Alternatives to squats: damaged knees, back or hips? (2023)

If sore knees, wobbly hips or back pain keep you from squatting, here are some highly effective alternative exercises to try during your next leg workout.

There are several reasons why you might be looking for an alternative to the squat.

Perhaps your knees, hips, or back hurt when you squat. You can get over the discomfort, but you don't want to cause long-term damage.

Maybe you train at a home gym and don't have room for a squat rack.

You may have squatted in the past, been injured, and don't want to risk the same thing happening again.

Or it could be that you just can't get used to the squat. You've been watching video after video trying to learn the proper technique, but it just doesn't feel right.

Whatever the reason, these alternative exercises work many of the same muscle groups as the squat, but are generally much easier on the knees, hips, or back.

Alternative back squat exercises

  • leg press
  • barbell squat
  • front squat
  • Deadlift with trap bar
  • Squat Above Parallel
  • Raised rear foot split squat
  • walking lunges
  • Landminenhocke

leg press

Perhaps the most obvious substitute for the squat is theleg press. It's a very effective way to work your quads and glutes, but it involves less of your core compared to the squat.

One of the benefits of the leg press is that you don't have to worry as much about technique or stability, which the squat doesn't. The weight is carried on the bars, so you just need to focus on pushing the platform up and then lowering it in a controlled manner.

as a

  • Sit on the leg press and place your feet on the platform.
  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward.
  • Start with your feet halfway up the platform, not too high and not too low. If your feet are too low, it can cause knee pain. If they're too high, you won't train your quads as hard. Play around with foot placement until you find the position that's right for you.
  • Stretch out your legs and release the safety locks.
  • Lower the platform by bending your knees. Use the widest possible range of motion that doesn't hurt your knees or round your back.
  • Make sure your knees follow the direction of your toes throughout the movement.
  • Push the platform back to the starting position, straightening your legs.

Einbeinige Beinpresse

If you're worried about rounding your lower back at the bottom of the movement (which doesn't do your spine discs any favors), try the single leg leg press, which makes it much less likely that you'll round your spine. lower back.

barbell squat

If you train at a home gym and don't have room for a squat rack or leg press, the barbell issquatsserves as an effective alternative to regular squats.

All you need is a barbell and some discs. And if you get stuck at the end of a rep, you can let go of the bar.

(Video) The Best Squat Alternatives for Bad Knees

as a

  • Think of this exercise as a deadlift, only with the barbell behind your body, not in front of you.
  • With feet hip-width apart, squat down and grab the bar.
  • Keep your knees in the same direction as your feet throughout the movement.
  • Your hips should remain low and your shoulders high.
  • If your grip is not strong enough, use lifting straps. I like the Harbinger Big Grip lifting handles, mainly because they have a rubber strip that prevents the bar from slipping.

front squat

Unlike the back squat, where the barbell is placed behind the head, the front squat places it across the shoulders.

One of the main advantages of the front squat is that it generally involves lighter loads than the back squat, but hits the lower body just as hard [12].

In one study, researchers measured muscle activity in the hamstrings and lower back during front and back squats [13].

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The front squat was found to place just as much stress on the leg muscles as the back squat, despite the fact that the subjects were able to lift a heavier load with the back squat. That is, the front squat provides a similar stimulus to growth, but with a lighter load.

Relief has the advantage that pressure forces on the knee are reduced. This makes front squats a useful exercise when squatting with heavy weights causes knee pain.

Deadlift with trap bar

Unlike the traditional straight bar deadlift, studies show that using a hex bar works less on the hamstrings and more on the quadriceps [1,2].

Unlike a regular deadlift, the load is directly under the hips, not in front. This allows you to maintain a more upright torso, making it more suitable for people with back problems.

Most hex bars have both high and low handles. To maximize the work of the leg muscles, use low handles.

You can also perform trap bar deadlifts while standing on an elevated platform (1-3 inches). The lower starting position means your leg and glutes will end up working harder than usual.

However, you should only use a range of motion that allows you to maintain the natural arch of your back. If you round your back at the end of the exercise, it's best to let go of the platform and redo the exercise from the floor.

(Video) 18 Alternatives To The Squat | (Quad and Glute STRENGTHENING!)

Is the trapeze barbell deadlift a good substitute for the barbell squat?

If you can't do regular squats and find barbell squats uncomfortable, trapeze barbell deadlifts are a viable alternative. It's not a perfect replacement for squats, but it can set the stage for a lower-body workout if you're not into squats or deadlifts.

as a

  • Stand in the center of a hex bar with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Crouch down and grab the handles on the air termination bar.
  • Contract your abs like you're about to get punched in the stomach.
  • As you stand up, keep your shoulders high and your hips low.
  • Focus on coming up through your heels as you return to a standing position.
  • If the bar starts to tip over when you lift it, lower it again and adjust your hand position accordingly.
  • Keep your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes. Do not allow your knees to roll during the lifting or lowering phase of the exercise.

Above Barbell Parallel Squats

NOTE: The video above shows squats performed approximately parallel. You can use the same setup and running instructions, but stop the descent when your knees reach approximately a 90-degree angle.

If you have problems with your knees that hurt when you squat, sometimes reducing your range of motion is enough to solve the problem.

Squat down to the point where your knees are at a 90 degree angle, slightly above oneparallel squat, is still low enough to stimulate the growth of the quadriceps and glutes.

as a

  • Place the slash on your traps and hold the slash.
  • Step away from the support and place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Fingers should point slightly outward, not outward.
  • Contract your abs before starting the descent.
  • Your knees and toes should be pointing in the same direction as you descend.
  • Maintain the natural arch in your lower back throughout the exercise.
  • Squat down with your knee flexed to about 90 degrees, slightly above parallel.

There was an interesting study done by a team of Japanese researchers who looked at the rates ofMuscle growth in thighs and buttocksafter 10 weeks of barbell squats at various depths [3].

The first group squatted as low as they could, while the second group squatted only to the point where their knees reached a 90-degree angle.

As you can see in the image below left, this is being pulledthis studio, 90 degrees is slightly above parallelism.

Alternatives to squats: damaged knees, back or hips? (1)

After 10 weeks of training, there was no significant difference in the rate of quadriceps growth between the two groups.

Regardless of whether the men squatted to 90 degrees or as far as possible, the increase in quad size was virtually identical.

However, the full barbell squat resulted in greater gluteal and adductor growth than the 90-degree squat.

But there are other lower-body exercises you can do to encourage growth in these areas and get the same results as the full squat (at least in terms of muscle growth), but without aggravating your damaged knees.

(Video) Everyone Can Squat | Your Knees Are Not the Problem | Squatting with Bad Knees

Raised rear foot split squat

The rear foot raised split squat, also known as thebulgarian squat, can also serve as a substitute for squats.

It's one of the few truly effective squat alternatives that can be done with dumbbells.

Like the squat, the rear-leg split squat targets the quads, glutes, and to some extent even the hamstrings [4,5]. It has also been shown to be an effective squat replacement for building lower body strength.6].

But unlike the squat, the rear foot-elevated split squat allows you to work your hamstrings with minimal stress on your spine, making them ideal when back pain prevents you from squatting.

as a

  • Place your back foot on something stable like a bench.
  • Practice the exercise without dumbbells until you master the technique.
  • Play with the position of both feet until you find a standing position that allows you to perform the exercise without losing your balance.
  • The foot in front of your body should point straight ahead.
  • Keep your torso upright or lean forward slightly throughout the exercise.
  • Make sure your front knee runs in the same direction as your foot.
  • Use dumbbells, kettlebells, or an overhead barbell to increase the weight and make the exercise more challenging.

walking lunges

Like the split squat, the standing lunge allows you to work your lower body with minimal stress on your spine.

You can walk with a barbell over your shoulders while holding some dumbbells or kettlebells, or even with a weight vest or heavy chain over your shoulders.


The landmine squat is another effective squat variation. It's similar to the front squat in that the weight is in front of you, but some people find the floor squat more comfortable than putting a barbell across their shoulders.

A landmine attachment is relatively inexpensive and extremely versatile, so it's worth getting one if you're training at home rather than at a commercial gym.

Squat cup with resistance band

In addition to a resistance band, the goblet squat can also be performed by holding a single dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest.

final thoughts

While the squat is one of the best lower-body exercises you can do, it's not always practical, especially if you have knee or back problems or don't have access to a squat rack.

While you may need some squat alternatives to fully replicate the benefits of the squat, the benefit is that your lower body muscles will grow just as quickly, but it will be much easier on your joints.

common questions

How can I build my glutes without squats?

To build your glutes without squatting, you can do hip thrusts, glute bridges, or 45-degree hip extensions. Exercises like Bulgarian squats or reverse lunges are also good for developing your glutes.

(Video) How To Build Legs Without Squats (BEST ALTERNATIVES)

Can you get big legs without doing squats?

Yes, you can get big legs without doing barbell squats. Exercises like the leg press and Bulgarian squat, or squat variations like the floor squat or trap bar deadlift, can be part of an effective training program designed to build your quadriceps.

Are dumbbell squats a good substitute for barbell squats?

HeBarbell squats are far superior to dumbbell squats.Regarding the structure of the legs.

This is not to say that dumbbell squats are a waste of time. They are certainly better than nothing. But if you only have a pair of dumbbells, there are better lower-body exercises than the dumbbell squat.

The main disadvantage is that grip strength can be a limiting factor. This means your grip will fall before your legs.

One solution is to get lifting straps, which allow you to hold a heavier weight longer.

You can also use a weight vest, which can typically add 10 to 30 kg (22 to 66 lbs) of load. The added weight will make dumbbell squats a much more challenging lower-body exercise.

In general though, leg training with a pair of dumbbells is usually best done with a single leg exercise like the squat.Reverse lunge with deficit.squat with dumbbellsDumbbells are also worth a try, as dumbbells don't hit your legs when you squat.

Do squats work the hamstrings?

Although the hamstrings are involved in compound movements such as barbell squats and leg presses, their contribution is relatively small.

If you want to maximize hamstring growth, you need exercises that directly target the hamstrings, such as:beinbeuger(or something like thisAlternatives to the Leg Curl) oromanian deadlift.

BOOK:Muscle building cheat sheet

If you're overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting advice out there, give it a try.Muscle building cheat sheet.

It's a quick guide to building muscle that you can read online or save as a PDF that will show you exactly how to build muscle. To receive a copy of the cheat sheet, please enter your email address in the box below and click the Send Now button.

(Video) No Squat Leg Workout | Back Injury Training | Steve Cook Vlog

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See too

  • evo muscle– an exercise program for people who want to build muscle and get stronger while minimizing fat accumulation.
  • MX4– a user-friendly training program to build muscle as quickly as possible.
  • Feige- a simple, no-fuss, science-backed nutritional system for fat loss.


1. If you can’t do lunges. Do this instead!! #shorts
2. Stop This Exercise!!! Do Better (ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS How Do I Know If My Squats Are Bad?)
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3. How To Get Big Legs Without SQUATS (Trust Me This Works)
4. Squats Hurt Your Knees? Try This Instead! #kneeexercises #kneepain
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5. BEST And WORST Leg Exercises For Bad Knees!
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6. Asian Squat: Bad for Knees?
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