The squat is a natural movement for the majority of the healthy human population. However, when you introduce a heavy barbell, the story changes. To paraphrase Mike Tyson – “Everybody has a plan until the weight gets heavy.”
In other words, once the bar is loaded with a heavy enough weight, the pretty form disappears like a pickpocketer in the bus.
Usually, the lifters who do not have optimal squat genetics turn the movement into an ugly and painful good morning. Most of the time, those individuals have short torsos and long legs. This is not an optimal build for squatting because the lifter has to lean forward a lot. As a result, those people often don’t get as much out of the squat in comparison to the natural born squatters – people with long torsos and short legs. The latter can squat more upright, and most of the stress is evenly balanced between the quadriceps and the posterior chain. Those individuals usually love squatting because they can lift high numbers and the movement looks sexy (e.g., Tom Platz).
Should the “unlucky ones” just kill themselves because they were born with anti-squat genetics? Not at all. They could just try different exercises for the legs.
What would be a good squat alternative?
If leg mass is your main goal, a good choice would be the leg press since it takes the back out of the movement and allows you to focus on the lower body. It can also be programmed very intelligently in your routine, just like the squat. The leg press is not a very exciting exercise but it’s a solid way to focus on your legs.
Other good movements would be Bulgarian split squats, front squats, trap bar deadlifts, hip belt squats, goblet squats…etc. Obviously, some of the mentioned exercises are still a version of the squat, but they allow you to be more upright compared to the classic barbell back squat.
You can’t avoid squats if you are a powerlifter.
Unless you are a bench press and/or deadlift specialist – you can’t avoid squats regardless of how much you hate them.
It’s interesting to note that even Olympic weightlifters don’t have to squat since their competition lifts are the snatch and the clean & jerk. Squats are simply an assistance exercise in Olympic weightlifting.
Back in the day, the coach of the Bulgarian team, Ivan Abadjiev, wanted to remove every assistance exercise and focus on the big moves. However, as far as we know, the front squat and the back squat remained a part of the assistance exercises of the team forever.
Am I even a man if I don’t squat?
Fulfilling the wet dreams of gurus with a squat fetish won’t make you a man. You can be 120 pounds with wet clothes and still be more manly than many of the muscle addicts who are afraid to spend a night separated from their pre-bed protein shake.
The squat is not a miracle exercise and while beneficial there are other ways to achieve your goals. Why waste your time when you’re not getting the promised results? As they say, only a crazy person would be doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. If squats don’t work for you, throw them out of the window.