Whether you're toning your tush to pump up hills faster or to look incredible in Summer shorts, squats are a must-do move. Make your squat time count with these techniques and variations.
Feel the Heel, Feel the Toes
Try varying where you place your body weight in order to work different parts of your lower body. Shift weight back into the heels so that you can give your toes a little wiggle — this will target the butt and backs of the thighs. To isolate one leg at a time, do one set with the right heel raised and then repeat with the left. If this is easy, try extending your leg all the way back (a favorite exercise of Cameron Diaz ). Then try lifting your heels as high as you can, balancing on the balls of your feet as you raise and lower. This will work your shins and calves, which is great for runners who want to prevent shin splints and other injuries.
Vary Your Stance
Doing squats with your feet hips-width apart is traditional and effective. But you can better target your inner and outer thighs by widening your stance as in the Goblet Squat pictured above, or go even wider and do Sumo Squats . Try lifting one heel at a time as you raise and lower, or do a calf squeeze by lifting and lowering both heels at the end of each rep. Also experiment between having your feet parallel and pointing your toes out wide.
Slow It Down, Speed It Up
Instead of raising and lowering at the same pace you always do, try slowing down the movement to ensure you're using your muscles and not momentum to move your hips up and down. Then remain in the lowered squat position — this is a major thigh and butt burner — and quickly pulse up and down.
Grab a Set
. . . of dumbbells, that is. Adding weights makes the squat even more challenging. Either hold dumbbells beside your torso or rest them on your shoulders while doing squats; you can also just add a biceps curl or shoulder press to make this a multitasking move.