Lower Risk Alternatives to the Barbell Back Squat

My previous post I No Longer Give a Squat About the Squat, I outlined why I no longer perform the barbell back squat. This post will list the exercises I’ve used to replace weight lifting’s most sacred exercise. Before I begin, I want to clarify that I am not a personal trainer and the only client I’ve trained has been myself. I approach fitness in the same manner that I approach investing, which is a risk versus reward model. The squat without a doubt can provide huge rewards, but it is my opinion that the risk of injury increases over time.

To have strong legs, I do not believe it is necessary to back squat.

A Humbling Lesson From Pete Egoscue That I Ignored

During my squat heydays around 2001 – 2004, I was dealing with frequent back pain. It was during this time that I starting reading Pete Egoscue. His books had a series of exercises used to correct alignment problems. One of the exercises in the book was an Air Bench. This is also called a Wall Sit in the Hillfit: Strength program and Wall Squat elsewhere. Read How To Do a Wall Squat for an exercise explanation.

What I learned very quickly is just how difficult this simple exercise can be. Even though I was squatting more than body weight for reps, my legs would burn greater on a 60 second Wall Squat. At the time I didn’t understand why the Wall Squat seemed to produce deeper muscle fatigue. I was still in the Pavel school then – which places greater importance on demonstrating strength without going to failure. But I was a good comrade, so I stopped doing the Wall Squat to failure and returned to my free weights.

The lesson I should have walked away with then was that the number of pounds lifted is a less important metric than intensity, which is more difficult to quantify. When I did the Wall Squats my leg muscles felt more taxed. When I did the back squats, my entire body felt destroyed, including at times, my back.

Sequential Muscle Fiber Activation

After I read the book Body By Science by McGuff and Little, I understood why the Wall Squat produced such a deep level of fatigue rapidly. By placing the body into a static hold, at first the slow twitch muscle fibers are engaged. They are fatigue resistant and recover quickly. These are the dominant fibers used in endurance sports. If the slow twitch muscles become fatigued then the more energy expensive fast twitch muscle fibers are engaged. They have a lot more power, but they fatigue much faster and take longer to recover.

When you perform a Wall Squat, the first half of the exercise is designed to fatigue the slow twitch muscle fibers without allowing them the ability to recover. The goal is knock out the slow twitch fibers so you can directly target the larger fast twitch muscle fibers. This is where the exercise gets difficult.

Trust me when I say that a single Wall Squat taken to total failure can produce as much muscular fatigue as a 20 mile hike. Not every person will want to train to failure. I covered this in the post Training to Failure or Training to Quit Part 2. Because I have the freedom to have down days post-workout, going to failure works for me. If you are an in-season athlete, law enforcement or military and need to be near peak performance on a daily basis, then training to failure may not be wise.

Body by Science

Body by Science by Doug McGuff and John Little

Exercise Safety

When I engage in an exercise I want the ability to work to failure at ANY point during the repetition safely. Back to the Wall Squat. The worst case safety scenario for that movement is my legs completely give out and I’m forced to lower my body into a sitting position. Because I can safely hit failure without risk of injury, I can focus completely on generating more intensity.

You can’t do that with the Barbell Back Squat. When you begin a descent, you need to know you have enough strength left in the movement at any time to stand up and rack the weights. Exercising to failure is not an option with the squat. You’ll hurt yourself. Because you can’t safely exercise to failure with a barbell back squat, intensity is replaced with an increase in volume. That might be great for your legs, but in my opinion is subjecting your back and spine to unnecessary stress.

The Squat Replacement Exercises

Here are the exercises that I have used to replace the barbell back squat.

  1. Leg Press (HIT – SuperSlow) – Perform this exercise slowly.  Search YouTube for SuperSlow examples.
  2. Leg Press (HIT – Static Holds)  – This is my favorite leg exercise. Instead of doing reps, you perform a series of static holds. This is part of the Max Pyramid designed by John Little. See the video Max Pyramid for an example of how to perform a set. This can also be done with a static weight, which is perfect if you just have access to a plate loaded leg press.
  3. Goblet Squat – When you move the weight off your back and place it in front of you, you don’t need nearly as much weight to provide a stimulus. Plus you can easily drop the weight should your strength give out.
  4. Wall Squat / Wall Sit / Air Bench – As discussed above. Check out the book Hillfit: Strength if you wish to design an entire fitness plan around this exercise.
  5. Park Squat – This is something I just named that was part of my Outdoor HIT protocol. It starts as a body weight squat or body weight plus kettle bell (goblet style). Perform a few squats at a normal pace using a full range. As fatigue starts to set in slow the pace and reduce the range. When the movement gets too difficult drop the kettlebell (if you have one) and then freeze into a static hold. Hang on until you can’t stand anymore.

The exercises I listed are based upon High Intensity Training, but they can all still be done safely if you prefer to do a more standard volume approach. If you are new to High Intensity Training, learning how to breathe is important. Go slack jawed and don’t hold your breath. You do not want jaw tension.

Because I follow High Intensity Training, I only do one set to failure once every 5-7 days. I have more leg strength now than when I was back squatting and none of the pain.

Published by

MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

58 thoughts on “Lower Risk Alternatives to the Barbell Back Squat”

  1. A great post Michael.

    I chose the Wall Sit / Air Bench / Wall Sit for Hillfit for a number of reasons.

    First of all it is simple to learn. Too many trainers or internet personalities present exercises that may be fine but are actually complex motor skills. Kettlebell snatches and swings for example may or may not be good exercises but they are not easy to learn without decent coaching and a lot of practice. The Wall sit is different – it is a very simple move. Once in position your task is simple – hold that position until you can’t hold it anymore, sequentially recruiting the muscle fibres.

    Secondly it is a congruent exercise (in terms of Bill DeSimone’s work). At the 90 degree knee position you are at maximum moment arm for the quads, while this is also the position of maximum muscle torque – the hardest position in terms of leverage is met with the muscle being at its strongest.

    Thirdly it removes much risk. Whatever the squat defenders say you are in a risky position moving with a bar on your back. I’ve seen and experienced too many slips and accidents. I’ve seen people squat without collars only to see plates slide off the bar so it flips off and cracks them in the back of the head. I’ve seen people get stuck at the bottom. In terms of duty of care I cannot recommend this move to the average person that I aimed the book at. With the Wall Sit there can be zero added load or if you do add load you can do it safely – hold dumbbells at your side or in a goblet position.

    In terms of performance I either just do the timed hold, adding weight if I go over 90 seconds, or do that and immediately go into the top half of a free /air squat, the easy portion where the moment arm is less and you can keep going. I also sometimes do them Max Pyramid style: 20seconds with knees at about 60 degrees, 20 seconds with knees at 90 degrees, then 90 degrees with added weight for 20s, add weight until you can’t hold for 20 then back down, usually backing to zero load and then the 60 degrees.

    Wall sits were the basic quad exercise Bill DeSimmone recommended in his first book, Moment Arm Exercise which was what got me thinking of them as the basic move.

    For me for most people a wall sit, plus a plank (pushup position) would be the start of all training. I also add some timed static contractions now, but that is another story.

    Hope this is helpful

  2. @Chris – Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t thought about doing the Max Pyramid with the Wall Sit. Excellent idea.

  3. Another great post MAS. Like John D commented in the previous post, my experiences as an ectomorph mirror yours so closely that I have no need to write a blog myself. I just read yours. You are not my soul-brother – you are my somato-brother!

    I too switched to the Max Pyramid Protocol from standard Big 5 BBS protocol last fall with good results. (I use a Smith Machine at home.) I take the Big 5 exercises and do only 2 of them at a time in one workout, and mix and match them so that 1) the same exercise is never done 2 workouts in a row, and 2) I don’t combine the 2 push exercises (overhead / bench) or the 2 pull exercises (pulldown / row) in the same workout. So I can work out about once every 5 days; when recovery is good, I can occasionally shorten that to 4 days.

    Even better, I bought a hip squat belt when in the US last time, and all my squats now are with the belt hooked on one weighted end of a barbell below me, with the opposite, unweighted end secured to the floor. I only have to lift the barbell maybe 2 inches off the floor to get a perfect 90 degree knee angle (the point of greatest leverage disadvantage), with no pressure on my spine at all. When muscle failure hits, the lifted barbell simply drops those 2 inches back to the floor.

    Currently I start at only 85 pounds, pyramid up to 115 pounds, and back down. I can barely hold the 115 pound weight for more than 5 seconds – it’s that tough. But the absolute safety of this method lets me concentrate on muscle tension so that at the very end I’m shaking like an earthquake.

  4. @GaryMor – I haven’t tried the hip belt squat. It makes perfect sense that it would be an effective exercise. I’m going to give it a try. Thanks for the idea.

  5. MAS have you read Bill DeSimone’s Congruent Exercise? An excellent book and he highly recommends the hip belt squat

  6. @Chris – I plan to soon. Have been focusing my reading lately on Indian Cooking and headache research.

  7. Michael: I discovered your site via a post on Anthony Dream Johnson’s site regarding Crossfit. I love Crossfit, but I agree it can be dangerous. Your comments about the back squat and the safer alternatives is a welcome piece of advice. Thanks.

  8. @Ketch – Interesting article. Step ups would make for a good alternate exercise for an Outdoor park workout. Step up to a bench or something similar.

  9. I do love what squats do for my legs, hips, and glutes. But whenever I go even a little bit heavy with a barbell, I hurt my back. It isn’t a matter of technique – I’ve studied Rippetoe’s book and DVD, taken it to heart, and still have problems.

    The reality for me is that I don’t have a lot of disc material left between a couple of the vertebra at the bottom of my spine. Even the act of taking a weighted bar off the rack will compress those deteriorated disks enough to cause muscle spasms, and send that tingling ‘pinched nerve’ sensation shooting down one leg. So as much as I’d like to continue squatting with weight, I’d much rather be able to get out of bed and stand up without pain.

    So what you’ve written here rings true for me.

    I have done wall sits in the past, but sort of drifted away from them. Now I think I’m going to revisit that exercise.

    I also appreciate the comments by ‘garymar’. I was just about the pull the trigger on getting a hip belt from Iron Mind. But I wasn’t sure how much weight I would need to have the exercise feel challenging. It was helpful to see what someone else uses with that exercise.

    I’m also surprised you didn’t mention single leg exercises. You might want to google “Mike Boyle” and squats, as he is a well known trainer who has largely given up on back squats, and relies mainly on single leg exercises as a substitute. He also has quite a few professional athletes as clients, so I presume that gives him some credibility. If you check out his books and articles, you will find that he has a whole progression of single leg exercises for leg training. I’ve found them to be quite challenging. There are a lot of ways to tweak the exercise to control the degree of loading on the working leg, and limit the stress on the knees and back.

  10. Mike Boyle is doing some interesting stuff. From his book Functional Training For Sports, through now, he’s done an interesting evolution. If I remember correctly (whoops, IIRC, I forgot), he’s recently starting to work his way towards Mentzer’s approach, at least as far as intensity and rest, while still incorporating specific core and sports specific moves.

    Craig, your comments on squats and spine health are exactly what I’m getting at elsewhere. By “elsewhere”, I mean things I actually wrote and presented in context, not what other internet snipers claim I wrote.

    Garymar, that is a great way to do the hip belt squat. It sounds like the old fashioned, T-bar row setup that used to be common in gyms.

    MAS, one warning about the hip belt. Plan how to get out of the last rep, so you don’t collapse straight down on the plates. If you get the picture. Oww (in a very high voice).
    Randall Strossen, the Super Squats/Iron Mind guy, straddled an ez curl bar which gave a little clearance.

  11. @Craig – If I detected a strength imbalance between my right and leg leg, I might use single leg movements to get them equal. However, I’m not a fan of them in general. Although they increase the intensity, the safety of the movement is reduced. I flat out do not like the Pistol.
    https://criticalmas.org/2011/11/rejecting-the-naked-warrior/

    I can increase intensity using 2 legs by slowing down the movement, performing longer statics or holding onto a weight during the movement. The last thing I want to do is twist my knee trying to come up from a final rep of a 1-legged squat.

    @Bill – Thanks for stopping by and providing some tips. The first week I try any new exercise I ghost rep it (almost no weight) for minimal reps and then don’t touch it for a week. This has greatly minimized the injuries I had in the early years when I’d race to the gym to try the newest exercise.

  12. I discovered the benefits of the goblet squat thanks to you, MAS.

    I now like to do them in a plyometric style, jumping off the ground a foot or so each rep.

    I don’t think the word “failure” is as useful as “exhaustion.”

    Failure implies something went wrong. Exhaustion is actually the goal and achieving it can be a good thing.

    If it needs to be clarified further I would say “train to complete exhaustion” and/or “perform enough reps to achieve full muscular exhaustion.”

  13. @Glenn – Yeah I like the word exhaustion as well, but “failure” has been well established in the High Intensity field as the term. So that is why I use failure.

  14. “Trust me when I say that a single Wall Squat taken to total failure can produce as much muscular fatigue as a 20 mile hike.”
    Yes, but the question is …does it build strength? I’m no fan of Pavel, but I think his idea of low reps short of failure build strength more than a wall sit. The wall sit will build fatigue, and muscular endurance, which may be more of what you want or need. But strength? two different things in my opinion.

  15. @Sifter – How does one quantify strength? In my example, I used a 20 mile hike. When I did traditional bodybuilding and Pavel, I couldn’t complete a 20 mile hike. Now it is almost effortless.

  16. Then that tells me that perhaps pure strength is overrated, and that indeed the muscle endurance factor, and building resistance to fatigue, are indeed the way to go. Your good results speak for themselves. Congrats.

  17. I am delighted you liked my link! Please keep me updated on how your experiment works out. Some people will complain that you will quickly need more resistance than just your bodyweight; this can be easily accomplished by using the same method with Goblet Squats or, even better, weighted vests. My experience with Goblet Squats is that the strain of holding onto the weight quickly becomes irritating to my neck and shoulder, especially when I go over 50-60 lbs. I strongly suspect that squatting very, very slowly would be an even bigger strain. Of course when using Drew Baye’s method very little weight is needed, if any at all.

    Here is a link to the best weightvest company I am aware of:

    http://www.weightvest.com/

    PS: of course weightvests are a great way to amplify the training effect of nearly all bodyweight exercises.

  18. @Joseph – Another way to continue to use body weight exercises as strength increases is to do a pre-fatigue. For me this might be 10 body weight squats at a normal cadence. At that point, I’d proceed into the Drew Baye method. Cheaper than buying a weighted vest and should accomplish the same thing – getting the slow twitch muscle fibers to fatigue quicker.

  19. In place of normal weighted squats I have been doing Bulgarian Split Squats, even though I am well aware of the possible risks. Both Ken Hutchins and Drew Baye are against any unilateral leg work, due to the potential risk of losing balance and falling and the uneven loading of the spine. Other coaches, such as Mike Boyle, are big fans of this exercise due to the fact that it works many small hip muscles that are barely touched by bilateral squats. Pistol squat fans, of course, use similar arguments. I prefer to stay very safe and conservative, so I may decide to discard unilateral leg work altogether. What is your opinion on Bulgarian Split Squats?
    I was planning on using the BSS to pre-fatigue my legs and then do the Drew Baye Bodyweight Squats, similar to what you wrote. Or do you think I would be wiser to try your suggestion exclusively?

  20. @Joseph – I don’t think I’ve ever tried a Bulgarian Split Squat, so I haven’t thought about it. But if there is a risk on uneven loading of the spine, I’d avoid it.

  21. I checked out your link on split squats; I’ve tried those before, but didn’t like the shortened range of motion compared to the Bulgarian Split Squat (aka rear foot elevated split squat). The BSS feels more like a true one leg squat. To make the BSS more stable and safer, I use a one leg squat stand from Sorinex Equipment. Here is a link for it:

    http://store.sorinex.com/One-Leg-Squat-Stand-p/p00543.htm

    This stand makes the BSS a lot more stable than the rear foot balancing on a bench, and you can adjust the height of the pad. Still, one big problem remains: you certainly cannot go to failure on this exercise and as your form deteriorates the risks escalate, regardless of what your rear foot balances on! For these reasons I am tempted to follow your advice and strictly use bodyweight squats and focus on going to absolute failure.

  22. I used a Frank Zane Leg Blaster while on vacation and thought it was fantastic! in my opinion it is the perfect compromise between doing a traditional back squat and a Leg Press. It minimizes the risks of the squat, yet feels much more balanced and functional than a Leg Press.

  23. ‘Knee tap squats’, preceded by Pavel’s ‘Airborne Lunge’, preceded by what we used to call Skater’s Squats. Good exercise. Nothing new at all.

  24. from what I have read, the knee tap squat (aka Skater’s squat) is similar to doing a pistol squat, but is much more biomechanically sound. It is much easier to maintain the proper back curve and to stay balanced throughout the range of motion.

  25. @Joseph – Makes sense to me. I think Nick was correct in his pistol critique video on how it doesn’t mimic normal movement, whereas the tap squat does. Thanks for sharing.

  26. MAS.. I am surprised you say that this exercise is new to you. After all, you had a post reviewing The Naked Warrior, and there is clearly a segment in that book covering the Airbone Lunge, (same thing) in depth, as a step toward building to a Pistol.

  27. The point about squatting to failure is valid, but is not a problem if you are squatting in a cage.
    In a cage you can just set the guards a couple of inches below the bars lowest point, and then release the bar if you can’t get back up.

  28. After trying most of the squat replacements throughout 2013 I have come to the conclusion that the very best overall exercise for me is a Wide Dumbbell Squat. A wide squat really opens up the hips for an ideal range of motion, very similar to a Goblet Squat. However it feels far superior because it is much easier to hold heavier dumb bells between your legs instead of the goblet position. Also, by holding the dumbbell horizontally your arms push your knees into alignment with your feet. According to many trainers the Wide Squat is the most overall effective and balanced squat option. it hits all of the posterior chain and the thighs in a very even manner and puts little harmful stress on the knees as we’ll as the lower back. At this point a 75lb dumbbell works ideally, however as the weight goes up I will probably order a Dumbbell Squat Handle, specifically designed for this exercise.

  29. let me clarify that You only hold one dumbbell while doing the Wide Dumbbell Squat, not one in each hand. Also the reason you hold the dumbbell horizontally is because you can squat deeper than if you were holding it vertically. Also it is much easier to hold on to each end of the dumbbell. I will post a link to the dumbbell squat handle I referred to.

  30. First of all, thank you for your posts on squats and alternatives to the back squat. Even though the post is a bit old it’s still very relevant, so I have a question on yet another alternative:

    The Front Squat, which is like the Goblet Squat, but where instead of a dumbbell you use a barbell and load it directly on your body instead of holding it in front. Is it still a good alternative?

    I also wanted to thank you for offering the (unfortunately rather unique) message about reward vs. risk for exercises, instead of the maximize reward with no regarding to risk.

    I also have a related to this, more specifically on “perfect form”. I started training quite recently (3 months ago) and a lot of the instructions focuses on that you should keep perfect form every time, otherwise there is a risk of injury. I just find this thinking odd, since (even if you have really good form) if you want to increase the weight it is very likely that you will have an imperfect form on some (let’s say 2/100 as a very conservative estimate) reps and over time even 2/100 reps will accumulate to a lot of “bad form reps” and thereby a high chance of injury. Shouldn’t the assumption be that at some points there will be slip ups, and exercises should be chosen based on a reward vs. risk measure with respect to what happens when (and not if) the exercise is performed with a bad form?

    I have never seen this exact reasoning anywhere (even though this post comes close), so I wonder if my reasoning is incorrect? Currently the opposite seems so dominant, with the 3 highest risk exercises (Deadlift, Back Squats and Bench) being the dominant part in all the common strength programs for beginners, such as for example Starting Strength.

  31. @Mattias – I like the Front squat better than the Back Squat, because it doesn’t load the weight directly above the spinal column. However, it has an awkward grip. I prefer the goblet because the hands are facing each other and not twisted back. Also with the goblet you don’t need as much weight. And if the goblet suddenly becomes too heavy and compromises form, I can pull it close and the movement becomes easier. Can’t do that with a front squat.

    The 2nd part of your comment is brilliant. To gradually increase load and to expect perfect form every single time isn’t reasonable. There will be less than perfect reps eventually for any lifter where the movement has a high skill component. In another post I use the phrase “the myth of the perfect rep”. Those that engage in squats, bench presses, and Oly lifts believe illogically that can through decades of lifting always have perfect form on every rep even as the weight they use increases all while they age. Even assuming a 99.5% rate of perfection, they will get hurt at some point.

    This is why I select exercises with very low skill component and I use lower weights at a lower speed. It provides the same and sometimes greater muscular stimulus without the risk of injury. It isn’t as glorious, but it works.

    Your logic is absolutely correct, but this line of thinking is blasphemous to someone that has used compound technical moves to gain strength and size. Survivorship bias is blinding them.

  32. “you need to know you have enough strength left in the movement at any time to stand up and rack the weights. ”

    um, they have safety rails where you live right?

  33. Thank you for your article.I gave up heavy squatting in my thirties even though I was both techically good at it and strong quite capable of squatting the magic 500 for twelve to fifteeen reps in good form.However I quickly found that my breathing was compromised the next day{I felt like I could not fill my lungs properly} back pain around the sacrum and bleeding haemorroids were not a good exchange for my squat capacity.

    I was no raw new starter either having trained for decades so let me head that one off.I made a rational decision.I either blindly follow the notion that the squat is the King of Exercises etc and injure myself or find alternatives that worked for me.

    I have now used the leg press for many years with no loss of muscle mass and someimes use wall squats.I have occasionally tried myself out with a light 360 machine based hack squat and found no problems but never got back to the squat.

    One thing you do not mention that I am considfering is the very old fashioned belt squat which has none of the loading across the wrong segments of the spine.

    I notice a few critical voices with regard to your points about the squat.Seems most just have no points to argue just rudeness which is no arguement at all.Pathetic morons may one day have to reconsider themselves.

  34. MAS,thanks for your reply to my mention of the belt squat.I would like to add that they can be done quite effectively with a load that is not a suspended disc as well.The belt can be attached to a low floor pully and used effectively as long as their are no physical problems and good technique is maintained.Additionally the frame of the low pully machine provided one is close enough can be used to help maintain stability if a heavier load is used as obviously can be used with a pully system.No one should go crazy with this and my suggestion should not be used as a means of abusing a weight.

    Way back when in fact Nautilus when they were still quite young had what was called a Nautilus Multi Machine.I am not sure whether these are still being made but vintage ones can still be purchased particularly in North America.

    The machine came complete with a thick padded belt which hung from your hips.The belt could be attached to the pully on the unit and the user could then stand at three levels on a series of foot plates at the front of the machine to squat.

    I found it most effective although the stack was quite light for me.Difficulty could be added by standing first on one level and then the other as you progressed.

    Additionall the machine could be used for weighted dips via the hip belt and weighted chins/pullups as well as conventional curls etc.

    The machine itself had quite a small footprint and anyone with a garage gym with enough space could probably find a vintage one.

    Google the name and a number of pictures can be found on Google images.Hope this may be of some interest to those following things up.

  35. MAS,I forgot to say.Thank you for the book which I was not aware of.It looks very interesting.I shall have to read a copy.

  36. Great article, my friend works as a Personal Trainer for the excersise coach and he constantly emphasizes on the slow and steady approach. I have one quick question on your quote:

    “Because I follow High Intensity Training, I only do one set to failure once every 5-7 days. I have more leg strength now than when I was back squatting and none of the pain.”

    For each exercise in a workout are you doing one set to failure?
    Thanks,
    Adam

  37. Great article! After nearly twenty years of squats I’ve completely stopped and my back has rewarded me for it. Wish I would have read this literature earlier. Thx for confirmation.

  38. I am new to your blog, and I haven’t quite made my way through all the comments yet.

    A bit of background on me: I’ve been working out with weights since the 8th grade. I was on my high school’s weightlifting team and actually took first at state my junior and senior years for my weight class. I have worked out continually since then. Did the Army for a few years. Like to run and swim as well as lift and feel like I am above average for your typical guy – although my endurance has slacked – i do have plans to work on that though.

    Now I am 35, and only recently have I been having lower back pain. I squat once a week, but run sprints 2 to 3 time per week, plus a little plyo and some snatches and cleans another day. For awhile I’d alternate weekly between Front Squats and Back Squats on squat day. I had no issues, until an AC joint injury has now kept me from going heavy on Front Squats – kills my shoulder. My remedy was to just do back squats each week and I think this is overloading my lower back, as this was about the time I started having the lower back pain.

    I just took 2 weeks off of back squats and my back felt fine, so i sqautted monday, and that night (not during the workout) and all the next day, my lower back hurt. It’s making me rethink my workout routine and goals, so I was happy to run across your blog.

    I am looking for things that will keep/make my legs strong and add (or at least keep) the mass I have now, but without putting so much of a load on my spine.

    I’ve done wall squats before. I can do pistols, and will likely toss more of those in, as well as various split squats with dumbells, etc. and of course I’ll continue my sprints at various distances and plyo.

    my question is, you say that your leg strength is better now than it was when squatting. what do you mean and how do you quantify “strength.” is it that you’re just better at wall squats now than you were when you first started doing them, or can you jump higher, run faster too? legs bigger in mass, etc?

    and since writing this, have you made any more observations or changes in this regard?

    I dont want to wreck my back just have bigger legs, but i like being active. I like being strong. and 20 years of doing something means it’s a habit and those can be hard to break. I’ll always be active, It’s just finding the best thing to be active in.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  39. @Josh – It is hard to quantify “strength”, but I will say that I could charge up hills with less effort.

    Like you when I was doing squats I had to scale back my effort to avoid injury. For me I lowered the pounds. So when I switched over to the leg press – performed slowly – and often going to failure, I was able to safely reach a much deeper level of fatigue. That level of effort would be completely unsafe with a barbell back squat.

    This post is 3 years old and I still don’t miss the squat and all the back pain it brought me.

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