4 Squat Variations to Build Your Legs That Are Not The Back Squat

The squat has been called the “king of exercises” because of its ability to build strength and muscle but so many people only think of the back squat. Heck there has even been a “month” named after the squat. “Squatober”. In fact, today is the last day of the glorious month of squats!

Limiting yourself to only the back squat can hold back your “gains”. The back squat may also not be right for you for a multitude of reasons, from skill level to body dimensions. With a little creativity, you can find the squat variation that is going to work for you.

Want to build strong muscular legs?? Consider some of the following exercises to build your legs that aren’t the back squat.

Zercher Squat

Want to take yourself out of your comfort zone?? The Zercher Squat is for you. This exercise is not for the feint of heart, especially the barbell version.

The zercher squat has multiple variations but the “zercher” position involved the resistance resting in the crook of the elbow. Where it is a barbell or a band resting in the elbow, this exercise can make you really good at being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The front loading of the zercher squat requires you to really focus on your core bracing to help you maintain a good position. With the weight resting in your elbows you must also engage your upper back leading to a strong upper back and shoulders.

Check out the barbell version of the zercher squat as well as a less abrasive version using resistance bands.

Landmine Belt Squat

The belt squat is the perfect squatting option for those who have a bad back. It takes the load off the spine and puts it at the hips, the whole reason most of us squat.

By moving the weight down to the hips, the lifter no longer has to fight the bar trying to snap their spine. This allows for greater volumes at heavier weights, ultimately leading to greater muscle and strength gains.

Typically this exercise is performed with a special belt squat machine or with a dumbbell hanging between your legs using a dip belt. The issue can be when you don’t have this equipment. The belt squat machine is a big expensive piece of equipment and you need equal size boxes to allow for full range of motion when using the dip belt. The landmine belt squat will allow you to get the benefits of the belt squat without the fancy equipment.

This exercise is a great option as a “finisher” to your leg workout. In fact, John Papp had a great finisher that he shared the other day. This one was a massive drop set. He started with five 25 pound plates (to allow him full range of motion) with sets of 20. After each set of 20 he would remove a plate and do another set without rest until he had finished a set of 20 with 1 plate left.

Banded RFESS

I am a big fan of rearfoot elevated split squats for a number of reasons. You can load them up heavy and push strength limits or you can go light and knock out the reps to get rid of your chicken legs.

Using a band to add resistance can add some variety to your workout if barbells and dumbbells are getting old.

Using a band takes advantage of accommodating resistance. Accommodating resistance when the resistance is lightest at bottom or the weakest point into the movement and heaviest at the strongest point of the lift or the top of the lift.

Single-leg Squat off a box

Single-leg strength is about as functional as it can get. Running is a single-leg activity and most sporting actions are single-leg so of course single-leg strength is important for performance. It is also important for injury prevention.

One of my favorite exercises in my rehabs to progress is the single-leg squat off of a box or as I call them most of the time in my rehabs, stepdowns. I prefer to focus on the eccentric part for control and stability but as the box gets higher, this can become tougher.

Some people think the pistol squat is the ultimate expression of single-leg strength and yes it is impressive but many people do not have the mobility of the offer leg to perform this exercise. I prefer to use a single-leg squat off of a box to take the mobility requirement out of the exercise.

Check out my version on a stack of weight plates.

Want to add some resistance?? Try the counterbalance to add resistance while helping with your balance.