A great functional exercise to help tone and develop the quadriceps and glutes is the frog squat. It has gained popularity as a popular workout for both cosmetic and health reasons since it is particularly good at toning the glutes and lower extremities.
The frog squat is a bodyweight squat variation that can aid in the improvement of squat depth, knee and ankle mobility, and lower-body strength with a reduced risk for lower-back injury. It is achieved by squatting deeply and lifting your glutes halfway up while maintaining a parallel torso to the ground.
This article discusses how frog squats provide beginners and advanced lifters with a great supplemental exercise movement to help improve form, technique, strength, flexibility, and mobility on more traditional squats.
The frog squat is a practical workout that may help lifters strengthen their glutes and add depth to their squats. The stance and movements are a combination of the sumo squat, the good mornings, and the deep or Asian squat.
They are usually performed with a wider-than-shoulder stance and outward rotation of the feet up to a 30° angle, almost similar to a sumo squat. At the top of the movement, the body is positioned parallel to the floor with slightly bended knees, just like the good mornings, and at the bottom, the person is at a full squat position.
The exercise engages the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves when performed flawlessly. Other lower-body muscles, such as the hip adductors and flexors, are also recruited significantly. They also decently activate the abdominals and back muscles.
Stand with feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and rotate the feet outward at a 10-30 degree angle. With a slight bend in the knees, push the buttocks out, engage the core and slowly lower the body to a full squat position.
Once at the bottom of the movement, extend the arms forward until the back of the elbows are at the inner side of the knees. Then, palms facing each other, bring the hands together in a praying pose and flex the elbow at a 90° angle.
If the knees are buckling inwards, apply a little outward force on the elbows until the knees are directly above the toes. This will become the starting position for the frog squat.
Pushing through the heels of the feet, tense up the quads and glutes, driving the hip above the knee, and stop when the body is parallel to the floor. Maintain elbow placement and a straight back throughout the ROM. Do not arch the back when raising the hips. Try using a mirror to correct the form.
Do not fully extend the knees at the top of the movement. Instead, always maintain a slight bend (about 45° angle of knee flexion) to maintain constant tension of the lower body muscles. Then, return to the starting position while keeping core tension, elbow placement, knees directly above the toes, and the back straight at all times. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
When utilized correctly, frog squats help improve knee and ankle mobility, eliminate compensatory movements, and promote mastery of squatting techniques.
People who lack optimum joint mobility or stability demonstrate movement compensations in exercises or daily activities, which may lead to inefficient strength utilization and often leads to injuries. The body's attempt to lessen effort or fatigue by utilizing a more comfortable movement pattern following a path of least resistance is called a compensatory movement pattern.
Squats with the proper form are necessary to increase muscular activation while decreasing the risk of injury. However, compensatory movement patterns are most common in several squat variations, like the sumo and full squat, when the lifter's knee starts to ride past the toes. As a result, they tend to utilize a wider-than-necessary stance with a more outward rotation of the feet, and their knees buckle in when their thighs go lower than their knees.
The frog squats' positioning of the elbows on the inner side of the thighs prevents the knees from buckling inward when the movement goes past a 90° angle of knee flexion. In addition, frog squats help train the lifter to eliminate compensatory movements by forcing the knee into the same position throughout the range of motion (ROM).
According to a 2009 research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science by Kasuyama et al., one of the most important criteria for a deep squat is the ankle's range of dorsiflexion in the sagittal plane, or the ankle's flexibility to allow the knees to ride beyond the toes.
A lack of ankle dorsiflexion flexibility restricts the ROM in one plane of movement. The person then needs to redirect the action to a new plane that presents a path of least resistance. As a result, some people often exhibit excessive outward rotation of the feet and the knees buckling inwards when performing deep squats.
However, these compensatory movements unintentionally shift the focus of muscle recruitment or activation to other muscle groups and present a problem of training ineffectiveness for the lifter.
Ankle joint mobility limitation or tightness in the calf complex might be contributing to that person's compromised ability to perform a full squat. The frog squat helps correct these as the elbows placement forces the knees to stay in position and allows the person to train the ankles progressively to enable the knees to ride past the toes in the same plane.
However, one should only go down as low as their ankles permit without any pain, discomfort, or sacrificing balance by lifting the heels. Train progressively by trying to go lower each session until you are able to perform a full squat.
A proper form must always be observed when lifting to reduce the risk of joint or lower back injury. Frog squats help develop an appropriate form for lifting as they exhibit functional movement that mimics the correct technique for lifting weights off the ground.
Frog squats help train the body to maintain a straight back throughout the range of motion. Exercises such as the frog squat help train the body to maintain a straight back throughout the ROM, and that not only applies to lifting but also more directly in daily activities and sports.
The frog squat is also considered a safe alternative for those who want to strengthen their glutes, quads, and hamstrings but suffer lower back pain. This variation provides better stability for the torso as it uses the elbows to support the upper body and stabilizes the trunk during the movement.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to how low one should squat. This is due to the fact that how far a person can squat is governed by a number of elements, including hip and ankle mobility. While a full squat engages more muscles than a parallel squat, as demonstrated in a study by Kubo et al., it is prudent to engage in squatting cautiously and just as far as one's mobility allows.
One should only squat as low as his body allows while still maintaining proper form. A few squatting mobility restriction determinants are muscle or joint pains and compensatory movement patterns.
When going beyond what his current mobility allows, certain compensatory movements exhibit in ways like lifting the heels off, inward buckling of the knees, or arching of the back as they go deeper in their squats. These are the reasons why the frog squat is an excellent supplemental exercise for beginners and advanced lifters alike.
The frog squat is a functional exercise requiring the body to bend at several joints and use various muscle groups that mimic many everyday tasks like getting up from a chair, kneeling down on one knee, or picking things up from the floor. Daily frog squat exercises will help acquire the capacity to squat deeply. In addition, as squat depth increases, it may become more comfortable to perform more complex and weighted squat variations.
1. Kasuyama T, Sakamoto M, Nakazawa R. Ankle joint dorsiflexion measurement using the deep squatting posture. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2009;21(2):195-9.
2. Kubo K, Ikebukuro T, Yata H. Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(9):1933-1942. doi:10.1007/s00421-019-04181-y
3. Caterisano A, Moss RF, Pellinger TK, et al. The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. J Strength Cond Res. 2002;16(3):428-432.