Starting over can suck or it can be a new beginning- it’s always our perspective!
Today marks 11 weeks post distal bicep tear surgery repair. I’d be lying if I did not share that I have daily thoughts or defeat around this (muscle atrophy, nerve pain, can’t write or use a fork) AND it’s been a huge opportunity for growth for me. I remind myself DAILY to operate not from my circumstances but from POSSIBILITIES.
I am grateful for so much:
I’ve learned a lot about about pain management and can help people on a whole new understanding level of compassion now
I’ve learned more about the power or blood flow resistance training, hypnosis and other skills and techniques I did not know of before (both of those are super powerful by the way)
I’ve got a daily reminder (it is my right arm lol) to focus on gratitude for the gifts that we DO have with our bodies. I never appreciated my arms the way I do now.
I’ve started to LOVE my 6 miles of walking a day. Would have never embraced that if I had not been injured. Those walks ground me in nature, perk up my mood, help the creativity flow and give me a great dose of vitamin D.
It’s always a choice to stay in victim and defeat mode or to focus on what we CAN do from where we are with what we have.
My wins from this last week:
Stopped the nerve pain medicine
Got my appetite to calm down (holy moly that medication made me starving)
Was able to add a few additional workout moves (yay) including my staple planks finally!
What I’m adding this week to my recovery? Brain training (more on that later this week), whey protein (adding it back in after two years away from it as it will help with recovery and muscle growth)
Embrace your set backs as growth opportunities. It’s powerful what that shift will do for you!
If you want to follow my workouts and meal plans with me (it’s how I stayed fit and what I’m doing to lean out and gain strength back download HERE!
As great as back squats are for strength, general fitness, and body composition, sometimes they just don’t work for a person. Maybe they cause knee, shoulder, or wrist pain. Maybe someone’s body proportions aren’t conducive to proper back squatting. Maybe their legs are too long to achieve good depth without compromising position. While there are dozens of articles imploring you to mobilize this or that joint and work out the kinks in this or that muscle so that the back squat will work, and those can be very informative and helpful, some people just don’t want to back squat. For whatever reason, it doesn’t work for them.
Especially now, when gyms are closed and it’s difficult to get your hands on a barbell, you might be looking for alternatives to back squats that will keep your legs just as strong.
Plenty of other knee flexion exercises are worth doing. Let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives.
9 Back Squat Alternatives You Can Do At Home
Band Zercher squats
Bulgarian split squats
Resistance band split squats
Walking lunges and Reverse Lunges
Tempo squat jumps
1. Air Squats
Don’t underestimate the efficacy of the simple bodyweight air squat. It’s great for mobility and surprisingly metabolically demanding.
To do air squats, start with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend at the knee, and come to a low “seat” in an imaginary chair. Keep a straight line between your tailbone and your head. Don’t think you can work your quads without heavy weights? Do a few high-rep sets of air squats and you’ll feel it. If you’d like an extra challenge, wearing a weighted vest or holding weights at your sides will add some extra oomph.
2. Goblet Squats
Goblet squats are easier on most bodies than back squats for two reasons: less weight is used (because you have to hold it in your hands at chin level) and they promote a more “natural” squatting technique. To perform a goblet squat, you hold a weight (kettlebell, weight plate, dumbbell, small child) at chin level, stay tall, and squat down between your legs while maintaining an upright torso. Many seasoned strength coaches use the goblet squat to teach beginners how to squat because it’s so intuitive.
That said, there are some extra details to keep in mind:
Tuck your elbows against your body. This creates a more stable “shelf” of support for the weight.
Keep your chest up.
Push your knees out.
Since you won’t be pushing heavy weights with the goblet squat, focus on higher reps and more overall volume. If things get dicey, dropping the weight in a goblet squat is way easier than dropping a barbell sitting on your back.
3. Front Squats
To me, front squats have always felt more natural than back squats. There’s less thinking about what your joints are doing and which muscle groups you’re supposed to be activating. You just squat with a weight in the front rack position and the rest follows. It’s hard to mess up and round your lower back because if you lean too far forward during a front squat, you’ll just dump the weight.
According to a 2009 study on front and back squats in trained individuals, front squats exert fewer compressive forces on the knee and “may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22237139‘>2
To target quads, hamstrings, and glutes, use a surface high enough that your knee is at 90° when you step onto it. The higher the box, the more glute and hamstring you’ll hit. Lower boxes will focus more on the quads. Try not to push with the off foot. If you find yourself pushing off despite best efforts, dorsiflex the off foot and touch down only with the heel.
8. Walking Lunges and Reverse Lunges
My go-to exercise when dealing with substandard hotel gyms is a few sets of walking lunges while carrying the heaviest dumbbells they’ve got. There’s something special about the combination of moving through space and lifting that adds a whiff of complexity and increases the training adaptations.
Lunges are relatively easy on the knees for many people who get knee pain during back squats. For others, it’s the opposite (but this post isn’t really intended for them). If you have problems with lunges, play around with the torso angles. Turning the movement into more of a single leg hip hinge by slightly leaning forward (shoulders over knees) can alleviate unpleasant forces to the knee.
To make them easier, forego the weights. To make them more challenging, add hand weights and a weighted vest if you feel like you need to ramp it up.
Walking lunges are awesome, but they require magnificent balance. And if you’re pushing heavy weight, any minor mistake during the initial descent can send you and the weight tumbling. They also require a lot of room. Reverse lunges are generally safer, more stable, and they don’t require much space (because you do them in place).
Instead of taking steps forward, you will step backward into your lunge and return to standing for each rep.
9. Tempo Squat Jumps
Start as you would an air squat, feet shoulder-width apart. Over a count of four, lower into a squat position. Explosively jump up, land soft, and lower your body back into a squat position, taking a full count of four to get there. You can watch Brian demonstrate this and all of the above squat alternative movements in this video.
That’s it for today, everyone. If you feel like you’re missing out on the barbells at the gym, I hope you’ve found at least a couple exercises in today’s post to fill the void — and get you a fantastic workout in the process.
Thanks for reading. What are your favorite alternatives to the back squat?