5 alternatives to a painful squat (2023)


Build your legs and glutes, no squats required

VonEirik Sandvik | February 20, 2018 May 20, 2022

5 alternatives to a painful squat (1)

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3Reasons Why Squats Hurt

If you experience pain during or after a regular squat workout, there are three main reasons:

  1. Your technique is wrong. You never really learned the move.
  2. Your body structure doesn't go well with the movement. Sort of like you want to bury it, but you're five feet tall. You start at a disadvantage.
  3. You have previous injuries to deal with. Similar to driving a car when two wheels lose air: disaster is coming.

Don't worry, here are five effective alternatives to a painful squat. The intent of the exercises is to ensure that you can continue to maintain or even increase your strength, power, and musculature when it becomes clear that regular squats just aren't working for you right now.

There are several areas that can cause pain when squatting. You may have lower back pain, sore knees, or even sore shoulders and elbows. All exercises have their own specific reason for being a good alternative. Some ignore the issues and still train the regular squat pattern, while others take a step in a different direction but still relate to the squat, pattern and function.

1 ▶️ One-Step Back Foot Elevated Split Squat

When to use - If you have lower back problems.

(Video) The Best Squat Alternatives for Bad Knees

The classic version is fine, but if you want to increase the stress level, lift your front foot with a step and go deeper with each rep. This variation is one of the best for safe leg development. You can do a lot with little risk. This choice is a wise choice if you have back problems but still want to train hard.

You can train this exercise for different purposes by varying the form, but in the video I'm holding the dumbbells in the rack position. This is more like a front squat and has the advantage of putting a little more work on your upper back.

Technical focus:

  • Make sure your flat foot is active and your toes are touching the floor.
  • Drive mainly through the heel.
  • Keep your abs tight (ribs down) and chest up (upper back tight).

2 ▶️ Missed marches/sled

When to use it: When your back can't handle regular lifting.

There are times when the lower back can become so unbalanced that most squat variations cause problems. Hiking/sleigh rides are a good option, especially for quads, glutes and hips.

The main advantage of this exercise is the elimination of eccentric stress, which means that there is only a pressure phase, and not a "negative" one. You can walk heavy, but if you have back problems, go easy to medium and increase the distance you push or walk.

Don't worry about not putting enough weight on your legs. In addition to working the quadriceps and glutes, this exercise forces you to integrate your entire body.

The video shows two different hand positions. Keeping the bar low introduces more forward leaning and is great for athletes, but can be stressful for someone with knee issues. If that's the case, opt for a tall grip and a more upright torso. You can push harder and even run on the sled, but slow, controlled walking is the first variation to try when replacing the squat.

Technical focus:

  • Keep your upper back as active as possible.
  • Push your feet DOWN and back.
  • Proceed slowly and in a controlled manner.

3 ▶️ Reverse Groin Lunge

When to use – If you have lower back or knee problems.

The reverse lunge is all about acceleration and power generation. Compared to a regular lunge, which requires you to slow down, stop, and then push your body up as you move forward, the reverse lunge has a smooth "build" phase and a powerful push/drag action back to the starting position. . This makes it a perfect weapon for powerlifters who have lower back or knee issues with regular squats.

By controlling the shin angle, or more specifically, by limiting forward knee movement, you unload your knees. However, you can allow more forward knee movement if you want to focus more on your quadriceps.

From below, in the energy generation phase, combine a push with the quadriceps and a pull with the glutes and hamstrings. It's a common mistake to rely too heavily on the quadriceps to create movement. If you want to limit the stress on your knees, you also need to use your hips.

In the video you can see two different positions of the dumbbells. The rack position load is similar to a front squat and more engages your upper back and core muscles. The hands-down position reduces some of the focus on the upper body and is a little easier for most people to perform.

Technical focus:

  • Take a long step back (which seems like a very long step is often ideal).
  • Limit forward knee movement of the front leg.
  • Focus on a combined push-pull movement back to starting position and finish strong with your core and glutes engaged.

4▶️ High box squat with safety bar

(Video) Squat Alternatives for Low Back Pain

When to use - If you have knee or shoulder problems.

Doing deep squats can stress your knees over time, but a high box will relieve most of the stress. When using a tall case, there is a tendency to add weight to the barbell, but this can defeat the purpose. If you are replacing regular squats with a high squat due to knee problems, rein in your ego to get the desired benefit.

There are several ways to perform the high bar box squat. You don't have to use the crazy open stance that Westside lifters usually use, but wider than "normal" is usually a good option.

If you want to continue with your normal squat form, simply use the chart as your depth gauge. Just tap the box; Don't sit through as you would with a regular squat.

Use a regular barbell if your shoulders are fine, but if you're experiencing shoulder pain from squatting or bench pressing a lot, the safety bar is your best bet.

In the video, I'm doing a more touch-and-go version with a semi-open stance. Chains are attached to add weight at the top of the movement and take some of the weight off at the bottom.

Technical focus:

  • Lean back and sit down.
  • Do not allow more forward movement of the knee than normal.
  • Keep the tension in your lower back, abdomen and hips and don't let go of the tension. This applies to both the touch-and-go technique and the Westside Box Squat style.

5 ▶️ Zercher squats with zigzag bar

When to use – If you have lower back or shoulder problems.

Lack of core stability is often the cause of lower back problems during a regular squat. Bar placement in the Zercher squat makes it much easier to engage the core and control the lower back and pelvis. It's just more natural (and convenient) to hold something in front of your body.

The Zercher squat is by far the best and safest way to squat, and it has a more functional transmission than other bilateral squat variations. It's actually original.

Squatting with a regular barbell often puts your shoulders in extreme rotation, and if you lift heavy weights frequently and never change the type or position of the barbell, you could end up with shoulder pain, which is common for many powerlifters. Weight. This is one of the reasons why they use special bars in their training.

However, the straight bar in the Zercher squat can be a little hard on the forearms over time, so a zigzag bar or even a bamboo bar is a good option if that's an issue.

Technical focus:

  • The bar will naturally push you down, so combat this by activating your upper back.
  • Activate the hips "opening the ground" as you descend the hole.
  • Finish strong with glutes and a tight core.

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