10 Squat Alternatives To Try On Your Next Leg Day

New workout, who dis?


Kristin Canning |

Squatting can be a massive pain (pun intended). But if knee or hip issues keep you from hitting the squat rack, you can still have a legit leg day at the gym. Yes, really. You just need to know the best squat alternatives for your booty—err, body.

The following exercises still work the major muscles you’re trying to target (glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips). Swap them in for squats, and prepare to see some lower-body gains.

1. Banded Lateral Walks

How to: Place a mini resistance band underneath your feet, and stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Maintaining a tight core, step your left foot out to the side, followed by your right. Then step back to the left. That’s one rep.

Why it works: This exercise activates the glutes while also helping you improve your form in how your hips, knees and feet work together, says Rachel Cosgrove, co-owner of Results Fitness.

READ MORE: The 10-Minute Abs Workout That Will Totally Transform Your Abs

2. Single Leg Deadlifts

How to: Holding a kettlebell in your right hand, stand on your left leg with palms towards your thighs. Keep your left leg slightly bent. Lean forward, extending right leg straight behind you, until torso is parallel to the floor, and kettlebell lowers straight down until almost touching the floor. Drive into your left heel to return to the standing position. (For an extra challenge, at the end of this move, lift your right leg until it forms a 90-degree angle, then return to start). That’s one rep.

Why it works: This exercise also strengthens the booty, stretches the hamstrings, and doesn’t create much pressure on the knees, says Dr. Stacy Sims, exercise physiologist and author of Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness.

3. Romanian Deadlifts

How to: Holding a kettlebell or (two dumbbells) in your hands, stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Position the kettlebell in front of your thighs, palms facing your body. Keeping your knees slightly bent, press your hips back as you bend at the waist and lower the weights toward the floor. Squeeze your glutes to return to standing. That’s one rep.

Why it works: By keeping your legs fairly straight throughout this movement, you lessen pressure on the knees and work the glutes, says Sims.

4. Staggered Stance Deadlift

How to: Hold a kettlebell in front of your thighs with both palms facing toward your body. Stagger your legs, stepping your right foot back and your left foot forward. Your right heel should be off the ground. Push your hips back as you hinge forward, lowering the kettlebell while keeping it close to your legs. Once your hips reach 90 degrees, return to start. That’s one rep.

Why it works: This squat alternative protects the knees and doesn’t require too much bend, while firing up the glutes and hamstrings, says Cosgrove.

READ MORE: 15 Biceps Moves That Will Get Your Arms Crazy-Toned

5. Good Morning

How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a resistance band under your feet and wrapped around the back of your neck. Keeping your knees slightly bent and your torso straight, slowly bend from your hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and return to start. That’s one rep.

Why it works: The good morning exercise doesn’t require much knee bending, but helps you practice proper hip hinging form that will assist with squats, says Cosgrove.

6. Glute Bridge

How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor 30 to 40 centimetres from your butt. Brace your core, then press into your heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips toward the ceiling. Hold the position for two seconds before lowering to start. That’s one rep.

Why it works: Glute bridges target the booty and hips without placing any bodyweight on your knees, according to Sims.

7. Single Leg Glute Bridge

How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor 30 to 40 centimetres from your butt. Brace your core, then press into your heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips toward the ceiling. Hold the position for two seconds before lowering to start. That’s one rep.

Why it works: This variation of a glute bridge offers even more hamstring activation while being easy on the knees, says Cosgrove.

8. Reverse Lunge

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a kettlebell in front of your chest. Step back with your right leg and bend both knees as you lower until your left knee is bent 90 degrees. Push through your left foot to stand, then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.

Why it works: Lunges mimic the movement of a squat, but reduce pressure on the knees, says Cosgrove.

READ MORE: The Medicine Ball Abs Workout That Will Light Your Core On Fire

9. Banded Hip Drive

How to: Wrap one end of resistance band around an anchor, and the other around your hips. Place your knees about shoulder-width apart with your feet together. Your feet and knees should form a triangle. Begin by sitting on your feet and then lift your body up and out, extending your hips. Squeeze your glutes together at the end range of movement, while avoiding hyperextending the low back.

Why it works: This squat alternative activates your hips and glutes and creates a powerful hip drive that can improve squat form, says Sims.

10. Donkey Kicks

How to: Get on all fours on top of your mat. Keep your right knee bent at 90 degrees as you lift your leg into the air until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knee, your right toe kicking toward the ceiling. Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep.

Why it works: Donkey kicks take all the weight off your knees, and fire up the glutes and hamstrings, says Cosgrove.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com 

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