this move safe and effective is to keep the abs engaged throughout the exercise. If you feel any pain in the knees, skip this move.

  1. Stand with feet about hip-distance apart and squat down, placing the hands on the floor, raising up onto the toes.
  2. Stay on the toes as you straighten the knees, taking the hips towards the ceiling.
  3. Keep the abs engaged to protect the lower back.
  4. Still on your toes, bend the knees to lower back down and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  5. To modify, place your hands on a chair or other raised platform.

Next Exercise:  Sumo Squats

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Sumo Squat

Paige Waehner

The sumo squat is a wide-legged squat with a focus on the inner thighs, a nice variation on traditional squats. Because your toes are turned out at an angle, the key to keeping this move safe is to make sure your knees stay in line with the toes. How far you squat will depend on the flexibility of your inner thighs, so only go as far as you comfortably can.

  1. Stand in a wide stance with toes out at about a 45-degree angle (or whatever feels comfortable).
  2. Hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell (shown) in both hands and, keeping the torso upright, bend the knees into a squat.
  3. Lower as far as you can, keeping the knees in line with the toes.
  4. Push into the heels to come up and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

Next Exercise:  Wide Squat Weight Exchange

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Wide Squat Weight Exchange

Paige Waehner

The wide squat with a weight exchange is a dynamic version of a plie squat with a little added intensity. The idea is to squat low to place the weight on the floor, stand up, then squat back down to pick up the weight in the other hand. The key to this exercise is to, first, use a heavy weight to get the most out of the exercise. Second, try to get as much squat as possible - In other words, more squat, less reach. Keep your torso up rather than rounding at the back. If you're inner thighs are tight, you can straddle a step or raised platform to make the move easier.

  1. Stand with the feet wide, toes out at a comfortable angle and hold a very heavy weight in the left hand.
  2. Squat as low as you can, keeping the torso upright and the abs engaged.
  3. Place the weight on the floor and push into the heels to stand up.
  4. Avoid locking the knees at the top of the movement.
  5. Squat once again and pick up the weight with the other hand.
  6. Squat placing the weight down and continue squatting down and up, exchanging the weight each time.
  7. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps. One rep includes both the right and left weight exchange.

Next Exercise:  Goblet Squats

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Goblet Squats

Paige Waehner

Goblet squats are an excellent choice for working the lower body, particularly if having a weight on your back, as in barbell squats, is awkward or uncomfortable. Holding the weight in front and close to your body will help you keep your torso upright as you squat down, protecting the back and the knees.

  1. Hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell by the horns (as shown) close to the body, elbows down. Place the feet about hip-width apart, although you should feel free to adjust your foot position if this is uncomfortable or puts a strain on your knees.
  2. Squat down, keeping the weight close to the chest, going as low as you can and bringing the elbows to the inside of the knees.
  3. Keep the torso upright and the abs engaged.
  4. Press back up, squeezing through the glutes. Avoid locking the knees at the top of the movement.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Next Exercise:  Goblet Squat with Rotation

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Goblet Squat with Rotation

Paige Waehner

Adding an overhead press and rotation to a traditional goblet squat is a great way to increase the intensity of the exercise and raise your heart rate. Make sure you pivot on both feet as you rotate to one side to avoid tweaking the knees.

  1. Hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell by the horns (as shown) at chest level, feet wide.
  2. Lower into a squat, bringing the elbows towards the inside of the thighs, or as low as you can.
  3. Make sure you send the hips back and keep the knees from going too far past the toes.
  4. As you stand up, take the weight overhead and rotate to the right, pivoting on both feet.
  5. Lower and repeat on the left, completeting 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps, alternating sides.

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