front squat alternative
Alternative Exercises

16 Easy And Effective Front Squat Alternatives

Front squats are a great exercise to target your quadriceps in a unique way to add lean muscle mass. But they are also a tricky exercise to do. For many people, resting the bar across the front of your shoulders is very uncomfortable, leading to a forward lean which compromises the lower back.

Here are 15 awesome barbell front squat alternatives that will give you the amazing benefits of front squats for leg development without the drawbacks.

1. Sway Squats

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Position a resistance loop band around your upper thighs. Stand with your feet wide apart and hands clasped together in front of your chest.
  2. Lunge to the left, keeping the right leg straight and lifting the toe so that the foot is resting on its heel. Feel for a stretch through your right hamstring in the bottom position.
  3. Return to the start position and then repeat on the other side. That is one rep. 

Equipment used 

Resistance band

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes

Tips 

Move fluidly from side to side, being sure to maintain a neutral spine.

2. Jump Squats

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. From a starting position with your feet slightly wider than hip width, and hands clasped at chest levels, hinge the hips to go down to a full squat.
  2. Explode out of the bottom position to jump into the air as high as possible.
  3. Move directly into the next rep.

Equipment used 

None

Muscles worked

Hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps

Tips 

Perform your reps in a fluid, non-stop manner.

3. Single Leg Deadlift

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Secure a resistance band to a secure upright at waist level. Hold the band in your left hand and stand about four feet from the upright, facing it.
  2. Now hinge at the hip to bring your torso down to a parallel position with the floor. Simultaneously extend your right foot back and your right arm forward.
  3. Return to the start position. That is one rep. 

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes, hamstrings

Tips

Do all reps on the right side and then repeat on the left side.

Related Post:  11 Russian Twist Alternatives For A Well-Defined Core

4. Banded Leg Extension

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Sit on a chair with a resistance loop band positioned below your calves. Grasp the sides of the chair with your hands.
  2. Now extend your lower left leg to perform a leg extension. Slowly lower and repeat. 

Equipment used 

Resistance band

Muscles worked

Quadriceps

Tips

Perform all of your designated reps on the left leg and then repeat on the other side.

6. Eccentric Bar Squats

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Stand with a squat bar across your back, looking directly ahead.
  2. Begin to descend at a very slow pace, taking 3-5 seconds to get to the parallel position.
  3. Push back to the start position at a normal 1-2 second pace.

Equipment used 

Barbell

Muscles worked

Hamstrings, quads, gluteus maximus

Tips

Lower the weight and focus on a super slow descent.

7. Banded Static Lunge

Step-by-step how-to 

  1. Position yourself in front of a chair with a thick resistance loop band around your mid thigh area. Now place your left foot on the chair behind you and clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  2. Lunge your left leg so that the knee almost touches the floor. Push through the right thigh to return to the start position. 

Equipment used 

Band

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes, hamstrings

Tips

Perform all reps on one side before repeating on the other side.

8. Cross-Arm Front Squat

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand in front of a squat rack with the bar loaded at shoulder level. Unrack the bar and rest it across your clavicles with crossed hands supporting it.

2. Drop down to a parallel squat movement then push through the heels to return to the start position.

Equipment used 

Olympic barbell

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes

Tips

Maintain an upright torso position throughout

9. Smith Machine Front Squat

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand in front of a Smith machine with feet hip-width apart and unrack the bar, resting it across your clavicles.

2. Descend directly down to a parallel squat position. 

Related Post:  22 Bicep-Blasting Spider Curl Alternatives

3. Return to the start position.

Equipment used 

Smith Squat Machine

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes

Tips

Look straight ahead throughout the exercise.

10. High Stance Leg Press

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Sit on a 45-degree leg press and place your feet as high as you can on the footplates, with feet together.

2. Lower your legs to bring your knees back to your chest.

3. Push your legs back to the start position.

Equipment used 

Leg Press machine

Muscles worked

Quadriceps

Tips

Stop just short of lockout as you push back. Maintain core stability throughout. 

11. Goblet Squat

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Hold a kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Lower down to a full squat position.

3. Push back to the start position.

Equipment used 

Kettlebell

Muscles worked

Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings

Tips

Maintain an upright torso position, keeping the kettlebell against your chest at all times. 

12. Bulgarian Split Squats

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a pair of dumbbells in your hands and your right foot on a bench about two feet behind you.

2. Drop down into a lunge position until your left thigh is parallel to the floor.

3. Push back to the start position. 

Equipment used 

Dumbbells, bench

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes

Tips

Maintain a neutral spine position and look directly ahead.

13. Concentric Bar Squat

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a loaded bar across your traps in an upright position, feet hip-width apart and looking straight ahead.

2. Descend into a squat at a normal pace, taking 1-2 seconds to get down to the parallel position.

3. Push back to the start position at an exaggeratedly slow pace, taking 3-4 seconds to get all the way up.

Equipment used 

Olympic bar

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes, hamstrings

Tips

Use lighter loads and focus on controlling the lift. Maintain a tight lumbar spine.

14. Box Pistol Squat

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand in front of a box with feet shoulder-width apart and your arms out in front of you.

Related Post:  7 Cable Pull Through Alternatives for Glutes and Hamstrings

2. Lift your left leg off the floor.

3. Lower down until your butt touches the bench.

4. Push back to the start position.

Equipment used 

Bench

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes

Tips

This is an advanced exercise. You may have to start with a higher box than at thigh level and lower it as you get stronger and perfect your pistol squat form. 

15. Zercher Squats

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a loaded barbell held in the crease of your elbows, feet shoulder-width apart, and looking directly ahead.

2. From this starting position, lower down to a parallel thigh position.

3. Push back to the start position.

Equipment used 

Barbell

Muscles worked

Quads, hamstrings

Tips

To get the barbell into position, deadlift it up to your mid-thigh area and then hook your elbows under the bar. Maintain a tight, strong core.

16. Landmine Squat

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand facing a landmine bar, grabbing it by the end with both hands at upper chest level.

2. Looking directly ahead, squat down to parallel.

3. Push back to the start position.

Equipment used 

Landmine bar

Muscles worked

Quads, glutes, hamstrings

Tips 

Do not round your back, keeping your spinal erectors upright; keep the bar close to your upper body. Keep your core tight.

Final Thoughts

Barbell front squats are an effective but uncomfortable squat movement to target the thighs and butt. You now have 15 front squat effective alternatives that will allow you to target the same muscles without discomfort. Experiment with them to find which ones work best for your leg development and then choose the best 3 or 4 to build your leg training routine. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are front squats necessary?

No front squats are not necessary. However, they do a better job than the back squat of targeting the teardrop part of the quads above the knee, so is valuable for complete thigh development. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

You may also like...