Squat Alternatives

(Article by Kari Fry with Jake Amos)

Squats can be an excellent form of exercise, but they aren’t always suitable for everyone and for some people, they may be looking for the best squat alternative to adapt their workout routine and still get the benefits. We caught up with Personal Trainer Jake Amos to ask him to recommend us some great exercises that can be swapped in for squats.

IMPORTANT: The ideas in this article are purely for information only – please do not start an exercise programme until you have completed a PAR-Q and, if necessary, received medical clearance. Always warm up and cool down and never do any exercise that you are unsure of without the support of a qualified professional.

To start us off Jake, what are the benefits of squats?

Squats are one of the best exercises you can do. They work some of the biggest muscle groups in the body, so that means you get to strengthen them as you use your legs all the time. They burn big amounts of calories for exercise, and they can help add tone to the muscles used for that all important well being for physical and mental fitness.

So, do squats burn fat? Are some better at targeting this than others?

Squats definitely burn fat. They are one of the best exercises for this as the muscle groups are large ones and thus burn more calories. Some of the best types of squats for fat burning are those involved with HIIT training. High Intensity Interval Training doesn’t mean you are exercising flat out, it means doing an exercise faster than normal speed with short bouts of recovery in between. This is a proven way to burn fat faster than some others, although all other ways of doing squats are still very good and can be used and rotated as part of a safe exercise routine. The best part of doing squats as part of a HIIT workout is that you do not need any equipment. 

Sounds like doing squats can have many benefits for your exercise routine. For those people looking for alternatives so that they can still target those same muscles areas, could you take us through some examples of alternative exercises to squats?

Of course! Here are a few suggestions -

  • Front squat alternative – holding weights down by your side or lower down by your waist as holding then higher is not always comfortable for some people. Dumbbells can be held up by your chest to replace a barbell.
  • Back squat alternative – the same advice as the front squat. Front and back squats usually involve a barbell held either in front of your shoulders at shoulder height or on your upper back. You can hold dumbbells by your sides and when you squat you can make sure they stay in line with your glutes.
  • Bulgarian split squat alternative – standard forward lunges or backward lunges is a good alternative.
  • Barbell squat alternative – using dumbbells by your side or doing squats without any weights or you could hold a barbell plate to your chest to squat (this can also be done for a front squat).
  • Landmine squat alternative – using a cable machine to pull the bar or handle at an angle upwards to recreate a landmine style squat.
  • Hacksquat alternative – using a barbell on the back of your shoulders, like a back squat.
  • Sissy squat alternative – you can tie a resistance band to your lower legs for support as you perform your squats.

Thank you for that Jake. Those are some great alternatives to squats for us to consider! And so, we have one final question for you, are there any squat alternatives that you would recommend for those with bad knees? 

If people are suffering from knee issues, then safe variations include sitting down in a chair and extending the legs from the knee upwards, so going from bent legs to straight legs. This replicates the leg extension exercise that you would do in a gym on a machine as it is not weight bearing for the knees, plus it will help to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the knee joint, helping to stabilise the joint better. To work the glutes too you can stand up and do knee raises so you bring the knee up as high as possible in front of you, then slowly extend the leg behind you as you lean slightly forward to balance, so that your leg is outstretched behind you, as this will then work the glutes too. The more range of movement the better. Every inch counts.

Summary Squat Alternatives

Thank you, Jake for your time. Lots of fantastic information and ideas for how to include squat alternatives into a training workout and it’s great to know that you can still target different areas with an alternative exercise for squats.


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