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Substitute for Squats?


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As this section has the most threads on squats, I thought it would be the best place to post.

 

Is there a good substitute for squats? Specifically, will any other exercise or combination of exercises allow you to build good mass in the same areas as the squat?

 

I ask because I am a complete squat failure. I've worked with different trainers over the past 5 or 6 years but have never been able to do them. It might be a proportion issue as I'm 5'10" with 34" inseam legs. Or it might be really tight hamstrings or hip flexors, although I've been stretching them religiously.

 

I don't want to waste any more time trying to do something I may never do properly if there is a substitute. Any ideas?

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If it's your hips, try front squats, they are more quad-dominant.

 

I had trouble squatting at first, but I just had to cut down the weight and learn. I'm OK at them now, still have trouble with deadlifts. Can you do hack squats?

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Thanks,

 

Oddly enough, although it looks like I'm squatting properly when doing front squats they actually hurt my lower back. I have a hard time not rounding out my lower back with any squats.

 

Hack squats, how I wish. Some day I'll show your the weird bones that jut out of my shoulders at the same spot the pads take the most weight. It really sucks when you're tall and bony in strange places. However, I might just try hack squats with lower weights to try and get my form better. My worry is that I'm never going to be able to do squats with enough weight to matter, so I'm still looking for a good alternative.

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If your gym has a hack squat machine, you're set. Do those in addition to leg presses. I do hack squats super deep. I love em.

 

As far as the leg press, it owns at letting you stimulate the legs with massive weight. By varying your stance, you can also target different areas of the quadriceps. High and wide on the plate targets those stubborn inner quads more, while a narrower stance targets the outer quads more. Toes pointed out targets the inner quads more, while toes pointed out targets the outer quads more.

 

Some people like lunges, but I rarely do them. I was bringing my hams up for a few weeks by putting some extra focus on them, and doing DB lunges let me focus on my quad-ham tie-in a little better than deep hack squats, but your tie in should be fine if your doing hack squats (as you look to compete you will pay attention to little details like this though because a deep ridge/solid tie in between the hams and quads is the hallmark of some decent muscle maturity).

 

Front squats are good too, but they focus alot on the outer quads, at least the way most people do them (they go super wide stance to maintain stability since the BB is in a "precarious" position/balance).

 

If I were you, I would do super heavy and deep hack squats, and heavy leg presses with a normal stance, to start out.

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Thanks,

 

Oddly enough, although it looks like I'm squatting properly when doing front squats they actually hurt my lower back. I have a hard time not rounding out my lower back with any squats.

 

Hack squats, how I wish. Some day I'll show your the weird bones that jut out of my shoulders at the same spot the pads take the most weight. It really sucks when you're tall and bony in strange places. However, I might just try hack squats with lower weights to try and get my form better. My worry is that I'm never going to be able to do squats with enough weight to matter, so I'm still looking for a good alternative.

 

Hey, I posted my response after you posted this . If your back is hurting, even after moderate weight squats, you may want to strengthen your core some more ( ). Good mornings and reverse hypers, sit-ups, leg raises. On heavier sets, you can wear a belt.

 

As far as your concern with hack squats, I've had that pronounced bone that juts out from the shoulders too . As I've added size to my delts, it's easier, but you're right, it is uncomfortable sometimes. The bone still juts out a little, and on sets with more than a handful of 45's its a little annoying, but I just ignore it. Just train like a freak!

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Thanks for the advice, guys.

 

I'll try somehow padding my shoulders better and doing hack squats. I vary my stance on the leg press often, so that's covered. I also do stationary and walking lunges at times. And stiff-legged deadlifts. Those are all of my heavy weighted leg/glute exercises.

 

Any other ideas are greatly appreciated.

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Thanks,

 

Oddly enough, although it looks like I'm squatting properly when doing front squats they actually hurt my lower back. I have a hard time not rounding out my lower back with any squats.

 

Hack squats, how I wish. Some day I'll show your the weird bones that jut out of my shoulders at the same spot the pads take the most weight. It really sucks when you're tall and bony in strange places. However, I might just try hack squats with lower weights to try and get my form better. My worry is that I'm never going to be able to do squats with enough weight to matter, so I'm still looking for a good alternative.

 

I have those bones too! I can't do calf raises because of them.

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Haha! Neither can I.

 

Josh,

 

My trainer also suggested core strengthening. I'm up early tomorrow for a pilates class. I haven't done one for a year so it should be interesting to see if I've lost much strength.

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Core strength has a lot to do with it but I really think its your long legs that make it a pain in the butt. Anyway I think pleat(sp???) squats will work the inner thighs well and the glutes too. Lunges are great as well if you can keep in control. Plus there is always the leg press...which for me seemed to give me more gains in my squat max than actually squatting for training. Lots of sprint track cyclists(essentially power lifters) never touch a squat rack due to fear of back injuries and they get super strong just doing leg presses. I can imagine the best sprinters can squat nearly 3x their bodyweight like track sprinters can so leg press seems adequate to me so long as you do core work.

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Hack squats aren't bad if you have shorter legs or longer arms, but depending on body type, they can be quite difficult to do correctly and comfortably. When I weighed closer to 200 I could do them comfortably, but at 260+ I find it difficult to keep proper form. Also, they're so much more similar to a deadlift that they're not really going to work the same way as a squat (the core stability part is removed which changes everything).

 

Honestly, I think that everyone can squat and do it well, but sometimes it takes a LOT of playing around with form to get the position that you're built for down to a science. There are SO many factors involved in squatting that you can play around with that there usually is something that will be comfortable and get it to work right. Sometimes it just requires taking a few steps back, drop the weight to a minimal amount, and keep playing with it until something starts to click. Of course, like Jonathan said, being able to see a video of you squatting would be a massive help for diagnosis on what might be a limiting factor. If you have any way to get a few clips from front and side view with you doing a few reps with around 65%-85% of your max it would really let us see how your form goes during the movement.

 

I never thought I'd be able to squat correctly for a few years, and only when I hammered myself weekly to work on form did it finally come around. Even now I still find myself analyzing my form every time I squat, always working to find my weakness and make things more stable. It's a never-ending battle, but again, if you can get us a clip it'd be a huge help!

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Thanks for the replies! It is my dream to SOMEDAY be able to squat. I will bring my camera to the gym on my next leg day and get the trainer to film me. Then I may have to hire some teenager to actually help me figure out how to load it here.

 

Anyway, we did some core exercises the other day and discovered that transverse abdominal weakness might be a problem. Whatever the problem is - I'll work on getting a visual for you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would argue that there is true substitute for the squat in its pure form, but there are some alternatives if your form is lacking.

 

One is to do deadlifts (not stiff legged). While mostly considered a back exercise, its tremendous for leg development and overall body development. This is the only exercise that equals or exceeds the muscle building effect of the squat as a total body exercise.

 

The other is the split squat on the smith machine, which you may find easier. Its a one legged squat with one foot elevated on a bench. Yes its one leg but its a little bit more stable exercise.

 

With squatting, I would have you start with sissy Squats (or if that name bothers you, the bodyweight squat) with no bar. Really work on going slow and going low. Then add the bar with no weight and add 5 pounds a workout. Keep the bar lower down on your back, eventually you will almost develop a "pocket" back there and you won't feel any discomfort carrying the bar and it will result in you squatting with a more natural motion (carrying the bat high on the shoulders or on the lats is a common mistake). Experiment with your stance as well.... I use a very wide powerlifting stance and it provides more stability and a better base. I see many trainers having their clients sticking to a shoulder width or narrower stance, there is no real benefit to this except in how you target the muscle.

 

Hopefully something from what I say above helps a little. It could be just a mental block that is stopping you from doing a perfect squat.

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