The squat. In the top 3 lower body exercises of all time? But there comes a point where, sometimes, just the barbell back squat isn't enough. Perhaps you've hit a serious plateau. Taking a step back and focusing on variations of the squat with a lot of carryover, especially those which work on weak points in your squat, can help. It can also allow us to hit muscles which we might not feel squatting. For example, the back squat is pretty poor for hamstring development. It also divides opinions on how effective it can be as a glute/quad builder, depending on where you are naturally dominant. Maybe you're just bored and want to switch up your programme! Not to worry, we've got you.
1) The Hack Squat
The hack squat is an absolutely excellent quad builder which can be loaded pretty heavily. Like all machines, it offers more stability than free weights. The back is locked against the sled, meaning that all focus can be given to powering through the legs to move the weight. It is common to see these done with very limited range of motion in the gym. When done correctly, this is an extremely challenging exercise. To get as much muscle recruitment as possible, don't let form slip!
2) The Box Squat
Unfortunately, this is another exercise where people often do not use correct form. The box is not there to bounce off! Keep the tension throughout the entire movement, and focus on sitting back onto the box. The wider stance and different angles engage more of the posterior chain, taking out the option to rely on the quads. Box squats are a brilliant way to teach quad dominant squatters to use their glutes and hamstrings and build power out of the hole, especially when band tension is added (for advanced lifters only).
3) The Safety Bar Squat
A safety bar squat will force a more upright position, which is advantageous for the quads. There are several other benefits including; more comfort when dealing with shoulder or wrist injuries, carry over into conventional squats and allowing some individuals to do heavier than they can with other barbell squats.
4) The Smith Machine Squat
There is some argument that a smith machine isn't ideal for squatting as it forces the bar path to move in a certain way, but so long as you aren't going close to max effort and are comfortable, it can be great to isolate certain parts of the legs, as the hack squat can be. A narrow stance is great for the quads, while a sumo stance with toes pointing out is excellent for the glutes.
5) The Goblet Squat
The goblet squat involves holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of the body. It can be useful to help teach the movement pattern for beginners. They can also be performed later in a session or as part of supersets to really get a burn in the legs!
Other notable mentions
-the V squat
Take Away Point
As you can see, no matter what reason you have for not wanting to get under a bar, be it injury, confidence or just boredom, there are plently of alternatives!
Squats increase whole body strength, using the lower body, back and core. As a compound exercise (an exercise using several muscle groups) they also burn more calories than isolation (single joint) movements, such as leg extensions. They also increase circulation and mobility.