What happens when your training plateaus? What happens when back squats stop working?
What about when you get injured?
Your legs won’t grow, you can’t get stronger, the scale doesn’t move and you can’t seem to add any more weight to the bar.
I’ll tell you what most people do…
Turn to a bros best source of information in the entire world, the jacked dude at your gym. Why? Because he’s jacked so he obviously knows what he’s doing…
“I am sick of my chicken legs, what will build my squat?” His insightful response “do more.”
Thanks bro. Common knowledge right?
Add more weight, do more reps and then it just happens. 9/10 what ends up happening is you crushing your shit and end up on a gym fail video somewhere.
You’re human, you get stuck in a rut from doing the same thing over and over without knowing where to go next. But you’re not like most people — you are here, so you are already a step ahead of the game.
Squatting is great for growing a nice set of legs. The legs all have some sort of squat variation as a go-to exercise.
As we get older, aches and pains start showing their ugly faces. We end up pain that was never there before. Unfortunately, some of the world’s biggest meatheads have to drop the traditional barbell back squat. When the risk outweighs the reward it is time to rethink your options.
But that doesn’t have to be at the expense of your sexy ass legs.
Here are 4 squat variations where you don’t need to use heavy weight, for a great training effect. In fact, they force you to use a lighter load, which is easy on your joints but still give you all da gainzzz.
Paused Front Squats
There is a good reason why most people don’t do actual full squats, because they’re harder and the bottom of the lift sucks when the weight gets heavy.
Paused front squats teach you to keep your core tight throughout the entire movement, or else you will fold over like a shrimp. This is very important for maintaining a healthy back, plus they hammer your quads like a son of a gun.
Do this: 3 x 8 reps with 55% of your 1 repetition max
If you are counting your own pauses ADD 2-3 SECONDS. Why? Because we are all cheaters when it comes to counting real pauses. I promise you count faster and start counting before you get to the bottom.
Slowing down the tempo of an exercise changes the feel and the training adaptations. There are entire training programs that use tempo or time to manage the workouts and control the speed of an exercise.
To build legs that demand respect, it is important to manipulate a variable that dictates muscle growth, ‘time under tension’. Basically, make your muscles work longer. Slowing down the speed of the exercise increases time under tension, which can increase muscle damage either in the same set or when accompanied with other exercises performed with heavier weights.
Do this: 3 x 6 reps with 65% of your 1 repetition max
Think of pulling yourself down into the movement rather than just trying to slow yourself down from crashing down to the floor. The intent of using other muscles to ‘pull’ yourself down into the squat, helps get more muscles working and will make you feel more stable.
1.5 Rep Safety Bar Squats
Another exercise that increases time under tension. Yes, by now you know what that means, more leg for your significant other to latch on to.
The ‘1.5 Rep SSB Squat’ is exactly what it sounds like — a regular squat with an added ‘pulse’ at the bottom. But just coming halfway up, that’s where the .5 comes from.
Constant tension on the muscles throughout the movement makes for a pretty intense pump. The safety squat bar puts the weights in a position that the quads take more of the load (this can also be done with a regular barbell as well.)
Do this: 3 x 10 (add the half rep to each rep)
Make the movement as smooth as possible. Keep your lower back in a strong neutral position and do not lose tightness in your core.NO BOUNCING OUT OF THE BOTTOM, this ain’t the strip club.
If you don’t have access to a safety squat bar, no sweat. Just use a regular barbell in either the front or back loaded position.
Landmine Squat to a box
The ‘landmine’ is one of my favorite tools to teach a proper squat. It is an even better teaching tool when you squat to a box. This puts your body at an angle that will definitely smoke those luscious legs.
The difference between ‘squatting to a box’ and ‘box squatting’ refers to how much weight you actually put on the box.
When squatting to a box you won’t shift much of your weight to the box. If you think of the box as being a scale, only put 15-20% of your weight on the scale. Opposed to a box squat you are going to put 70-80% of your weight on the box.
This is a great exercise if you are new to squatting or if your lower back is fried but you still want to get some more leg work in.>
Do This: 3 x 12 as an accessory movement more towards the middle or end of your workout.
Control the movement and DO NOT CRASH on the box. Keep your core tight, chest up and watch those legs grow.
Your gym doesn’t have a landmine? What assholes. That’s ok though, just jam the end of one barbell in a corner of the gym or a sturdy machine and get squattin’.
Demonstration video below
Get Squattin’ Amigo
Great quads are hard to come by, but they are well appreciated. Use these 4 variations to stay keep squatting when you feel a little beat up and the regular barbell back squat is no longer an option. Ooo yea, and keep those legs growing.
Joey Percia is a coach at a training studio in New York City and also runs a successful online training business. He is a competitive powerlifter in the 181 division and has totaled 1400lbs. Joey has a Masters degree in Exercise Science, is a CPPS coach, Westside Barbell Coach and CSCS. Follow him on Facebook, you will be glad you did.