Tip: Strong Legs, No Back Squats

If regular squats are busting you up in bad way, try these two safe and effective alternatives. You'll still build big legs.


I love squatting, but that doesn't mean everyone should do it with a bar behind their neck.

Without the bar, the squat requires good ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility to hit optimal depth. And most people can't even do a bodyweight squat that would pass at your local powerlifting meet. Add a barbell and (to borrow from Gray Cook) you're loading a dysfunctional movement pattern. Not good.

Here are two safer alternatives you can use to keep the gains coming and bring your nagging pain to a stop:

This is one of my favorite squat variations for a few reasons:

  • Healthy shoulder positioning: Front-loading weight in a landmine squat is easier on the shoulders than the classic front squat.
  • Core engagement: Your core is working hard to stabilize the spine with the weight distributed in front of the body.
  • Loading potential: You can load more weight with landmine squats compared to goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

For more info, read my full breakdown of the landmine box squat.

This variation puts even less stress on the spine since the weight is distributed between the legs directly in the center. This requires less effort from your back and you depend completely on your legs to do the work.