It goes without saying: Squats are great. The classic lower-body exercise is an essential functional movement pattern not only for maintaining strong legs but for making it through life injury-free. But only doing regular squats is like going your whole life only drinking one kind of smoothie—it'll get the job done, but you're missing out on the awesome benefits (and fun!) of all the other variations.
Enter, the sumo squat: the super-wide version of the basic bodyweight squat demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti. It's one of many squat variations you can add to your lower-body workout routine-but one of the most worthwhile. Here's why.
"The sumo squat is a great lower-body strength exercise that emphasizes the muscles of the inner thigh, as well as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves," says Lisa Niren, head instructor for Studio.
It's a surprise core exercise too. "Based on your core strength, you might find the sumo squat adds an additional challenge to your balance because your body is in a different alignment and needs extra stability to keep from moving forward and back on the heels," says Niren.
Once you've mastered the bodyweight version, you can load it up. Choose between weights (dumbbells or kettlebells) either in a racked position (in front of/over your shoulders) or use one weight and hold it with both hands hanging between your legs, says Christi Marraccini, trainer at NEO U in New York City. As you become more comfortable with the sumo squat, you can load up a barbell and perform them the same way you would do a barbell back squat. Bonus: You can likely handle even heavier weight in a sumo squat than a traditional squat.
For an added bonus (or to make it harder when you're at home or don't have weights), loop a mini resistance band around both legs just above the knee, says Heidi Jones, Fortë trainer and founder of Squad WOD. (Then bang out these other lower-body resistance band exercises.)
A. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out at about 45 degrees.
B. Inhale to sit hips back and lower into a squat, clasping hands in front of chest, keeping core engaged and back neutral.
C. Pause at the bottom, when hips are in line with knees or when form starts to break. Shins should be vertical and knees should be tracking over (but past) toes.
D. Exhale to press into heels and outer edge of foot to stand.
Do 12 to 15 reps at a medium weight. Try 4 sets.