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5 Squat Variations to Boost Strength and Power for Running

The squat is an essential component in your gym workout. It’s a full-body, multi-joint exercise that strengthens nearly every muscle in your body. But it mainly focuses on quadriceps, hamstrings, hips and glutes. These are the dominant muscle group that powers the action of running. When these muscles are strong and flexible, you’ll be able to run faster and longer without getting injured.  

 Areas covered in this article, 

  1. Body weight Squat
  2. Sumo Squat
  3. Single leg squat
  4. Jump Squat
  5. Lateral Squat
  6. How to recover sore legs after squats?

Squats are also a good exercise to develop stronger and functional joints as it improves hip flexion, knee extension, and ankle dorsiflexion. It also strengthens bones, ligaments, and insertion of the tendons in your legs. In short, runners can immensely improve their performance while becoming less prone to injuries with squats.  

All squat variations work on the same muscle group. But each variation’s emphasis is on the different muscles in the group. As you are learning which of your muscles needs further work, you can add the suitable squat variations to your exercise routine.  

These are the best squats for runners. 

1. Body weight squat 

 This is the first variation you should master before moving to others.  

  1. Stand firmly on your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Push your hip back and lower as if you are trying to sit in a chair. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  3. Angle the upper body forward and keep your hands extended forward to find balance. 
  4. Now engage your core by squeezing your glutes and push yourself to stand up quickly. 
  5. Breathe in as you lower and breathe out as you stand up. 

2. Sumo Squat

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and the toes pointing out.  
  2. Try to keep your back straight and lower your hips, if possible, until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  3. Make sure you are doing it correctly. The body weight is supposed to feel like propped on the heels. 
  4. Push your weight into the heels and stand up. 

You can increase the resistance by holding a weight, kettlebell or a medicine ball at chest level. 

3. Single leg squat 

Unilateral exercises improve your balance as well as the strength of the muscles. If you find the muscle strength of each leg is not equal, you can allocate more rounds of this exercise to the weaker leg to get it on par with the other.  

  1. Balance on a leg with your foot firmly on the ground. 
  2. Extend the other leg forward without letting it cave in. 
  3. Just as the other squats try to lower your hip until the thighs are parallel to the ground. 
  4. Then push yourself to stand up. 

This exercise can be challenging. If that’s the case, try the exercise using a bench as a support for your back. Be aware that you don’t lock your knees while attempting to balance. 

 4. Jump squat 

Jump squats are a high-intense variation of the exercise.  

  1. Stand on your feet, hip-width apart. 
  2. Lower to the squat position. 
  3. Try to stay at the lower position for at least 3 seconds. 
  4. Engage your core and jump. 

You need to pay attention to your knees when you are doing this exercise. Make sure your knees bent smoothly as you touch the ground in order to lessen the impact on them. 

5. Lateral squat 

This variation is focused on gluteus medius muscles, and develops hip and knee flexibility and strength, in which you’ll be less prone to hip and knee injuries. 

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart 
  2. Lower about a quarter of squat position 
  3. As you are in the low position, take a big step with your right leg to the right 
  4. Repeat the same with the left leg, to the left side 
  5. Repeat 6-8 rounds with each leg staying in the low position 

How to recover sore legs after squats? 

Squats are intense. Beginners often fail to continue it after a few repetitions. The good thing is, with continuous training the muscles will gradually adapt to the exercise. They will get bulkier and stronger. However, after each workout your muscles might feel sore.  Despite the pain of sore muscles, it is a good thing, as the  muscle pain and weakness after strenuous exercising is not a bad sign. The purpose of intense exercises is to challenge your muscles and let them grow stronger. 

You’ll need to take care of your legs after a workout. Try to avoid exerting activities until the muscles recover. Help your muscles heal faster by massaging them or wearing an active compression tool on your calves for a few minutes after a workout.  

Active compression tools mimic the massage patterns a therapist uses to alleviate muscle pain and inflammation of their patients. These tools should be a part of your workout equipment because leg recovery after squats is as important as the workout itself.   

SPRYNG is the best muscle recovery massage tool on the market. You can wear the device on your calves leg massage to alleviate any cramps or pain in your leg muscles after your intense workout. SPRYNG’s pre-programmed compression patterns will improve the blood flow and let the damaged muscles heal faster.

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