I know how tough this year has been for training.
There have been constant lockdowns, and equipment is incredibly hard to come by these days.
On top of that, companies have been marking them up like crazy to make a profit off of other people’s lives.
You can still deadlift, overhead press, floor press and rowing variations without much difficulty without a rack.
Unfortunately, for something like the Squat, it’s a lot harder to barbell squat without a rack, which is why I’ll be going over my top 5 squat alternatives.
It’s also important to realize what you’re using the squat to train for. If you want to get stronger at the Squat, that will require faster bar speed and fewer reps taken close to failure. It will also force you to use more weight, so something like a Front Squat is great for this.
If you’re training for muscle growth, though, the Front Squat wouldn’t be a great movement at all as the limiting factor will never be your legs but your upper back and core strength.
Finding the correct movement for your goal is all part of training so let’s go over these squat alternatives and when you should be using them.
Lets’ get started!
#1 – Power Clean To Front Squat
The first and most obvious alternative to a regular back squat is a Power Clean into a Front Squat.
You do this by performing a power clean to get the barbell up to your front rack position and doing front squats from there.
The main drawback to this is pretty obvious; you can only squat as much weight as you can clean. And many people aren’t very flexible in the front rack position.
On top of that, nailing down proper power clean form is a lot more difficult than mastering the big four movements.
That’s why it’s important to start with good form and let your power clean form dictate how much weight you’re able to use on your Front Squat.
While doing this, I recommend doing a Pause Front Squat variation. This will make the movement more difficult with less weight. Which is important when your power clean strength limits the weights you can use.
A solid 1-3 second pause squat is all you need to remove the stretch reflex and focus on being explosive out of the bottom position.
The Power Clean to Front Squat Alternative should be used only for those interested in improving their strength.
For muscle growth, you can use far better movements to train your legs effectively without other body parts limiting your overall stimulus.
The best way to work on these is in the 3-8 rep range with 1-2 reps in the tank for maximal strength. Anything higher than this will quickly cause your form to deteriorate and fatigue to accumulate.
Try this variation out, and let me know what you think!
Nailing down the technique for a Power Clean is a must if you do this, so definitely start practicing!
The next two variations are very similar, but they’re just dissimilar enough that they should be considered different exercises entirely.
#2 – Landmine Squat/Hack Squat
By setting up a landmine in the corner of your gym, you can effectively load your whole body just like a regular squat.
I shouldn’t have to explain why this should be used for muscle growth.
Going super heavy on an unstable movement where the barbell can swing back and forth isn’t the best idea.
On the other hand, it’s a lot easier on the body compared to a standard barbell. That’s why it’s a great movement for building up muscle mass in the lower body.
Titan Fitness makes an awesome one that’s super cheap. It does the job perfectly of giving you proper stability while doing your reps.
For the main Landmine Squat, you’re facing the landmine, which allows you to load up your glutes and hamstrings a little more.
If you want to work your quads more, you can simply face away from it and do a hack squat variation.
Both have their places, but they should be used for higher reps, emphasizing pausing the reps and controlling the movement for maximum hypertrophy.
Regardless of what you decide, this is one of the easiest ways to train the squat movement pattern without a squat rack.
Now moving onto the Belt Squat!
#3 – Belt Squat
The belt squat seems to be a new invention considering how fast it’s popularity has risen.
Even companies like Rep Fitness are adding attachments that will allow you to start belt squatting at a much cheaper price than dedicated belt squat machines.
Buying a whole system just to belt Squat when you don’t even have a power rack isn’t a great idea for a garage gym.
It takes up a big footprint and just isn’t worth the cost to do one then when a solid rack will do so much more for you.
Instead, you can use two benches or platforms to raise yourself off the ground with room in the middle for weights to hang.
You can then use a belt or dip belt to add weights around your hips to perform your DIY Belt Squat with.
The cool thing about this is that you should have everything you need to do it without spending much money. You might have to buy a loading pin or just some chain to set up the weights, but it can be done.
The main benefit to the belt squat is how easy it is to do lots of reps with varying tempos while also taking some of the stress off of your back.
Axial loading is one of the hardest things to work around in the gym. If you axial load too much too often, it’s much more fatiguing than any other type of movement.
If you’re unsure what axial loading is, it’s any loading done on an axis. In the human body, this would be axial loading through the spine and trunk essentially.
Movements that axial load the human body are things like the Deadlift, Overhead Press, Barbell and Dumbbell Rowing variations, and of course, the Squat.
Doing a ton of these movements is much more tiring for the body to recover from. Sometimes, picking less strenuous movement for the body will allow you to do more work and make more gains.
That’s why the Belt Squat is so great. It allows you to Squat lots of weight without loading the bar on your back and eating into your overall recovery.
Another option to load this effectively is with a Pulley system set up at the bottom of the pulley.
Then you just attach it directly to your dip belt, and you go from there.
Pretty easy to load and do without much hassle compared to other do it yourself options.
Let me know what you think of the belt squat and the options I laid out here in the comments below!
#4 – Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is one of the harder exercises on this list, if I’m totally honest.
To get up to a respectable weight, you need to be able to hold the weight with your arms and upper back before dying.
This is one of the best exercises for training beginners, especially because it builds muscle through the lower body, core, and the upper body from holding onto the dumbbell.
Once your upper body and core get adapted to this load, you can slowly overload the lower body with heavier weights.
Again, you’re most likely not going to be able to load over 200 lbs on this without the size of the dumbbell getting ridiculous.
That’s why for muscle growth, it’s going to be an awesome option for those with no power rack to do barbell squats.
And like I said before, this is a true full-body movement.
To get strong at the Goblet Squat, these are the muscle groups you need to develop to get better.
- Your legs have to be strong to move the weight
- Your abs and low back need to be strong to maintain your torso position
- And your upper body needs to be strong enough to ensure you don’t dump the weight before your legs get the proper stimulus to grow
Imagine going from a 50 lb dumbbell for 10 reps up to a 150 lb dumbbell for 10 reps. You’re going to build a ton of muscle and strength throughout your entire body.
Try this variation out with light weights to get used to the movement and then slowly add weight just like anything else.
Also, you want to take the time to slow down the eccentric while doing these, using pauses at the bottom, and being explosive out of each rep.
That way, you can still work on strength and muscle growth for the lower body without letting your upper body and torso strength catch up.
And finally, one of the best quad and glute builders there is, Bulgarian Split Squat!
#5 – Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian Split Squat is technically not a “Squat” in the traditional sense.
It’s more like a one-legged lunge squat hybrid.
The great thing about this exercise is just how easy it is to make it truly suck to build big glutes and quads along with it.
The worst part about it is how much pain it can generate with almost no effort.
The execution for this is pretty simple; you start with one foot out in front while the back foot rests on a bench.
Then, the descent should be slow and controlled as the temptation to bang your knee off the ground or cut your reps short is just too high.
While lowering, you want to think about letting your knee stretch back toward your foot.
This will give you a ton of mobility through your hips and legs.
The stretch is also going to cause a ton of muscular growth from pretty low rep sets.
The greater the stretch is for certain muscles, the better your chances are for those muscles to grow.
This is also an incredible movement for fixing muscle imbalances in your lower extremities.
It’s pretty extreme with the technical changes you can make to make this exercise even more brutal.
Like everything I’ve mentioned in this article, a controlled descent, slight pause, and an explosive muscular contraction will build more muscle than anything else.
When you don’t have a power rack to allow you to load up heavy weights, you need to make things as hard as possible for yourself.
This limits the loading you can use, which will just make you bigger and stronger down the road.
Try this out and let me know just how messed up your legs and glutes are from one hard set.
If you do this right, you’ll build a huge butt that I know many people find attractive.
And for performance, getting your posterior chain bigger and more powerful with translate into being better at everything.
Building the biggest legs possibly is definitely a tough thing to do. Training legs is hard, it hurts, and most people don’t do enough to grow them any meaningful amount.
This is even worse without a Squat Rack to make things easy to load for you. That’s why finding alternatives that still work the main muscle groups is what you want to do.
Hopefully you got some variations you can use in this article!
Also, let me know what your favorite squat alternative is in the comments below!
Until next time,