Squats. You’ve read time and time again that you absolutely must make sure you get this major exercise into your workout program. In fact, you might have heard before that if you squat, you really don’t need any other lower body exercise – it’s just that powerful.
But, what if you can’t squat?
For some people, injuries strictly prohibit it. Whether it’s their back, knees, or ankles, squatting is out of the picture. For others, they are simply not biomechanically built to squat. Their legs are too long or their calves are too tight and they just can’t complete the range of motion properly as they should.
Is all hope lost for these individuals? Can they overcome this issue and still see excellent progress with their goal to build muscle fast?
While you may believe that squats must be done, they really don’t. While it’s highly advantageous to do them without a doubt, if for whatever reason you cannot, you can work around this and still see success with a lower body bodybuilding program.
And quite in fact, for some people, it is better not to squat and to do another exercise instead. Since they can’t complete the exercise properly in the first place, even if they try, they are not going to get as good of results as they could have had they have done an exercise they actually could do properly.
So assess yourself and make an educated decision about what its best for you.
If you do decide that squatting it out of the cards, then let’s talk about how to get around this.
What It Takes To Build Muscle
First, you need to understand and think about what it takes to actually get your muscle tissue built. The primary requirements to build muscle fast include:
- An overloading stimulus
- Sufficient rest to recover
- Enough food to build new muscle over what you have (a calorie surplus)
Clearly, all of these can be accomplished without the squat exercise, so you can now see why it is still possible to see results.
Squats are a very compound exercise that will hit multiple muscle groups at once, so you need to be sure that you are still going to be doing just that with each workout you do.
Let’s look at the exercise line-up.
Leg Press vs Squat
Perhaps the closest exercise to the squat is the leg press. It is a very similar movement pattern, only this time you are pressing weight away from you, rather than lowering weight toward the floor.
The nice thing about the leg press is that you can typically lift quite a heavy load with it, therefore, you can see remarkable strength gains.
The downside? You lose your core activation. Doing squats is very demanding on your core as those muscles will be contracting to keep you balanced, so as soon as you transition to the leg press where your back is fully supported, they no longer have to work.
So just note that you will lose some of the core benefits and you may wish to do additional ab exercises because of this.
You can also perform single leg presses as well, which is excellent for making sure that you don’t possess any strength imbalances in your body.
The next good exercise to be adding to your lower body workout to build muscle mass is the lunge. Lunges will bring about more core activation, so you can see that benefit here.
You can do stationary lunges or walking lunges – both will benefit you equally as well. The primary difference is the stationary lunge will work the hamstrings slightly more than the walking lunge.
Whichever variety you do, make sure that you maintain an upright position at all times to avoid a forward lean, which would cause back pain down the road.
You can also do these with a set of dumbbells or a barbell across your back, whichever you prefer.
Split Squat Exercise
The split squat is a hybrid variation of the regular squat and may be a possibility to consider as well. This exercise tends to lend better to working your glute muscles to a higher degree, so you should see positive gains in this region of the body when adding them to your program.
The key point to remember with the split squat is to lower yourself as low down to the ground as possible. It’s at the very lowest point that you will get the glute activation you desire and fully test your strength capability.
As you press upwards to complete the exercise, also think of pressing up through the heels rather than the balls of the feet. This will help to distribute your weight better, making sure that you are hitting those glutes as you should.
Do an equal number of reps and sets on both sides to avoid any muscular imbalances.
The exercise that typically goes hand in hand for being just as effective as the squat is the deadlift. You can either do stiff-legged deadlifts or Romanian style, each of which will hit the body in a different way. With Romanian deadlifts, you’ll hit the quads to a larger degree, so it will be more like the squat exercise.
Just note however that this exercise is also really going to work the lower back as well, far more than you would with the squat movement. So it can easily be a part of your back workout in addition to your lower body workout session.
Vary Your Rep Ranges
So now that you know which exercises you should be doing, how can you best structure your routine to see optimal results?
First, make sure that you vary your rep ranges. You should still be completing some exercises in the lower rep, higher weight range. This would typically be done with a leg press or deadlift, which then leaves your lunges or split squats to a higher rep range with lighter weight.
Using this protocol will help you work the muscles on all levels, producing complete strength and mass building.
Cycle Your Exercises
Finally, also cycle through your exercises. You likely won’t complete all of these in just a single workout, so change it up over a period of weeks or from month to month.
To keep the lower body responding and getting stronger, you’ll need to keep challenging it in new ways. For one month, do a regular leg press and the next month, switch to a single leg press. Likewise, split squats and lunges are also another exercise that are easily interchangeable with each other.
This will ensure you don’t get bored and that your body never hits that dreaded progress plateau, but rather, keeps seeing results.
So don’t be too concerned if you absolutely cannot squat. While it’s vital to know the difference between not being able to squat and not wanting to squat – if it’s a case of not wanting, you may just want to push yourself to do it, if you simply cannot do this exercise, you can successfully work around it and make great muscle gains.