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a woman performs a barbell back squat

You Know the Barbell Back Squat . . .

“The barbell back squat is one of the premier compound exercises, working muscles around multiple joints in your lower body,” says Nicole Volpe Miller, a certified group fitness instructor based in Broomfield, Colo. “You’re building power and muscle in your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. You can feel all of your muscle fibers are loaded and straining. It’s a big confidence builder to push heavy weight out of a squat.”

. . . Now Meet the Goblet Squat

Goblet squats can sometimes be easier for those with limited ankle-dorsiflexion mobility to get to depth because the weight in front is a counterbalance, explains Miller.

To Do It Right: Stand with your feet anywhere from just outside hip width to shoulder width apart and hold a kettlebell between your hands in front of your chest. (You can also do this with a dumbbell.) Lower into a squat, keeping your knees tracked toward your middle toes. “Check to make sure your knees are not collapsing inward,” says Miller, “and that your torso is maintained as upright as possible.”

. . . and the Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat builds levels of quad strength that are similar to the barbell back squat, while the upright posture challenges core stability, notes human-performance educator Mike T. Nelson, PhD.

To Do It Right: Hold a barbell in the crooks of your bent elbows. Lower into a squat, keeping your biceps flexed, and your torso braced and upright. Drive through your feet to return to the starting position. If holding a barbell in this way is uncomfortable, try wrapping the barbell in a yoga mat or other cushioned material, or use a sandbag instead. (Try these other Zercher variations.)

This was excerpted from “Beyond the Basics” which was published in the October 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Photography by: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Heather King
Sarah Tuff

Sarah Tuff Dunn is a Colorado-based outdoors, health, fitness, and nutrition writer.

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