It has taken months (maybe a year?) of working out at home before you finally found the courage to take your skills to the gym. Your husband might have been a bit surprised when you asked to come along but he didn’t bat an eye or try to push you too far out of your comfort zone. There was no pressure to join him with the guys at the squat rack. You did want to try out some new things and use the equipment you don’t have home. Scanning the gym, you wonder what new squat variations without the rack you can try out to challenge yourself.
The squat is a foundational movement pattern and a staple in most weight training. Back squats, with a barbell resting across the shoulders, are often seen as the “gold standard” of lifting and appear in leg day and glute building workout plans.
However, they may not be the right squat for you. Even if you’re a regular gym goer a back squat may not be the right choice for your body or be possible on a busy morning at the gym with only ONE squat rack.
You need options for squats that challenge you in new ways and allow you to be flexible with your workout. Here are three new squat variations without the rack to change up your workout to meet your needs.
Goblet squats are a great place for beginners to learn good form if they do want to work up to the squat rack. They are also a great option when the squat rack is just too busy. You’ll start by holding one dumbbell at chest height perpendicular to the ground, with feet shoulder distance apart and toes pointed slightly outward. Keeping the weight close to your chest, descend into the squat position with a neutral spine, eyes up and knees tracking slightly out. Push through your heels to rise back to a standing position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
If you have some concern about a heavy weight on your back you might want to consider front squats. Front squats are an alternative exercise at the squat rack that takes the load off the spine. Start by facing the bar (or using a lighter curling barbell). With palms facing forward, hold the bar at chest/shoulder height in front of the body with feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly out. Keeping the weight close to chest, descend into the squat position with a neutral spine, eyes up and knees tracking slightly out. Push through your heels to rise back to a standing position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. You can also do this exercise with dumbbells or a pair of kettlebells.
Cables squats give you another equipment option in a busy gym. They also allow you a deeper range in your squat which is great for glute training. You’ll also get some bonus core engagement because of the location of the weight in relation to your body. Attach the rope attachment to a low pulley on the cable machine. Grab both ends of the rope attachment and take two to three steps back while facing the weight stack. Place your feet at shoulder width (or wider if you wish to work the outer hips more). Keep your eyes up will descending into the squat position with a neutral spine, eyes up and knees tracking slightly out. Keep your arms straight out in front of you with back engaged to control the weight but NOT rowing. Push through your heels to rise back to a standing position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
If you’re ready to take your workout from home to the gym, you can substitute any of new squat variations without the rack for your usual dumbbell squats. Even if you’ve been working out for a while don’t be surprised when you feel that newbie soreness the next day! You might also check out my Triple T series to learn more about the other exercises you need to shape a glorious backside.