3 Squat Variations for Endurance Athletes

STACK Expert George Kalantzis explains how Squats can be a valuable training exercise for endurance athletes.

It's marathon season. If you are like most endurance athletes, you may think that to get better at your sport, you must practice it continually. And I would agree to a point, since specificity is king to succeed in a specialized sport.

However, in order to prevent structural and muscular imbalances, it would be wise for endurance athletes to consider a strength training program that emphasizes full range of motion through multiple joints. A strong Squat can help address such imbalances.

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One of the best things endurance athletes can do is to incorporate Squats into their training routine.

Squatting is a compound movement that targets many of same muscle groups required for running, cycling or swimming. The primary movers are the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, in addition to the erectors, abdominal muscles and calves. The degree of flexion and extension of the knees, hips and ankles required during the movement can lead to increased muscle mass around the joints, improving stability.

Why are Squats useful to endurance athletes?

Think about the final leg of an event and the all-out effort required to get past the finish line. You must exert all your strength and power to produce muscle fiber recruitment when you need it most. Squatting heavy teaches your body to move heavier loads for lower reps, resulting in increased power and force production. Then, when you push your body for that last-ditch effort to get up a hill or sprint past the finish line, it will be able to do so.

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3 Variations Endurance Athletes Should Try

Front Squats

The Front Squat is traditionally a quad-dominant exercise. Given the position of the bar, you are forced to use your hips and core more than you do in a Back Squat. Essentially, as Coach Miguel Aragoncillo says, Front Squats are just legs and abs.

Zercher Squats

If you have not tried these in your training regimen, you've been missing out. Zercher Squats require a huge emphasis on the posterior chain muscles and the core to perform the movement.

Bulgarian Split-Squat or Rear-Foot-Elevated Squat

As with the other variations, the primary movers are still your quadriceps, glutes and hip flexors; but the single-leg version also addresses any imbalances you may have.


Assuming you are not within a few weeks of a major endurance event, the Squat and its variations are great exercises to add to your training arsenal. They confer huge benefits to endurance athletes who have not already incorporated them into their routines.

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