Effective squat alternatives that you should know.
When you hit the gym, you probably see people doing lots of cardio and calisthenics exercises, as well as weight training. When it comes to tossing around the ol’ weights in order to achieve those much sought after strength and conditioning gains, many people tend to focus on their upper bodies, while only doing a couple of lower body exercises here and there.
That’s because for many gym-goers, leg exercises can seem boring. I mean, you don’t exactly see a lot of people showing off their legs after a workout, but you do see them flexing their upper body muscles and strutting around proudly right after a good weight pumping session.
Squats in particular can seem not only hard to perform, but also boring. But that doesn’t have to be the case—here are some variations of the classic squats that can not only switch things up and be more exciting, but can challenge your lower body muscles and get you those gains that you want.
Kettlebell squats are perfect for beginners because they are probably one of the easiest lower body exercises you can do. They are excellent for not only developing your balance and coordination, but also great for training yourself for more comprehensive squatting lift routines.
Stand upright holding a kettlebell by the horns, and embrace it so that it’s close to your chest.
From this starting position, gradually (no jerking movements) squat downwards while keeping your shoulders back and head and chest upright.
When your hamstrings touch your calves, briefly pause and spread your knees out with your elbows.
From there, slowly rise back upwards and concentrate on contracting your glutes and quads.
Perform four sets in total, for 10 to 12 reps each.
These bad boys can really work out your anterior (frontal) leg muscles, more so than most other leg exercises. They are also excellent for further developing your balance and flexibility.
Grab a barbell (palms facing upwards) and balance it across the top of your chest while racking it on your shoulders for support. Concentrate on utilizing your lats and shoulders as a shelf for the barbell itself.
Slowly squat downwards until your quads are parallel with the floor. From there, explode back up while exhaling and flexing your legs and glutes.
When you’ve returned to the starting position, repeat for a total of 8 to 10 reps, and perform four sets of front squats in total.
Ready to step it up even higher? Challenge yourself by placing a barbell in the crooks of your arms between your forearms and upper arms. This exercise not only blasts your leg muscles, but is great for working out your core as well. Just remember that it can be tricky, so performing it from within a Smith machine or with a spotter is advised, in order to prevent sustaining potential injuries.
First, from a standing position, balance a barbell in the crook of your elbows and hold it close to your body. This can be anywhere that matches well with your body frame—from the bottom of your chest to your core, but above your waist.
Interlace your fingers together and lock the bar firmly into position. From there, lift the bar up from the weight rack and balance it upon your forearms.
Gradually squat downwards while being careful to keep your head up, shoulders back, and chest outwards. Make sure that you don’t look down, as that can cause you to lose your balance.
Be sure to slowly bend at the knees and keep your back straight throughout the entire squat motion. When the between your upper legs and calves become approximately 90 degrees (or slightly less if possible), you’ve reached the proper squat position.
Glance down to see if your knees form an imaginary line with your toes. If you are performing these exercises properly, your knees should align with your toes. If your knees supersede your toes, you can cause too much stress on your knees, which can result in injury.
Clenching your glutes and quads, grind back upwards while exhaling, until you’ve returned to the starting position.
Just remember: Zercher squats can be a challenging exercise to perform, so always make sure that you keep your back straight and head raised. They place a lot of pressure upon your arms, so maintaining proper form is advised in order to not lose your balance. Again, these are best performed utilizing a Smith machine, and preferably with a spotter, in order to prevent possible injuries.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Amp things up to the next level with Bulgarian split squats. These really work out your quads and hamstrings, while also developing hip strength and conditioning as well.
These exercises are excellent for people who want to develop more upper leg lean body mass (quads, hamstrings), but can be a little rough on your knees. Therefore, they aren’t advised for anyone with knee issues.
Begin this exercise by standing in front of a workout bench facing away from it, with your feet shoulder width apart. Grasp a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing inwards.
Reach one foot back and rest it upon the top of the workout bench. Your toes should be pointing down so that they are resting on the bench.
Holding your head upwards and chest out, gradually lower your body while bending at your frontal knee. Descend until your front knee has almost touched the floor.
From this bottom position, slowly rise back up while exhaling. Make sure that you concentrate on contracting your quads, and when you get back to the starting position, be careful to not lock out your front knee.
Repeat for 10 to 12 reps, and perform four sets in all.
A Change of Pace
Switching up your lower body workout routines can not only be a breath of fresh air for something that is considered boring to many folks, but can also get you the gains you’ve always dreamt of.
Just remember to always utilize proper form when performing these leg exercises, as they can be pretty demanding.