8 Alternatives to Dumbbell Back Squats (which still provide a huge leg pump)

8 Alternatives to Dumbbell Back Squats (which still provide a huge leg pump)

Back squats get all the press when it comes to building a towering set of pins, but if they’ve been the bread and butter of your endeavors since phones have had buttons, then maybe it’s time to kick back. change it with one of them. equally effective squat variations.

Best Back Squat Alternatives


By simply shifting the weight to the front of our body, we can put more stress on the quadriceps. If you train without a rack, learning to “clean” the bar across the front of your shoulders puts squats back on the menu. Going from rear to front is the fastest change you can make to your training to start seeing new quad growth.

front squat

Form Verification

With your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a barbell across your chest. Next, raise your elbows high to secure the bar across your shoulders (A). Maintain an upright torso and thrust your hips back, bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor (B). Return to the starting position. Don’t fly too hard – you’ve got a long way to go.


Raising your heels during a squat is the fastest way to hack a greater range of motion. The bicycle squat allows you to dive deep into this squat, recruiting more muscle fibers and specifically targeting the vastus medialis, “teardrop” shaped muscles on your inner thighs. These are the perfect remedy if you have problems with tight calf muscles.

Form Verification

We can’t promise this one won’t burn. Raise your heels onto a weight plate or block, keeping your feet within 6 inches of each other, heels close together. Hold your dumbbell close to your chest. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, (A) get up explosively, stop just short of locking your legs to keep tension on the quads (B). Repeat.


This alternative to the squat hack eliminates the need for bulky and expensive machines and can help those who struggle with squat mechanics by guiding you through the range of motion as you bend safely into the plates. As a bonus, by only using half the bar, your weights go twice as far, perfect for heavy leg days.

land mine hack squat

Form Verification

Lift the loaded end of your barbell over your shoulder, then turn around, “resting” your back against the weight plate while holding the barbell firmly over your shoulder. Step your feet forward until your body forms an almost symmetrical angle to the bar behind you. Bend your knees and push your hips back, dropping into a deep squat. Press your back against the plate as you rise explosively. Pause and repeat. Switch shoulders with each set.


Much like the dumbbell front squat, the dumbbell variation emphasizes the quadriceps, while providing a healthy dose of core-building goodness as your core works twice to keep your torso upright. The added instability of using two free weights means that lighter weights are still a tall order, perfect for a step finisher or for high reps if you’re trying to pull off heavier weights.

front squat with dumbbells

Form Verification

Once you have completed your presses, perform your squats dropping the bells to the front of your shoulders (A). From there, lower into a front squat, until your thighs are parallel to the floor (B), before going back up. At this point, your grip and upper back may be tiring, but don’t relax. Keeping your core tight throughout is crucial.


Potentially the most accessible loaded version of the squat you will encounter. By loading your kettlebell or dumbbell into the center of your chest, you force yourself to focus on keeping your torso upright, which helps you refine your technique while strengthening your back muscles.

squat goblet

Form Verification

Hold your dumbbell close to your chest (A). Lower your hips and lower into a squat (B). Your elbows should come between your knees at the bottom. Go back up by contracting your glutes at the top. Repeat. Push yourself through these, you can probably do more than you think. Aim for at least 20 before you have to break.


Zerchers don’t just hit your core, they strengthen postural upper back muscles that have become criminally underused in the 21st century, helping to balance office-bound life. It’s also a pretty awkward move, which is rare in gyms full of cushioned machines. It can help develop courage and mental toughness.

zercher squats

Form Verification

Secure a barbell in the crook of your elbows by lifting it off the floor or grabbing it from a rack. Stand up straight, lock your shoulder blades down and back and brace your core (A) Push your hips back and bend your knees, dropping into a deep squat while maintaining an upright torso (B). Rise explosively and repeat.


Life is rarely perfectly balanced, so it makes sense to train your body to work in a “staggered” way. By carrying a single kettlebell with one arm, on one side of your body, you are forced to stabilize your core from left to right, in addition to the usual “anti-flex” you are exposed to. Basically training to win the war against gravity by folding yourself in like a pretzel.

staggered front squat

Form Verification

Clean a kettlebell high on your chest, with your elbows close to your body and your knuckles under your chin (A). Lower your hips and lower into a squat (B). Squeeze your empty hand to help activate your core muscles. Step back explosively, keeping your torso straight.


Much like the goblet squat, the variety of sandbags gives you a reason to focus on that strong, straight torso that is essential to good squat form. On top of that, having a large sandbag pressed against your diaphragm creates a tactile signal to help those core muscles really engage, giving you something to “breathe” into creating a strong “intra-pressure”. stomach” and protecting your spine.

leg, human body, shoulder, joint, standing, human leg, elbow, knee, muscle, shirtless,

Form Verification

With the bag standing, squat down and wrap your arms around it, hugging the bag as tightly as possible before standing (A), the bag should cover your entire torso. Take a deep breath as you feel your core press against the weight of the bag. Squat down until your hip crease is past your knee (B) before standing up. Maintain an upright posture and hug the bag tightly throughout.

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