(908) 525-1565 nathan@nathanfitness.com

The barbell back squat is oftentimes seen as the GOAT lower body movement (and a lot of people think this for quads). But I am about to shock you again, I hate barbell back squats. They are not a great quad builder and most of the time people will load up way more than they can squat and do 1/4 reps. Or you have the people who think they have the flexibility for some ass to grass squats. Then they go down, their knees start buckling, start butt winking and their form goes to shit. Besides all that, heavy squats put a ton of pressure on your knees and lower back. Oh yeah and the bar compresses down on your spine.

How about this as a scary story. I know a guy who was squatting around 185, not even that heavy. He pinched some sort of nerve in his spine because of the weight compressing him. Instantly paralyzed him from the neck down. This guy’s life is ruined.

Much like the bench press, I don’t know any high level squatters that don’t have knee or back injuries. Myself included! I used to squat a lot and I got pretty good at it. That is until my left knee started giving me some serious problem. I did some rehab, stopped barbell squatting and voila it got better (over a year period).

This is not a necessary movement to do fo quad development. There are much more effective and safer ways to go about it. Here is a list of my favorites

  • Kettlebell Squat (Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell between your legs. Do this on a raised platform with a leg on each side so you can go deeper)
  • Lunges: All types of lunges, reverse, walking, courtesy
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: One leg on the ground and one on the bench behind you. It is pretty much like an elevated lunge.
  • Hack Squats: If your gym as a good hack squat machine, use it!
  • Leg Press: One of the best quad builder out there
  • High Step Ups: One of my favorites. Do high reps and keep the step high.
  • Prowler Push and Reverse Sled Drags: Go drag a heavy sled backwards for 100 yards. Your quads will be screaming.
  • Trap Bar Deadlift: Try doing these on a deficit to hit your quads more
  • Landmine Squat: If your gym has the right attachment, landmine squats are awesome
  • Front Squats: If you want to do a barbell type of squat, try front squats but don’t go too heavy. These are way more effective at building your quads
  • Body Weight Squats: Normal, jumping, close, wide etc..
  • Wall Sits: These look easy but are killer. Find a wall, sit in a 90 degree position and hold it.

And so on… Still think you have to barbell squat? All of these are more effective and much more safe.

If you are a barbell squat die hard I probably can’t change your mind until something happens to you. Which to me is like waiting for a doctor to tell you that you have diabetes and then you start working out and eating right. I would try some of these other movements out and see how you like them. You will most likely find that you actually like them more, feel them working more and have less injuries.