Barbell Substitutes – Series 4 – Squats Edition

Series 4 of the Barbell Substitutes will focus on workouts you can do to replace the Barbell Squat. Whatever your reason for not being able to do barbell squats you still need to workout these very important muscles. I will cover 8 barbell substitutes that will allow you to do just that.

If you want to check out the other Barbell Substitutes series click the links below.

Barbell Substitutes – Series 1 – Deadlifts Edition

Barbell Substitutes – Series 2 – Bench Press Edition

Barbell Substitutes – Series 3 – Barbell Row Edition

Squats

The squat is another compound movement that serves as a full body exercise, the major muscles worked are the gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius (buttocks), quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), adductor (groin), hip flexors and calves. These are all lower body muscles and are not the only muscles worked by doing squats, you also in a small way target your back muscles, rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae.

So you can see why it is important to find barbell substitutes if you don’t have the equipment or confidence to do a barbell squat.

Dumbbell Squats

Just like in the other editions of the barbell substitutes series the first exercise is the closest you can get to the barbell version but you will be replacing the weight with dumbbells or resistance bands.

Grab a set of dumbbells, or stand on a resistance band while holding the handles, and curl them up on to your shoulders. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointed slightly out. Keep your back neutral and your head up looking straight ahead. Keep your core tight, take a deep breath in and push your hips back as your knees begin to bend. Focus on keeping your knees inline with your feet and drop down until your hips are lower than your knees.

Breathe out as you drive through your heels and push back up to a standing position. Do not allow your knees to move inward toward each other and squeeze your glutes as you reach the top.

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a great barbell substitute for beginners since holding the weight in front of your chest forces you to keep your torso upright and your shoulders back. The goal of the goblet squat is to get your elbows to touch the inside of your knees so it also forces you to keep your knees out and not allow them to angle in.

You will require a single dumbbell or kettlebell to complete the goblet squat, hold the dumbbell at your chest with your palms facing up supporting the dumbbell between your hands. Stand slightly wider than hip width apart with your toes pointed slightly out. Keep your back neutral and your head up looking straight ahead. Keep your core tight, take a deep breath in and push your hips back as your knees begin to bend. Keep the weight close to your chest and drop down until your hips are just below your knees and your elbows touch the insides of your knees.

Breathe out as you drive through your heels and push back up to a standing position. Do not allow your knees to move inward toward each other and squeeze your glutes as you reach the top.

Resistance Band Zercher Squat

For resistance band Zercher squats, you will need a heavy continuous loop resistance band. You can either anchor the band low and slightly behind your heels or stand on the band with both feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Hold the band in the crook of your elbows with your hands near your chest. Keep your back neutral and your head up looking straight ahead. Keep your core tight, take a deep breath in and push your hips back as your knees begin to bend, drop down until your hips are lower than your knees.

Breathe out as you drive through your heels and push back up to a standing position. Do not allow your knees to move inward toward each other and squeeze your glutes as you reach the top. The main difference with this barbell substitute is the hardest part of the exercise will be near the top when the resistance band is stretched the most.

Glute Bridge

The Glute Bridge is an effective barbell substitute to strengthen the hips and butt. Lay on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes and abdominal muscles as you lift your hips off the ground until knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold 2-3 seconds and return to the starting position.

To add a bit of difficulty, set up a resistance band so it stretches across your hips or place your feet on an elevated surface like a bench or chair.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a single-leg, unilateral squat, that places a greater focus on the quadriceps. It will also improve your balance and coordination. To perform this barbell substitute you stand on one foot with your other foot elevated laces down on a bench or chair behind your body. Squat with your front leg until your trailing knee almost touches the ground, now push through your planted foot to return to a standing position. Be sure you do not push with your trailing leg as this can cause knee pain, this leg is just for balance.

To increase the difficulty you can hold a set of dumbbells or even a single weight in one hand.

Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is another unilateral exercise that helps to target imbalances between your left and right sides. Stand with your feet hip width apart, then step backwards with one leg landing with the ball of your foot on the ground, drop down until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Push through the heel of your stationary leg as you stand back up and bring your trailing foot back to hip width apart. You can alternate which foot you step back with or complete all of your reps for one leg before switching to the other.

Just like with the Bulgarian split squat you can increase the difficulty by holding a set of dumbbells or even a single weight in one hand.

Resistance Band Hip Drive

This barbell substitute mainly targets the glute muscles so it is a good isolation movement to do at the end of a leg workout. You will need a resistance band mounted to an anchor behind you with the band going across your hips while you are in a kneeling position. Next sit back until your butt touches your heels and then drive your hips forward as you engage your glutes and squeeze them at the top.

Donkey Kicks

This is another great isolation exercise that targets the glutes and hamstrings. Assume the starting position on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your neck and spine neutral and brace your core. Hinging at the hip lift one leg while keeping your knee bent and your foot flat. Use your glute to press your foot directly toward the ceiling and squeeze at the top.

To increase the difficulty hook a resistance band on your foot and anchor it low near your feet.

Which is your favorite barbell substitute for the squat? Let me know in the comments if there are any specific muscles you want to see covered in this barbell substitutes series.

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3 thoughts on “Barbell Substitutes – Series 4 – Squats Edition”

  1. As a weightlifter for 40 years I like the plain old squat. But now I use squat machines that help me out if I workout to failure. i do my workouts on machines mostly now like calf raises and hamstring curls. I just put plates on the machines and proceed to do my workout. The reason I use machines now is that I don’t have a workout partner anymore and to get one with a schedule that fits mine gets increasingly difficult. Thanks for sharing your article.

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  2. Hello there,I should say I have access to some very, very good Medx lower back and leg press machines. The lower back machine has entirely eliminated the serious back issues that I went through a few years ago.thanks a lot for sharing this awesome article i know it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me.

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  3. hello there. amazing review you have here it really dragged my attention as i was glancing through it i just could not ignore   it i really think that that this article is going to help a lot of people as it is going to help me also these are all very helpful fitness equipment am sure going to try them out after now thanks for sharing this with me 

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