Squats are among the oldest of exercises known to powerlifters, bodybuilders, Olympic lifters, and fitness enthusiasts alike; and Barbell squats are at the core of this exercise. However, many fitness diehards and those seeking to lose weight usually find themselves struggling to keep up with this taxing exercise.
If you are having a hard time with this type of squats, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And in this post, you’ll find out some of the best barbell squat alternatives to turn to in that case
These squats come in two main types, the high bar squat and the low bar squat. And while it is highly debated which is the most optimal of the two, both of them achieve the same objective.
Squats work every major muscle in the lower body, with the form getting better with the addition of weight on the bar, leading to even more form in turn. This makes squats a perfect exercise for sportsmen and women across the spectrum, as well as those looking to lose body fat.
To get the best out of these squats and avoid any possible injuries or unnecessary strain to different joints or muscles, you need to follow the following checklist.
● Take the right stance
The stance is the most important bit here; start by keeping your core tight, then position your feet at shoulder-width apart. Keep the knees and toes in line, slightly facing outwards at a “ten-to-two” position. At the same time, remember to keep your back as straight as possible.
● The chest should stay up
Getting your chest up will help keep your back straight, as dropping it will cause your spine to flex, thus bending forwards, which can be risky with the load on your back. To achieve this position through the exercise, take a deep breath as you start lifting and hold the air in as you go down, then exhale when coming up.
● Keep your chin high
Your chin needs to stay up to prevent any unhelpful movement of your upper spine, which eventually causes you to hunch forwards. To achieve this, focus on a certain spot in front of you, either on the wall or the horizon. Another “don’t” in this case is staring yourself in the mirror, which could distract you rather than helping you focus.
● Push your elbows forward
Although it might feel a bit uncomfortable, you need to push the elbows forward before starting the lift to keep a strong position when moving. This helps prevent your shoulders from rotating internally, which could counter your efforts to maintain an upright spine position. Also, it helps engage the lats, which are the big back muscles for better stability of the upper body.
● Keep heels on the ground
The weight should be primarily on the heels and the mid-foot section, as exerting it on the balls of the feet will put your knees under extra pressure. With tight hamstrings, keeping your heels down might be hard, so work on relaxing and stretching these muscles constantly.
Now, lower your body slowly to have your quads parallel to the ground or a tad lower if possible.
Primarily, this exercise works the muscles in three parts of your body, which are the abs, the back muscles, and leg muscles. It should be noted that in each of these parts, a variety of muscles are recruited into the exercise, including but not limited to the quads glutes, and hamstrings. This brings about the following benefits among others.
Well, squats pack in a myriad of perks that make them a mainstay among almost all sportsmen and women. In addition to placing a significant strain on the aforementioned muscles, squats also strengthen your joints, tendons as well as ligaments around the knees and hips.
Besides, daily squats help strengthen your lower body, giving you more endurance in rigorous activities. And there’s more, they could also increase testosterone levels in the body, increasing the amount of blood flow into the pelvic region and improved thrust ability, thus resulting in better sexual performance.
Make the most out of your squat sessions by following these simple yet vital tips that will make your workout worthwhile.
Warm-up enough before getting down to business, this will help your leg muscles to be ready for the lift when you need them.
Go low, just not too low. There’s no a rule-of-thumbs on the depth as far as doing squats, you just need to keep a natural arch of your back and ensure that your knees don’t tuck under to avoid any pressure on your spine, which can easily cause tissue damage as well as back pain.
Getting the right foot position is very crucial; mostly squatting barefoot is the most recommended way to go, but a pair of flat-soled shoes should do. And if your feet are turning outwards, just let them flex to avoid any strain on the knees if you try to push them back inwards.
The Great thing about barbell squats, or any exercise that uses barbells, is you can get a really good a cheap and affordable barbell and still get the job done and subject your body to the pressure it needs, A major reason for that is these barbells are made by the top brands in the barbell industry.
Great as barbell back squat might be, this exercise is not always the perfect workout at all times. Here are a few reasons to opt for barbell alternatives
If you are a beginner, the best way to go is to prepare your body with other options that are less intensive before you are fit enough to brace the wrath of barbell squats.
These squats can also prove to be tough on your body, more specifically on the lower back and knees, in which case, you might have to switch to a different type of squats.
And if you are recovering from an injury, then you definitely don’t want to expose your already battered joints or muscles to rigorous squats.
Most of the other exercises listed below are also safer if you want a safer exercise, and they significantly relieve the extreme strain on such core areas as quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
If any of the above is the case for you, then one or several of these options should help fill in the need for squats in your workout.
These squats are great for beginners as they are easy to exercise and prepare your body for a depth workout. Just start with light loads until you master how to position your spine safely, and in the meantime, you can work on the depth.
● Start by engaging your core and looking straight ahead.
● Keep your back neutrally aligned, with your eyes focused on a spot ahead of you.
● Push back your hips and bend your knees slowly to start the squat.
● As you go down, inhale hold your breath until you hit the lowest you want to go.
● Keeping the kettlebell at a constant distance (but close to your body) as you move helps maintain balance.
Also known as Single-Leg Barbell Squat, this one is more of a squat and a lunge where you position one foot in front of your body with the other behind. This keeps your torso in a perpendicular position to the ground, meaning you don’t have to lean forward too much, and thus reducing any strain on the lower back area.
● Stand in front of a platform that is about knee-high while holding dumbbells or with a barbell on your back
● Extend one leg behind until your toes are resting on the bench
● Lower your body slowly (with your torso upright) by lowering the same side knee towards the ground
● Reverse to the starting position
Resistance band split squats
The good thing about this squat is that there are many of them to opt for, including banded butterfly squats, resistance band squats using lateral leg lifts, banded squats using loops, classic resistance squats, and even resistance band squats using full arm extensions.
Another awesome side to these squats is that bands are cheap, and you can easily travel with them for on-the-go use. And yes, the resistance bands vary in tension so you can step up the resistance as needed.
Steps for banded squats using loops
● Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart, preferably slightly more.
● Have a loop or a mini loop depending on your preference above the knees.
● Move your hips back, assume a sitting position, and bend your knees.
● Start lowering your body slowly, ensure your thighs are in a parallel position to the ground.
● Reverse and repeat
If you don’t have access to the right equipment or sufficient room for barbell squats such as a half rack, or a cage, then dumbbell squats are for you. However, it should be noted that if you are an intermediate lifter, you will outgrow these squats pretty quickly as they won’t have enough weight to add any substance to your exercise.
● Start with an athletic stance with your feet spread a tad wider than hip-width.
● Have the dumbbells at your sides.
● Make sure your back is straight, with the knees slightly behind the toes.
● Push your hips back and go down until your thighs are in a parallel position to the floor.
● Stretch hips and knees to reverse out of the squat.
These squats are also awesome for relieving stress off your lower back as the bar sits at the midsection of your body rather than up high on your back. This significantly cuts on the force that your spine has to bear.
● Place the bar below shoulder height in your power rack.
● Position it in the crooks of your elbows, keeping your arms at 90 degrees
● Keeping your torso upright, bend your knees and hips to let your glutes stretch backward
● Now, with your chest tall, lower yourself until your quads are parallel to the ground or slightly lower.
● By pushing your heels, drive your body forcefully back into the standing position
Squats have been, and still are an indispensable part of any workout, and with any of the barbell squat alternatives mentioned above, you should be set up for a safe, effective, and fun exercise. One thing to keep in mind is that you might outgrow some of these options with time. Therefore, it’s vital to constantly listen to your body to know when it’s time to “amp” up your workout.