Learn 8 different squat exercises that ANY woman can choose from to lose weight, improve bone strength and fitness.

If you’re a woman (including postmenopausal) who wants to lose weight or get more fit, do not be intimidated by the squat exercise.

There are many different ways to do the squat exercise. When I was a personal trainer at a health club, I instructed many women, including those of menopausal or postmenopausal age, in how to safely do the squat version that was best for them.

Following is a list of different types of squats that women can try. Because some women thrive on challenges, I’ll begin with the barbell squat varieties.

The standard stance is feet shoulder width apart and feet facing ahead or a little bit out.

The big rule in ANY kind of squat is to always maintain an arch in the lower back, always; never round the back!

Back Squat

The barbell is across the upper part of your back, hands wide apart on it, palms facing forward. You then sink to a squat. If you can break parallel, then do so.

The challenge: getting into a parallel position while keeping the lower back arch. If this is not possible, one or more of three elements can explain why:

1) Thighs are longer than torso, creating mechanical disadvantage, 2) Hips are very tight, and 3) Very stiff ankles. The most likely reason is #1, which you can’t change.

For women struggling with #1, see if widening your stance doesn’t solve the problem. If not, point feet outward about 20-30 degrees and see what happens.

For other women, keep practicing, and use the lightest bar possible until you master the form. Sinking below parallel (half-way between a half and a full squat) is easier on the knees.

Overhead Squat
I recommend this to postmenopausal and younger women who have no shoulder or back problems, but who have issues with the longer thighs to torso ratio.

The overhead position of the barbell acts as an extension of the torso, thus making it easier to get to parallel.

The barbell is held overhead with straight arms, hands wide apart. Practice with the lightest barbell at first, and work up from there.

Front Squat
The arms are bent up in front, barbell tucked between upper and lower arms.

This will really make it easier for women to squat parallel, but the caveat is the issue of managing the barbell from the front with the folded arms.

Some women will actually prefer this over the other squat varieties. Again, begin with the lightest barbell possible.

Dumbbell Squat
Hold dumbbells on either side of body with straight arms. Lower to parallel (or below if possible).

An advanced version is to hold the dumbbells between the legs. Though this will make it easier to drop to parallel, it will cause more tension in the arms and have a tendency to pull the torso forward.

Goblet Squat
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest level, as close to the chest as possible.

Sink to parallel, and go lower if possible, keeping the weight in position throughout.

That’s basically it, but a more advanced version is to stay in the squat with the elbows against inner thighs/knees, and push the legs out for some stretching, before rising.

Bottom Dumbbell or Kettlebell Squat
Stand with feet wide apart, toes pointed outward, and with straight arms, back straight, hold one dumbbell between legs.

Now lower to parallel, but don’t let the weight touch the floor or ground.

If this is not possible, then place feet on short platforms with the floor in between each leg, so that when you lower, there’s room for the weight to lower without touching the ground.

Body Weight Squat
Hold arms out straight in front, and lower to parallel or more. If this is not possible, widen the stance until you can drop to parallel. If it’s still not possible, then you likely have very stiff hips and/or ankles.

Do not force anything. Just keep practicing. For women who can do this easily, try it with hands on hips, then hands folded on head, then folded behind head.

Stability Ball Squat
Place ball between your back and the wall. Keep back against the ball at all times; do not drift forward.

Lower into squat, but make sure that the feet are ahead of the knees. You may do body weight only or hold dumbbells straight at sides.

For women, including postmenopausal, who want to get serious with squats, you just need to keep practicing and always, always keep the arch in your lower back. If your back is rounding, something needs to be adjusted.

Women should do squats. This includes overweight women and thin postmenopausal women. Postmenopausal women of all sizes should do squats.

When I see older women struggling to get out of a car seat, I think, “That woman never did squats.”

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.