Alternatives To Doing Squats

This is an e-mail question I got the other day from one of my online followers. It’s a very common question that I get on a regular basis so I decided to post this one for the benefit of all my readers…



I have a question about squats. Are dumbbell squats as affective as straight bar squats for increasing strength/size in the legs?

I have done the straight bar but prefer the dumbbell squats because they seem easier on my back. But it seems like it is more difficult. I start off with 55lb dumbbells to warm up and then I use 75lb dumbbells in each hand.

Thank You,



Hi Roger,

Of all the exercises out there I think I get more e-mails asking for variations to squatting than anything else. People will complain that squats hurt their knees, hurt their back, hurt their shoulders, or that they are just plain scared of doing squats.

And you know what, I think every single bodybuilder, weightlifter, or powerlifter out there has felt all these things to some degree or another.

After all no body in their right mind can get under a loaded barbell like that and say it “feels good”.

I personally hate doing squats, but I love the results they provide. So for one workout a week I just bite the bullet and squat!

Now any squat variation is a good exercise because it’s a big basic compound movement works multiple muscle groups.

Arnold Schwarzenegger doing Barbell Squats

Squats move your entire body through space while doing the exercise. This really stimulates the central nervous system and triggers a high level of neuromuscular activation compared to exercises where you just move your limbs.

But in all honesty I don’t think any exercise can truly replace the good old fashion barbell squat. It’s a brutally tough exercise and the fact that it’s so tough is what makes it so effective. Now you can mix up the squat variations you do (i.e. a few weeks of dumbbell squats, a few weeks of front squats, a few weeks of back squats, etc.)

You can even change things up from time to time and do leg presses or hack squats as a easier variation. But you should always come back to regular barbell squats as a foundational exercise in your workouts. You’ll find that as you make gains in the squat, the rest of your body will grow in proportion.

Now back to your original question about dumbbell squats; they are ok, but once you work up to any amount of weight at all they can be quite awkward to perform. And squatting deep with dumbbells is hard because the weights usually hit the floor before you truly do a “full squat”.

Dumbbell Squats
Dumbbell Squats

Hip Belt Squats
Hip Belt Squats

An alternative that you may wish to try are Hip Belt Squats. This will allow you to squat big, and squat deep, without placing stress on your back, shoulders, etc. It’s a better alternative to dumbbell squats in my opinion.

IronMind sells the hip belt squat attachments. But if you’d like more info about how to actually get the most benefit from this exercise. My friend and old school bodybuilder Dennis Weis (aka: The Yukon Hercules) has written an informative e-Book called:

Hip Belt Squats ‘The Great Anabolic Equalizer’

Hip Belt Squats e-Book This training guide will show you how to incorporate Hip Belt Squats into your leg workout routines for developing the ultimate in explosive quads.

You will learn in explicitly calculated detail one of the best exercises for blasting your quads and hamstrings into the piston action force of a kangaroo kick.

Build large impressive KILLER QUADS loaded with power and slabs of undiluted muscular refinement. The information in this e-Book training guide is encapsulated for easy, quick reading and effective application.

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About The Author


Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

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