What to Do Instead of Squats

Looking for lower body workouts to do instead of squats? You’ve come to the right place! Keep reading for 7 exercises to do instead of squats…

If you’re looking for what to do instead of squats, you’ve come to the right place. While squats are the popular go-to for building your rear end, quads and hamstrings, there are so many other great lower body exercises to work your lower body. Especially for those with back issues, squats can be uncomfortable and even cause further damage, which is another reason these alternative squat exercises could be a great substitute. 

To complete an entire lower body workout for beginners, excluding squats, you can choose three of the below exercises. Warm up before you start and complete the recommended sets of each exercise which you can complete at home or at the gym.

Most lower body exercises require abdominal strength for stability, which engages and works the abs too. If done correctly, these exercises can help build your core muscles.

Photo by Chelsea Gates on Unsplash.

5 Exercise Blog Alternatives

7 Things To Do Instead of Squats

1. Rear lunges.

Rear lunges are a great way to work your backside while minimising the effect on your knees, when done correctly. By stepping backwards, the movement focuses on the hips rather than the knees, which makes it easier than a regular lunge.

How to do rear lunges:

  1. Start standing upright with your feet slightly apart and your back neutral.
  2. Engage your abs and step backwards with your right foot.
  3. Steadily lower your right knee to the ground, while keeping your back straight.
  4. Raise yourself back to standing by using your left leg to pull yourself up (push your left foot into the ground and bring your right foot back to the starting position).
  5. Repeat.

For those craving more difficulty, hold weights or dumbbells while lunging.

2. Lateral lunges.

Lateral lunges, or side lunges, are another great alternative to squatting. This movement is great to help develop more shape for your outer thigh muscles by engaging your hip extensors and quadricep muscles.

How to do lateral lunges:

  1. Start standing up with your feet slightly apart. 
  2. With your right foot, take a big step to the right.
  3. When your right foot touches the ground, shift your weight to that side and bend your right knee, while reaching your left hand to your right foot. 
  4. Raise yourself back to standing by pushing your right foot to the ground.
  5. Repeat.

3. Glute bridge.

Glute bridges are an effective way to engage your glutes without being hard on your back or knees. This is an easier exercise that’s great to work your lower body.

How to do glute bridges:

  1. Start by laying on the floor.
  2. Bring your feet closer to yourself, creating an arch under your legs. 
  3. Lift your hips upwards while keeping your lower back straight, or in other words, bring your glutes up towards where your belly button was. 
  4. Lower your hips back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

For those looking for the next level of difficulty, try glute bridges on each leg: simply follow the above instructions, but stick one leg straight out while bending the under up and down to work on that side, then swap legs after and complete reps this way. 

*If you are adding weight to this exercise using a bar, be cautious of the bar rolling forward and onto your neck and head. This may happen if your upper back is sweaty and you’re distracted or not paying attention to your grip.

4. Hip hinge.

Hip hinges, or a good morning, are another lower body exercise that’s easy on the back. This exercise is great for the bottom, upper and inner thighs, working the glutes, hamstrings and adductors. It’s important to practice this exercise correctly before adding weights as it can increase the risk of damaging your back if done incorrectly. Another great benefit to hip hinges is they are sometimes used for posture and lower back work.

How to do hip hinges:

  1. Start standing up with your feet slightly apart.

  2. Place the backs of your hands together on your lower back. This helps remind you not to bend your lower back and keep it stable and stiff, allowing all the movement to come from your hips. 
  3. Slightly bend your knees and lean forward until you can feel tightness in the back of your legs. 
  4. Raise yourself back up by pushing your feet to the floor and bringing your hips forward. 

Visit the second video in the post below for standard hip hinges:

5. Kettlebell swings.

Kettlebell swings are a great way to develop your glutes, but it is also a method commonly done incorrectly, which comes with risks. To best ensure you perform kettlebell swings correctly, you’ll need to be comfortable with hip hinges first, which we’ve outlined above (number 4). Ace Fitness recommends not attempting kettlebell swings until you can complete 10–12 reps of 2–4 sets of hip hinges comfortably.

Important note: Do not bend your knees or back.

How to do kettlebell swings:

  1. Start standing up with your shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and the kettlebell held between your legs with relaxed arms.Roll your shoulders back and keep good posture throughout this exercise. Your elbows should be relaxed during the movement.
  2. Lean forward by pushing your hips back and move the kettle ball slightly behind you, starting the momentum that enables you to bring it up.
  3. Next, push your feet into the ground and move your hips forward, bringing the kettlebell forwards with the motion (the kettlebell should be parallel to the floor at shoulders height). Ensure the movement is in your hips, not your shoulders or back, since this can cause damage.
  4. When the kettlebell is coming back down, allow it to fall between your legs as you learn forwards to decrease its speed. 
  5. Repeat this movement. 

For advanced kettlebell swings, you can do single arm kettlebell swings and even switch hands for each rep.

6. Step-ups.

Step-ups are an effective exercise to focus on your calf, glutes and hamstring muscles using stairs, a box, chair or stool. Step ups can be performed in a couple of different ways:

  • Walking or running up stairs.
  • Step-up using the below instructions. This can be done using a step, a box, stool or chair, which are the height of your knee or just below your knee (stairs can be lower).

How to do step-ups:

  1. Start standing up with your feet slightly apart.
  2. Raise your right leg on top of the step.
  3. In a fluid motion, engage your abs for stability, push your foot into the step and bring your left knee up until you’re standing one-legged on the step.
  4. Bring your left knee back down as you engage your abs and lower back to your original position.

For those looking to increase difficulty, hold a dumbbell while doing step-ups.

7. Heel raises.

Heel raises are a fantastic way to work your calf muscles in a simple, repetitive movement. This exercise can be done anywhere anytime, as all it requires is you and the ground. Waiting in line at the post office or grocery store? May as well do some heel raises.

How to do heel raises:

  1. Start standing up with your feet slightly apart.
  2. Rest your hands on a chair, counter or trolly in front of you (as you progress, you won’t need to hold onto anything which is good for the abs).
  3. Raise your heels off the ground, keeping your knees straight. 
    Hold this pose for 6 seconds, then gently lower your heels to the floor.

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      Chloe Thistle

      Junior Marketing Administrator

      Chloe Thistle is a Junior Marketing Administrator at Localsearch, bringing her talents and background in digital and social media marketing to her role. She has sharpened her marketing skills across many different industries, including entertainment, fashion and in the B2B field. In her spare time, Chloe can be found either lounging at the beach or five coffees deep at one of her favourite local cafés. No stranger to adventures, she’s trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp — fueled by coffee of course — has completed the Kokoda Challenge and is always looking for the next mountain to climb! Chloe loves looking for ways to combine her passions for adventure, sustainability and marketing, always chasing the latest trends in both marketing and fashion. Now, she’s utilising her vast life and digital marketing experience to blog and assist in the content with the Localsearch Marketing Team.