Most people would benefit from adding back squats to their workout routine. There are times when we are unable to perform our duties. The following exercises are better than squats for building leg strength in the long term but can be used at various points in your training to continue building strength and fixing weaknesses.
Why The Squat is an Important Exercise
You’re working many muscles when you perform a squat because it’s a compound movement and, therefore, a very efficient exercise.
This exercise strengthens your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. In addition, the increased lower-body strength from squats can improve your performance and reaction time if you’re involved in sports.
Why Should You Do Squats?
Increased Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength
Squatting will make you more potent on a holistic level, so the amount of weight your body will carry increases over time. We can improve our performance by putting extra stress on our muscles, connective tissues, nervous system, and joints. Using Squats will cause our bodies to adapt and grow.
Leg and Glute Development
Regular attention to doing Squats and squats variations increases an individual’s ability to produce power when sprinting. Squat training can help develop the leg and glute muscles, improving sprinting power production.
- Athletic capacity
- Knee and hip health
- Running speed
- Explosive power and strength
- Lean body mass
The Back Squat is a crucial movement for athletes and lifters who need strong legs. The Squat targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, making it foundational to overall strength development.
Increase Leg Power and Explosiveness
Having robust, powerful, and explosive legs can help you with many different types of exercises and sports, so squats are a great exercise to do in the gym to improve your athletic ability.
How to Back Squat Properly
One of the first movements beginner lifters learn is back squatting. Still, many experienced lifters may experience injuries and pains from incorrect Squat technique and insufficient recovery time.
- Set your base.
Step under a barbell that is in a rack. This step is critical to properly engaging the upper Back (step 2), set a firm foundation with the core, and mentally preparing for the un-racking of the barbell.
Place your feet in the squat stance when taking the weight off the rack, as this will help you squat the load rather than stepping in and out with one foot. When you add more plates and the loads get heavier, this is even more important.
This step is critical if you are lifting heavy weights. Do not rush this process.
- Get a grip.
The width of your grip should allow you to dial in a complete grasp on the barbell. A secure grip will allow you to properly contract your upper Back and traps to secure the barbell in the high-bar Squat position. Place the barbell on the traps rather than on the rear delts or lower Back.
Be sure to flex your upper Back and traps when doing this; this will place the bar on the softer muscular area of your Back. Make sure not to overextend your Back while doing this, as it will cause you to lose tension and bracing in your core.
Make sure you’re holding the bar tightly and in a comfortable position. Bring the barbell to your shoulders and keep it there, your body tight and your core engaged. The barbell should be pulled into the body close to the shoulder. The body should be tight and the core engaged.
- Step out and get stable.
When you have removed the barbell from the rack, take a few steps back, using either a two or 3-step approach, as this will help to minimize barbell movement and conserve energy. The feet should be positioned to be hip-width apart, with the toes slightly pointed out. The chest should be lifted, and the core and obliques engaged.
Don’t lean too far forward, as this high-bar Squat variation should allow you to keep your torso upright.
A lot of people need help with the pre-squat routine. This is especially true for beginners and people who could be stronger. Always use the same techniques when setting up and walking out of a squat, as this will help make the process more automatic.
- Pull yourself down into the Squat.
With both feet planted on the ground, distribute your weight evenly throughout both feet. Slightly push your hips back while simultaneously allowing your knees to bend forwards, following the direction of your toes. Be sure not to lean forward too much or collapse your thoracic spine by keeping your upper Back locked.
When you’re doing yoga, you should imagine gripping the floor with your toes and creating a space for your belly between your thighs. “knees out” is often used as a cue, which can improve the situation for some people (although it can also cause their knees to bend too much). Think about pulling your torso straight down so that your abdominals and hip flexors help lower the movement.
When you lower yourself into a squat, take your time and be aware of your body. You should feel any weight shifting back or forward, and make sure not to collapse your torso.
- Squat to depth and stand up.
Many people squat to a depth parallel or below. Once you have reached the desired depth in your Squat, push your Back upwards into the bar while pushing your feet aggressively through the floor. Be sure to keep the weight in your heels (and toes). Stand with your chest high and core locked.
Make sure that your spine is in a straight line and your heels are touching the ground. A rule of thumb when assessing the high-bar Squat technique is that the shin angle should be parallel to the spine. If the angles created by the arms and legs continue in the same direction, it could indicate that the person has a forward lean, which is not desired.
For this exercise, you should focus on feeling your legs (quadriceps), upper Back, and hips working.
4 Squat Variations to Use When You Can’t Back Squat
You can use four squat variations to increase muscle hypertrophy, strength, and movement patterns without having to back Squat. The first three exercises can be swapped when a barbell or back-loaded Squat is unavailable.
No Barbell Or Weights
A time will come when you’ll be eager for a challenging leg workout but have no access to a barbell or weights. If you want to grow your legs and don’t have access to a barbell, performing squats with dumbbells or your body weight can help.
There are several ways to damage and stress muscles without using heavy weights, such as tempos, drop sets, and pauses.
1. Pistol Squat
The pistol squat is a move that you can do with just your body weight that requires being able to move well, being strong, and being able to keep your balance. This movement can be made more accessible by breaking it into smaller parts. This is an excellent movement for people of any level to begin practicing.
Additionally, doing a pistol squat can help improve strength in one arm, increase lower body joint stability, and improve the core strength needed for squats using a barbell with both arms.
2. Unilateral Squat
One-sided movements are helpful exercises for increasing muscle size and improving muscle activation and can help to address strength imbalances on a single-limb basis.
The following exercises can help to improve strength and movement in people with single-leg muscle imbalances and to a pattern: lunges, step-ups, and split squats. They are also good to do when external loading is limited.
3. Sled Push
Sled training is a great way to strengthen your lower body, power, and muscle mass. You can increase your physical attributes by manipulating the loading on the sled, time durations of the push, and rest periods. If you don’t have a sled, you can still do plate pushes for your metabolic conditioning workout.
4. Goblet Squat
Goblet squats represent a basic squatting exercise that can reduce stress on the lower spine, improve one’s posture during squatting, and identify any issues with mobility in the hip, knee, ankle, or upper limbs.
The goblet squat can be further enhanced by using tempos which can help establish outstanding balance, control motor units and increase muscular strength without needing to use heavier loads.
More Squat Variations
To achieve a perfect Squat, stand tall with feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, neck straight, and abdominal muscles engaged. Keep arms out in front and bent at elbows, with palms facing down. Alternatively, you may adopt the “Aladdin” arm-cross (elbows out, arms crossed, hands on opposite biceps). Lower your body slowly so your thighs are parallel to the floor, and then push the butt back as if sitting in a chair. Do not worry if your knees go forward over your toes; this is normal, depending on limb length, flexibility, and hip joints. If it does not cause pain, it is considered acceptable. Return to a standing position to complete the exercise.
Start in the basic Squat beginning position. Lift left leg, bending knee slightly to get the foot off the floor.
You can hold your raised foot slightly in front of or behind you — whichever feels more steady. Using only your right leg, lower yourself as far as is comfortable. Return to standing.
Try not to put your left foot down between reps. You can use a wall or chair for support if needed. Repeat on the other side — no one wants unbalanced biscuits.
Do a basic squat, but instead of returning to standing, stay in the lowest range where your thighs are parallel to the floor and move up and down, keeping the movement small (a few inches up or down) and fast.
A plyometric movement is any movement where you’re temporarily off the ground. (That’s code for “jump.”) Plyo moves not only work your muscles but also to add some cardio to your strength training. So, to take your basic Squat to the next level, add a jump!
Start in a beginning Squat position. Lower yourself about halfway, then jump up before landing on your feet. You can swing your arms for momentum if you like.
Frogs are known for being fantastic jumpers, so let out your inner amphibian — you know you have one.
Stand with feet planted wide. Keep toes and knees pointed slightly out and butt low to the floor.
With your hands placed on the floor in front of you. Hop up, preferably while making your best “ribbit” sound. Then land back in the frog Squat.
Squat box jump
If you’re looking to add a little bit of excitement to your workout routine, try out this squat jump exercise!
Stand in front of a large, stable box. Lower into a basic squat. Instead of standing up, jump with both feet and land on the box in a squat position. Step or jump off and repeat.
Use a low box that is no more than 1 foot high. Start with lower boxes and work up to higher ones as your strength and confidence improve. Be very careful when you land on the box; if you don’t land with both feet on the box, your shins will be hurt.
Squats with equipment
TRX pistol Squat
A traditional pistol squat (No. 4) can be tough to master. It requires a unique blend of muscle control, strength, balance, and coordination. There’s a lot of falling on your bum between your first attempt and the perfect pistol.
Using a TRX can help you master the motion without the butt bruises. Stand in front of the TRX, grasping both handles with arms extended. Lift your left leg.
Slower lower with the right leg, using the TRX to stabilize yourself. Try to stand up using as much of your strength as you can. Allow the TRX to give you that last little pull back up to standing.
Upside-down BOSU squat
Live out your dream by practicing squats on a BOSU with the bubble side down.
Stand in front of the BOSU. If you’re brave and trust your balance, the easiest way to get on is to hop with both feet and land on top of it.
If you’re more cautious, step one foot at a time into the center and then heel-toe your feet out until they’re hip-width apart. Do a basic squat.