Barbell Squat Alternatives


If I leave squatting out of my workouts, how much muscle growth am I giving up? Because my knees really hurt when I squat, and the pain just gets worse when I chase higher and higher numbers.


There’s an assumption here that’s underlies both his problem and my answer, and it’s this – he’s very likely talking about barbell squats.

Which of course, are a fantastic movement and usually figure heavily into serious trainee’s programs.

But think about it – there are LOTS of different squats and squatting motions.

Types of Squats

You have DB squats, Bulgarian split squats, sissy squats, 1 and 2 legged BW squats, goblet squats, box squats and belt squats.

The Russians and to a lesser extent Bulgarians advocated for step ups, which I’d argue is in the squat family too.

Now add the 3 stances you could take on many of those: Shoulder width, slightly narrower and wide stance squats.

You could also try squatting with a band between your legs, squatting with bands for speed… the list is almost endless.

Until you’ve tried all of those, you can’t really rule out squats altogether

But let’s say you do, and you’re still having issues.

Trap Bar Deadlifts

Why not try trap bar deadlifts? Anyone that’s done them regularly can tell you – your legs really get hammered, primarily in the quads but hams come into play heavily too.

Trap bar deadlifts alone would recover most if not all of the growth stimulation of barbell squats.

They arguably involve more muscle group, and are the original “dead stop” training movement – which we know builds incredible strength too.

Bottom Line

You needn’t give up squatting, until you’ve exhausted all of the different types of squats I cited (and there are more, believe me). It’s a lot more likely you can still squat by using one of them, or trap bar deadlift which calls for less knee flexion but still delivers plenty in terms of muscle growth.

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Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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