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Best Squat Alternatives for Stronger Legs

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Several effective options exist when looking for squat alternatives to build more muscular legs. Some of the best squat alternatives include Bulgarian split squats, lunges, step-ups, and pistol squats. These exercises target the lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, biceps femoris (hamstrings), and glutes, while improving balance and stability. Incorporating variations such as deep squats and single-leg movements can further enhance leg strength and overall lower body development.

Top 5 Best Squat Alternatives: Lower Body Exercises

Here are some effective squat alternatives and variations to help you build stronger legs!

  1. Bulgarian Split Squats: This exercise targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Stand in a split stance with one foot behind you on an elevated surface like a bench. Lower your body by bending the front knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground, then return to the starting position.
  2. Lunges: Lunges are great for targeting the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Take a step forward with one leg, bending both knees until the back knee is just above the ground. Push through the front heel to return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.
  3. Step-ups: Step-ups are excellent for working the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Step onto a sturdy platform or bench with one leg, then drive through the heel to lift your body onto the platform. Step back down and repeat on the other leg.
  4. Pistol Squats: Pistol squats are a challenging unilateral exercise that targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Stand on one leg with the other leg extended in front of you. Lower your body by bending at the knee and hip, aiming to reach a squatting position with your thigh parallel to the ground. Push through the heel to stand back up.
  5. Goblet Squats: Goblet squats are a variation that places more emphasis on the quads. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest level. Lower your body by bending at the knees and hips, keeping your torso upright. Return to the starting place by driving through the heels.

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Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is considered one of the best alternatives to traditional back squats due to its ability to target the inferior body muscles similarly while providing unilateral training and enhanced stabilisation. It primarily targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. It also engages the core muscles for stability and balance.

Step-by-step guide on how to perform it:

  • Stand with your left leg forward and right leg positioned behind on an elevated surface.
  • Maintain an upright posture with an engaged upper back.
  • Bend your left knee and lower your body, aiming for a full range of motion with the front thigh parallel to the ground.
  • Pause briefly, then push through the heel of your left foot to return to the starting position.
  • Perform desired reps on the left leg, then switch legs and repeat the exercise.
  • Control your descent, maintain an upright torso, and avoid bouncing at the bottom.
  • Start with bodyweight or use dumbbells for added resistance as you progress.

How and why it works: Benefits-

  • Develops unilateral leg strength and stability.
  • Targets the quads, biceps femoris, glutes, and core.
  • Helps improve balance and coordination.
  • It can be adjusted to target different muscle groups by adjusting the stance or adding resistance.

Pro tips from PTSPOT’s Trainer:

  • Ensure that your front knee stays aligned with your toes and does not extend past them to prevent unnecessary strain on the knee joint.
  • Aim for a moderate rep range, typically 8-12 reps per leg, to promote strength and muscle development.
  • As with any exercise, start with a proper warm-up and gradually increase the intensity and resistance over time to avoid injury and allow for progress.

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Lunges

Lunges an alternative for squats

Lunges are considered one of the best alternatives to squats as they effectively target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes while providing unilateral training. They are versatile exercises that can be incorporated into leg day routines for strength and muscle development. 

How to perform lunges:

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a step forward with one leg, ensuring that your knee is directly above your ankle.
  • Lower your body by bending both knees until your back knee is just above the ground.
  • Push through the heel of your front foot to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the exercise on the other leg, alternating sides.

How and why it works: Benefits-

  • Targets the quads, biceps femoris, glutes, and calves.
  • Improves inferior body strength, stability, and balance.
  • Engages the core muscles for stability and posture.
  • It can be performed with various variations for added challenge and muscle targeting.

Pro tips from our Trainers:

  • Maintain proper squat form throughout the lunge. Keep your torso upright, engage your core, and avoid excessive leaning forward or backward.
  • To increase the challenge, you can hold dumbbells or a barbell on your shoulders for added resistance.
  • Experiment with different lunge variations, such as walking barbell squats, hack squats, lunges or reverse lunges, to target the muscles from different angles.

Step-ups

Step-Ups for structured glutes

Step-ups are considered one of the best alternatives to squats as they effectively target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes while providing unilateral training. They are versatile exercises that can be incorporated into leg day routines for strength and muscle development.

Here’s how to perform step-ups correctly:

  • To perform a step-up, start by standing in front of a sturdy platform or bench.
  • Step onto the platform with one foot, driving through the heel to lift your body up onto the platform.
  • Ensure that your knee is directly above your ankle and your hips are fully extended at the top.
  • Step back down with control, maintaining a slight bend in your knees.
  • Repeat the exercise on the same leg for the desired number of repetitions before switching to the other leg.

How and why it works: Benefits-

  • Targets the quads, biceps femoris, glutes, and calves.
  • Enhances secondary body strength and power.
  • Improves balance, stability, and coordination.
  • It can be easily modified by adjusting the platform height or adding weights for progression.

Pro tips from our Trainers:

  • Keep your core engaged and maintain proper posture throughout the movement.
  • To increase the challenge, you can hold dumbbells or a barbell on your shoulders for added resistance.
  • Keep the knee of the stepping leg slightly bent to minimise stress on the joint and maximise muscle activation.

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Pistol Squats

Pistol Squats

Pistol squats are considered one of the best alternatives to squats as they provide a challenging unilateral exercise that targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. They require balance, stability, and strength, making them an excellent option for leg development.

Here’s  how to perform pistol squats:

  • To perform a pistol squat, start by standing on one leg with the other leg extended in front of you.
  • Hinge at the hips and slowly lower your body by squatting down on the standing leg.
  • Keep your chest upright and brace your core for stability.
  • Go down as far as you can while maintaining control and balance, aiming for a full range of motion.
  • Push through the heel of the standing leg to return to the beginning position.
  • Repeat the exercise on the same leg for the desired number of repetitions before switching to the other leg.

How and why it works: Benefits

  • Develops bottom body strength, particularly in the quads, biceps femoris, glutes, and calves.
  • Challenges balance, coordination, and stability.
  • Engages the core muscles for stability and control.
  • It can be modified with assistance or variations to accommodate different fitness levels.

Pro tips from our trainers:

  • Start with assistance if needed, such as by holding onto a stable object or using a resistance band for support.
  • Focus on maintaining proper alignment and balance throughout the movement.
  • Keep your chest lifted and your core engaged to help with stability.

Goblet Squats

Goblet Squats an alternative to squatting

Goblet squats are considered one of the best alternatives to squats as they target multiple muscle groups, including the quads, biceps femoris, glutes, and core. They provide a more stable and controlled movement than split squats and can be valuable to strength training routines. 

Here’s how to perform goblet squats correctly:

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands at chest level, close to your body.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out.
  • Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body into a squat, keeping your chest lifted and your core engaged.
  • Aim to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below.
  • Push through your heels to drive yourself back up to the beginning position.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

How and why it works: Benefits-

  • Targets the quads, biceps femoris, glutes, and core.
  • Enhances bottom body strength and muscle development.
  • Improves hip and ankle mobility.
  • Provides a more stable and controlled squat movement compared to other variations.
  • It can be adjusted with different weights and foot positions for added challenge and muscle targeting.

Pro tips from our Trainers:

  • Maintain proper squat form throughout the movement, with your knees aligned with your toes and tracking over your feet.
  • Focus on pushing your hips back and down, emphasising the hip hinge movement.
  • Keep your core engaged and your chest lifted to maintain stability and proper posture.
  • To target the biceps femoris more, you can incorporate leg curls into your training routine.

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What are Squats?

Squats are compound exercises that involve bending the knees, lowering the hips, and flexing the muscles in the lower body, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. They are considered one of the most fundamental and effective exercises for building bottom body strength, power, and muscular endurance. 

Can squats make your legs stronger?

Yes, squats can significantly strengthen your legs. By targeting the muscles in the lower body, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, squats promote muscle growth, increase strength, and enhance overall leg power and stability.

How can you make your legs stronger without Squats?

To strengthen your legs without squats, you can incorporate exercises such as lunges, deadlifts, step-ups, leg presses, and calf raises. These exercises target the muscles in the lower part of the body and can help build strength, improve muscle tone, and enhance leg power and stability.

What is stronger than Squats?

The Heavy leg press can be considered another stronger exercise as it allows you to focus on quad mass by eliminating weak points like the lower back, enabling you to handle heavier weights and perform more reps without the supporting muscle groups fatiguing prematurely.

Who should not do Squats?

If you have certain medical conditions or injuries, such as severe knee or hip issues, back problems, or unresolved joint pain, you should consult with a healthcare professional before attempting squats. Additionally, pregnant women or those with balance or stability issues may need to modify or avoid squats altogether.

Unlock your Core Stability, Strength and Power with PTSPOT!

While squats are a popular exercise for building leg strength, our personalised training programs offer a range of effective exercises to help you achieve stronger legs and overall lower body power.

At PTSPOT, we understand that not everyone can or wants to perform squats. That’s why our experienced trainers specialise in providing alternatives that target the leg muscles while still promoting strength, stability, and power. We will work with you to create a customised training plan that focuses on your specific goals and needs.

With us by your side, you will have access to Certified personal trainers who will guide you through proper form and technique, ensuring your safety and effectiveness during these leg-strengthening exercises. Don’t let the absence of squats hold you back from developing stronger legs!

Start your journey with PTSPOT today and experience the difference for yourself!

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