Even if you hate leg day, you know that squats are the best exercise for hitting your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Yet, squats can be a bit exhausting and we’d hate for you to dread leg day even more.
So, we’re going to go over seven of the best squat alternatives to work your lower body and spice up your leg day.
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Table of Contents
1. Leg Press
If you want to do an exercise that’s pretty much like a squat, without actually doing a squat, the seated leg press is the way to go. You can work your quads and glutes pretty heavily without putting a ton of strain on your lower back.
This exercise requires some sort of leg press machine, so it might not be the best choice if you’re working out at home.
- Position yourself into the leg press machine so that there’s a 90-degree angle at both your hips and your knees.
- Position your feet about shoulder-width apart on the platform and begin pushing against the platform.
- Once your legs are nearly straight, begin lowering yourself back to the starting position.
2. Barbell Split Squat
Old school squats are boring, but barbell split squats are a more interesting variety. Since you’re separating your legs with the split squat, you’re able to better isolate one leg at a time and build up to equal strength in both legs.
All you need for this exercise is a barbell. However, you could swap in dumbbells instead if you’re limited on equipment. We recommend the Topeakmart 66lb Adjustable Dumbbell Weight Set because they’re high-quality, durable, and have nice grips that prevent them from slipping from your hands.
- Balance a light barbell on your back and step forward with one leg as if you were about to do a lunge.
- Keep your feet planted in these positions until the end of the set.
- Bring the upper body somewhat forward as you begin dropping your weight downward so your front leg is at a 90-degree angle.
- Once a 90-degree angle is achieved, push up off the floor with your front foot to return to a standing position.
- Be sure to switch legs after each set.
3. Goblet Squat
Regular back squats put a lot of excess pressure on your spine and can be grueling when you load the bar too heavy. Goblet squats force you to keep the weight in front of your body, meaning better form and greater safety.
You just need some type of weight to grip in front of your body, so a dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, or a sandbag should work fine. We like this 20lb medicine ball by Aeromat because the soft grip handles make it ideal for moves like this.
- Grasp the weight in front of your chest and plant your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Begin lowering your butt toward the floor until your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
- Push against the floor with both feet to return to the starting position.
4. Weighted Lunge
Who says that leg day only has to be about lower body strength and power? Weighted lunges of any kind are the perfect way to hit each leg on its own while also working on your ability to stay balanced.
Any type of weight will work, but preferably a barbell or a set of dumbbells. Remember you’re working one leg at a time, so don’t go too heavy just yet.
- Start with both feet together and dumbbells firmly gripped at your sides.
- Take a giant step forward with one leg and plant your foot.
- Begin sinking your bodyweight downward until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle.
- Use momentum in your front leg to push off the floor and return your front leg to the starting position.
- Alternate legs between reps or sets.
5. Weighted Step-up
Deep squats can be good for building power, but even the slightest issues in form can result in a knee injury or failure. Weighted step-ups are a great way to get some extra range of motion into your leg workout without risking injury.
Technically, you don’t need any type of equipment for the regular step-up. For some resistance, dumbbells or a medicine ball will do just fine. And for the “step”, we like the Rage Fitness Steel Plyo Box because of how sturdy it is.
- Hold a medicine ball in front of you or dumbbells in each hand.
- Face a stepper, bench, or other stable raised surface and lift one leg and plant your foot on the step.
- Push down against the step and bring your other leg up to join it.
- Step down one leg at a time.
- Switch starting legs between reps or sets.
6. Leg Extension
When you want to focus on just your quads, you need to add the leg extension to your routine. This exercise is 100% the best way to isolate the quads and, when paired with the leg curl, can perfectly target your upper legs.
This exercise only calls for a leg extension machine that most, if not all, gyms have. Make sure you’re adjusting the machine so your knees aren’t bent too much (to prevent injury).
- Position yourself in the leg extension machine so both your hips and knees are somewhere near a 90-degree angle.
- With your ankles under the ankle pads, begin bringing your feet upward until they’re nearly straight out in front of you.
- Slowly begin to lower them down to the starting position.
7. Box Jump
Any good athlete knows just how important power is to strength training. By adding box jumps to your routine, you’ll be getting some jump squats in while also increasing your vertical jump and lower body power.
While we would recommend using an actual box built for box jumps, you can also do this exercise on an outdoor bench or other stable, high surface.
- Stand facing the box, but not too close that you’re touching it.
- Lower yourself into a near-squat position.
- Push up off the ground and propel yourself into the air.
- Land softly on the box and then jump back down to your starting position.
Wrapping Up these Alternative Exercises for Squats
While we don’t think it’s best to completely cut squats out of your routine, it’s okay to swap in some new exercises every once in a while. This is the perfect way to still focus on your lower body strength and keep things a little more interesting.
And if you’re also into front squats, but you’re looking for a solid substitute, you can check out these 7 Great Alternatives to Barbell Front Squats and still build strong, muscular quads.