Most think that to build bigger, stronger legs, you need to squat with a loaded barbell on your back. While back squats are effective, some lifters don't even have the mobility to get into the bar-on-back position.
If conventional squats aren't for you, that doesn't mean you can't squat... nor does it mean you can't load it up with heavy weight. Front squats and goblet squats are just a couple of examples.
And while these are two great alternatives, they have their drawbacks:
- Front-racked squats require even more shoulder, wrist, and upper back mobility.
- The ceiling of loading potential for goblet squats is much lower than barbell squats.
So what can you do instead?
Landmine Box Squats
The landmine is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment, but few people use it for box squats. That's a mistake. Here's why...
- The box increases glute engagement. It also takes some of the stress out of your spine and acts as a depth indicator.
- You don't need to be super mobile to do them. The mobility prerequisites for landmine squats are a lot more approachable than back squats. If you can put your hands together in front of your chest and sit down onto a bench, you can do landmine box squats.
- You can increase loading. The amount of weight you can use is a lot higher than goblet squatting with dumbbells or kettlebells.
Here's how to do it:
1. Push Your Hips Back First
One of the major benefits of using the landmine is that it forces you to push your hips back. Some people push their knees forward first. This usually distributes too much weight to the front of the feet, causing the heels to raise off the floor with unwanted stress on the knees.
And while it's not bad for your knees to go past your toes, you need to push your hips back first in order to use your legs with your feet "rooted" to the floor. You'll then be able to drive through your heels and engage your glutes. This saves your knees from a lot of stress.
2. Put Half Your Weight on the Box
This strategy helps you maintain hip and core engagement before driving back up. Credit goes to Joe DeFranco for this gem.
Think of the box as a scale. Now try to only apply half your bodyweight to it. Don't just "relax" on the box.
There are different methods for box squatting. You'll see the "touch and go" method where you tap your butt on the box before coming back up. Then there's the Westside method which involves the lifter distributing most of his weight back into the box before "arching" forward and squatting up.
Both have their merit, but somewhere in the middle is going to be a sweet spot for most.
3. Spread the Floor Apart
Pretend you're standing on a sheet of paper trying to rip it apart with your feet as you squat up and down. This will help you maintain an optimal position in the knees and reinforce glute engagement.
A common issue across all squat variations is knee caving or valgus collapse. This can be attributed to weak knee stabilizers (hamstrings, VMO), weak/restricted hips, limited ankle mobility, or improper motor patterns. So think of driving your heels and your pinky toes into the ground.
Back squats aren't the only way to build legs. If you have trouble getting into a back rack position or want to lift more than dumbbells or kettlebells will allow, give landmine box squats a try.