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I’m Done With Back Squats. Here’s Why.

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A Semi-Objective Rant About that One Exercise You Have to Do or the Internet Will Yell at You

Ah, back squats. The King of All Exercises, according to some. Not me. In fact, I just posted on my Facebook page that I would be giving up back squats for good. The reaction was predictable:

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Now in fairness to Innis, he’s obviously being facetious and poking fun at the expected response. A lot of people seem to think that you need squats. Well, need is a strong word. And you don’t need squats–but I’m not writing an anti-squat rant. I’m not even really going to make a compelling case for an alternative. I’m just going to tell you why I personally am not going to back squat any more.

But first, some history.

How I First Started Squatting

I squatted for the first time in my lift at age 14. It was my first year on the high school wrestling team, and my coach–Pete Kopecky, who, I believe is still the coach there–was all about squats.

The first time he put me under the bar, I did 135 for 8 reps. He gave me some tips, and by the end of our first team workout, I did 185 for 6 reps.

I was good at squatting. With a low center of gravity, short ROM and generally high concentration of fast twitch muscle fibers, it was an exercise I excelled at. Resultantly, I liked it. (For an understanding of why, check out this post.)

I continued squatting, and quickly became enthralled with adding more weight to the bar. In just three weeks, I got to two plates. During my sophomore year, I hit three plates–more than anyone on the team. Some time around the end of my senior year, I weighed in at a chubby 185 and was squatting 405 for 6 reps, and 450 for 3 (both with a belt). Felt good.

Eventually I got lean and found bodybuilding; I learned how to squat ass-to-ankles instead of just going to parallel, as I had been previously. I had to drop my numbers back a bit, but I worked on both full squats and parallel squats for a few years.

By the time I was 24, I had built up a lot of strength and–between squats and various training programs–a decent physique. At my strongest, I was able to squat 525×3 and full squat 335×8.

The Injury, Layoff, and Re-Entry

That year (2006), I suffered my first knee injury;  I tore the medial meniscus in my left leg during, of all things, a game of paintball. Obviously, I had to back off off the leg training for a while.

Sadly, it wasn’t long enough; I came back in just 6 months, and somehow wound up tearing both the medial and lateral menisci in my right leg. I’m not even sure how it happened–after about two weeks of pain and being unable to train (or, in fact, get in or out of my car without extreme effort) I went to the doc.

Now two surgeries in, I spent a year taking it easy on the ol’ knees.

Although I worked back squats in after a long break, they always made me very nervous. Perhaps it was because I could actually feel the instability, perhaps it was because I was always using pretty heavy weight. Whatever it was, I just felt nervous.

Not wanting to re-injure my knees, I started trying to train around my injuries–for longer than I needed to. So, I mostly avoided back squats, using them primarily in complexes and the like, but never as part of a muscle building program. After about 4-5 years of successfully building size and strength without squats, I added them back in. I found that I didn’t really care for them.

At first, I thought maybe I didn’t like them because I wasn’t good at them–my long lack of practice had taken it’s toll, and 315 was a challenge. I reasoned that things would change as I got better. However, it was the opposite: the more I did squats, the less I liked them.

Although I was lifting heavier weight and making progress with my strength, I didn’t experience the surge of awesomeness that I had always fantasized would occur when I was finally able to squat heavy again. I began to dread my squat workouts.

This has continued until now. Although I’ve been able to squat heavy for the more than a year, I really don’t care for it. Recently, I did my Century Sets experiment with back squats, which really sealed it. After 400 reps over a period of 8 weeks, I’d pretty much settled it: I hated squats.

Eventually, that hatred led me to my decision: I’ll probably never do them again. For me, it’s not really “risk vs reward” – I don’t feel nervous about getting injured, at all. Rather, let’s say that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze–the benefit simply doesn’t measure up to the misery.

All of which I’m removing squats from my programming, because I make it a policy not to do things I don’t like.

Reasons to Back Squat

(And Why They Don’t Apply to Me)

Now, we’re just talking about me here, and my experience. But, I do want to make this post useful to you. I want you to think critically about squats, and any other exercise you might be on the fence about; consider whether you actually enjoy it, and what you’re getting out of it. Try to be objective about why you feel you “need” to do certain exercises.

To help, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Reasons you should consider putting squats or any other exercise into your programming. Here ya go, slick:

  1. You use it to help improve your performance in your sport.
  2. You use it for physique enhancement–big quads and general muscularity.
  3. You need to be good at it for some specific reason, like competing in power lifting.
  4. You want to be good at it. This encompasses the enjoyment derived by having a big squat number.
  5. You enjoy it.

All of those are great reasons to squat. Actually, they’re great reasons to do anything, really. But, since none of them apply to me, I’m not going to do it any more. In the interest of giving you a complete picture, I’ll just go down the list.

 Athletics

First and foremost, I just want to get the Mike Boyle bullshit out of the way. Without question the fact that I said I am not back squatting any more is going to cause a bunch of people to say shit like this:

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In the interest of context, for those who don’t know, Mike Boyle came out a few years ago and said ‘we don’t need to back squat.’ He happens to be right, but that has nothing to do with my decision. This stirred up a big internet controversy, as you might imagine. I paid attention peripherally, but neither side had any arguments that changed my opinions drastically.

Controversy notwithstanding, Boyle went so far as to say that with regard to squatting, because you can get the benefits from other exercises, you shouldn’t do back squats. Instead, he favored unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian split squat–which, for some reason beyond human comprehension, he labeled rear foot elevated split squats. I suspect it’s because he hates Bulgaria.

EDIT: Mike was cool enough to reply, and has a good sense of humor. Here’s what he said:

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Anyway, here’s a video, if you’d like to watch–

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Based on what he said in that clip, it seems he meant ALL bilateral squat movements; he mentioned front squats but may also have been including things like goblet squats, Zercher squats, etc. He may also have amended some of his statements or reached new conclusions in the past few years.

I’m not certain about either and can’t be bothered to do any further Googling it because as it turns out I don’t give a fuck.

So, there’s that.

Anyway, as mentioned above, my reason for abandoning has nothing to do with that Boyle or his arguments, for a few reasons. Firstly, I don’t compete in sports, so I don’t really take high level performance into account when I design my programs.

Secondly, I happen to disagree with the half of Boyle’s point. Athletes don’t “need” to back squat, but that doesn’t mean they “should” avoid it. Can they have comparable results with single leg exercises? Very possibly. Will I abandon back squats for my athletes? Of course not. I think some can benefit from squatting, and others don’t need to.

Thirdly, Boyle says “the squat isn’t a lower body exercise, it’s a low back exercise.” If that’s how you want to think of it, great. I still want my athletes to have strong low backs, so we squat; we also do heavy unilateral training.

I haven’t written them off for people who want to use them for performance. I don’t train for athletics, though, so I’m fine not back squatting.

That actually brings me to my next point.

Aesthetics

At this point in my life, I train for general health and all around secksinezz. I am interested only in looking and feeling good, and so my training is geared around that.

This is a contrast to how I trained in my early 20’s — at that point, I wanted maximum size, maximum strength, maximum leanness, and all that other stuff that young guys want. I wanted to be as strong as possible in the general sense, but I also wanted some specific numbers.

Now, I just like having a balanced physique, which includes a decent set of legs. And as anyone who knows me can tell you, although I have naturally huge calves and my upper body grows just from looking at weights, my quads have always been the one area where I have to work my ass off to gain size.

Naturally, as nice wheels are a priority for me, my selection of leg exercises is based on my observations of what works for me and has worked over the past decade and a half that I’ve been training seriously. Back squats have always added size to my booty, but weren’t amazing for leg growth.

It seems my posterior chain fires aggressively on back squats, but they’re not great for my quad development. On the other hand, front squats, hack squats, trap bar deadlifts, and lunges have historically been great for sexy legz.

In fact–and I know I’m going to get lambasted for this by some fucking barbell purist–I’ve found that from a sheer aesthetic perspective, I get more out of the leg press machine than barbell back squats.

For those interested in such things, the perfect set up for me seems to be one of two things:

  • Heavy Trap Bar Dead – 6×4
  • High Rep Front Squat – 4×15
  • Leg Press – 8×8
  • Leg Extension – 3×10 (failure on last two sets)

OR

  • Deficit Trap Bar Dead – 4×20
  • Walking Lunges – 5×8 steps per leg
  • Leg Press – 5×8-10 (failure on all sets, drop set on last set)

Obviously, these are high volume, but that’s what works for my quads. There are variations of course, but the best quad growth I ever had was when I was alternating these two workouts, with the occasional Century Set thrown in.

My quad workout today was this:

  • Front Squat – 4×5-7
  • Hack Squat Machine (constant tension) – 4×12-15
  • Front Loaded BB Bulgarian Split Squats – 4-8-10 each
  • Leg Press (constant tension) 4×12
  • Single Leg Extension – 4×8

(In this workout, the leg press and leg extension are alternated. Out of interest, I do the leg extension unilaterally because when done bilaterally, the leg closest to the machine will do more work; I do them one at a time and position each leg in dead center of the pad to alleviate this issue.)

Now, looking at that, you’ll see that three of my five exercises are on machines. Why? Because my goal is to build and maintain a set of reasonable large, well-developed quads–not to impress a bunch of bros on the internet who are going to judge me because I use machines.

Of course, just because I don’t train for strength doesn’t mean I’m not strong. When you’re pulling trap bar deads from a deficit for 20 reps at 375-450 pounds, you’re gonna stay strong. Which is great. But it’s not the primary goal.

Anyway, that’s just what makes my legs grow, particularly my kwadz. If my legs responded better to squats, I’d do them. But, they won’t, so I don’t. (Hat tip, in Bruges.)  If you want big legs and you notice back squats do the job, have at it.

Skill

Next up: I don’t need or even really desire to have a “good” back squat. As far as squat skill, I have no need to either build or maintain a high level of proficiency . I’m not going to compete in powerlifting, and as far as I know, there is no other activity that requires me to be good at back squats specifically.

Given that, there’s really no reason to practice them in an effort to build technical skill. People who compete in powerlifting should squat, because they need to have a high level of technical proficiency. So squat. People who compete in the CrossFit games need to have a high level of technical proficiency in the overhead squat.

If you’re not going to do either of those things, and you don’t enjoy either of the exercises, then fuck it.

I’m also past the point of wanting a big squat number for any reason at all. When I was younger, I liked having a big squat; I liked chasing numbers in the Big Three. I wanted to bench 400, squat 600, and deadlift 700. I never got to do any of those. I topped out at 385×1, 525×3, and 660×3. Then I started chasing other goals that I enjoyed more, like learning Elvish.

Not having hit those numbers doesn’t make me feel like a failure or want to go back and relive my glory days. I enjoyed training for those things, and it was fun at the time. Now, it’s not. Again, I don’t want to be weak, but I have no interest in quantifying my strength with an exercise I don’t really like.

Which brings to me my final and, perhaps, most important point: I don’t like back squatting.

Enjoyment

I just really and truly don’t enjoy it. Some people love squats, and I understand that; I’m just not one of them.

I can’t tell you the reason I don’t like them. Can you explain your tastes? I can’t. I can’t tell you why I’m an ass man instead of a breast man. I can’t tell you why I prefer my steak rare instead of any other temperature. I can’t tell you why I prefer bourbon to gin. I just know what I like.

I also can’t tell you the reason I used to hate brussels sprouts and now love them. Your tastes and preferences just change. And as it happens, I used to enjoy squatting quite a bit. This was before I fell in love with the deadlift, which I prefer in every way. And to me, yanking a heavy barbell off the ground is infinitely preferable to squatting with one on your back.

Squatting no longer brings me pleasure of any kind–so why do it, when I can get the results I’m seeking elsewhere?

In my article that outlined my Rules for a Successful Life, one of the most important items I listed was pretty simple: say no to shit you don’t like. It is one of the hardest things you can do, and one of the best things to learn.

We all invent these ideas in our heads, requirements and obligations and qualifiers. We do things we don’t want to. We say yes when all we want to do is say no. We go to dinners with people we don’t want to break bread with, say yes to telemarketers because we’re too polite to hang up, and all these other endless nonsensical things.

In the context of fitness, we do this with exercises; we follow these unspoken rules enforced by the Internet Police, because we don’t want to face the implied consequence of being branded a certain way. If you use machines with your clients, you’re not a good trainer. If you don’t use the FMS, you’re not a movement specialist. If you don’t do Oly lifts, you’re not functional. And on and on and on.

We attach unnecessary importance to concepts because we don’t want to lose face in the eyes of people we don’t even fucking know. Somehow, specific exercises play into our estimation of people in terms of how dedicated or qualified they are. Have you ever stopped to think how absolutely ridiculous that is?

Even the highest level coaches do this.

Here’s the quote that I think sums it up best:

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Seriously?

 

Well, people of the Internet, I have a new quote for you to plaster all over your feeds:

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Feel free to share.

Fuck squats, I’m out.


If YOU happen to be in my coaching program, or doing one of my various workout programs…then that’s because I decided they WERE necessary for YOU. You are not me, and we may have different needs. 

The point of this is definitely not to convince you not to do back squats, and it’s definitely not to give you a reason to email me and ask me if you can/should stop doing them. 

The point is to give some very specific insight a very specific situation (mine) and to foster DISCUSSION. 

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • Brandon Hewitt

    I also read that Mark Rippetoe doesn’t believe you’re a man unless you’re over 200 pounds. If he’s trying to lead by example, then I assume he also thinks we should all grow man-tits, dress like a highschool gym teacher, and generally aim to be unfuckable in any way possible. Maybe then I can be a man!

  • Jamsie

    I personally cannot stand how religious people get about certain exercises/equipment, etc. I cannot stand how I feel under the a barbell during a back squat. I’m 40 years old and play no sports and I am not obliged to follow any specific training program, so I’m done with back squats. What I sub for them I’m not 100 percent sure. It might be front squats or it might be Zercher squats. I tried front squats on my last leg day and wasn’t in love with them, but I also didn’t feel like I was going to die either.

    A lot of discussion of this issue involves phrases like, “That’s just your opinion.” My opinion is that Roman is 100% correct, but the **fact** of the matter is is that no one can make me do back squats! Thanks Roman.

    • Jamsie

      Oh, and don’t even get me started on “Coach Rip.” My son says stuff like the coach does, and we just tell him to learn when to keep his mouth shut.

  • ted wagner

    I don’t work out for Mark Rippetoe, John Romaniello, Jason Ferruggia, or anybody else. I work out for me and I quit doing squats about 4 months ago because, like John, I no longer saw the point. I was giving them all the enthusiasm of making a paper clip chain, so I just dropped my attachment to them and moved on.

  • drbarney

    Frank Zane warns us that overdoing squats that are too heavy will cause injury. He says that when you are older you can use a machine he calls the leg blaster to get the same benefits for the quads as a squat that carries more risk so that alternative seem like a good bargain for older bodybuilders. The details are in his website. Also, don’t dismiss the leg press machine and the different ways you can use it. It seems that different angles and ranges of motion might be a good idea.

  • SIBYL.TRAPANI1010

    Excellent analysis ! Coincidentally , you are searching for a LANG
    335-8 , my colleague used a template form here http://goo.gl/5tWdUw

  • AR

    You understand that you do not need to squat massive amounts of weight, right? Also, if you are talking about quads, probably you were squatting wrongly from the get go. Squatting is done primarily by engaging the posterior chain, which involves glutes and hams primarily. The quad is mainly stabilizing. Knee problems emanating from squat most likely have to do with improper positioning of knees in regards of the feet. You should be able to break the parallel with no repercussion on the knees at any load. Back pain (and I had a back surgery as well) comes from leaning on your toes while squatting (a beginner’s mistake even experienced athletes commit in order to increase their loads.) I recommend squatting. But as anything done with weights, one must not skip the fundamentals and progressively increase weight and intensity.

  • Fanatoli Guyoff

    I actually learned them as “one leg elevated squats” and have only ever heard them called that. I like his name better though.

  • Beetlejuice (Who me?)

    Back squats are the worst. Did them for years and just got shoulder problems and back tightness. Only lift you need is coventional deadlifts and deficit deadlifts. That will build a massive posterior chain.

  • Renato

    The real problem is in the more and more system.
    You come to a point that the body says enough is enough.

    Why not doing 50 or 60 kilos on the barbell squat and rep till exhaustion.
    Try it.
    Didn’t Tom Platz do squats with 100 kilos for ten minutes?
    I wouldn’t do the low reps.

    The problem is in the non-stop overload principle.

    The body is not made to be lifting endlessly heavier and heavier .
    A lot of lifters get injured in the process of getting stronger and stronger.Or their joints deteriorate in time.
    Even machines have a maximum lifting capacity.
    Be wise, use your brain.
    That is what seperate us the most from animals.
    If it is all about muscle strength then we would have been born gorillas or rhinos.
    Well to each their own.
    :-)

    • Kaminsky

      That’s where I’m at. I’m no powerlifting/shake drinking meatball type but I’ve always dinked around in the weightroom. I read SS by Rippetoe and started more or less doing a typical SS workout. I loved it, bought into it and swore by barbell lifting for about 4 years now, maybe 5. I never ate as much as I was supposed to but still woke up recently at age 45 5’8″ and 190 pounds with a 400 pound deadlift. I was 170 about three years ago and was at 162 as a weightlifting 28 year old. Again, I never ate much. But I think my natural, God-intended weight is about 160-165. So what do I do? Keep lifting and eating? Should I creep up to 205 as my 50th birthday approaches? I also feel often depleted and not nearly as spry as I used to in regards to women. Okay…age, but I wonder if constantly pushing your body to the max without eating tons of food is taken out of your system elsewhere; like your mood, you libido etc. Unless you eat eat tons of food (which powerlifting demands) then you run into a wall and I wonder if it depletes you more than you realize. You got the cool bumps on your shoulders and back that didn’t use to be there but I wonder if it’s too taxing. THoughts?

  • Christopher brinkley

    Bulgarian split squats. Barbell hack squats. Front squats. Deficit trap bar deadlift. Lunges sumo squats.. Reverse lunges with a front loaded rack. Step up. Box jumps . leg press with bands. Romanian deadlifts. Sumo deadlifts . prone leg curls. Seated leg curls.. Leg extension. Sissy squat. Single leg press. Single leg extension. Standing leg curls. Single prone leg curls… Bam!! 30 inch quads no SQUATS needed.

  • I do. The bar is just loaded in front.

  • If you don’t squad, you don’t squad. Nobody is holding a gun to these people’s heads and say squat or die. People take it like they are eating that thuggaroni and cheese pizza.

  • //short version

    Ro-man. Thank-ye. If I could buy you a bag of mint oreos, I would, except well, it’d be healthier drinking turpentine, sans that tastiness that mint oreos provide.

    I digress.

    You said this, “one of the most important items I listed was pretty simple: say no to shit you don’t like. It is one of the hardest things you can do, and one of the best things to learn.”

    I love that. Stoked to read the article when I should really be doing something else.

    //long version

    And I 1000% agree. I’m a people pleaser and often find myself doing things I don’t really want to be doing. Why? What is the point?! Of course, if it means helping someone in need or like, you know, being a kind person, I’m down. I don’t want to lose *that*.

    But sometimes I think I’m “too kind” and spend more time doing what other people want. I have big dreams and goals.

    Speaking of, I’m trying to get in the best shape of my life and am doing StrongLifts 5×5. I just started. I’ve never weight trained in my life. 5×5 swears by back squats. I’ve heard such great things about front squats though, so I swapped those in instead.

    Then a friend challenged me with this article: http://stronglifts.com/stronglifts-5×5-front-squat-vs-back-squat/

    And I thought, “Crap… but I like *front* squats.”

    But because I’m a “rule follower” I thought, “Time to try back squats.”

    Not now thanks to thine article. I’m gonna do front squats. Because I like them.

    I’m not looking for numbers or sports. All I want is for people to faint when I take my shirt off. Well. Just my girlfriend. (Is that too much to ask?) I think front squats will help transform me from the noodle I am now, to the beast I will be in 12 weeks.

    And when I say beast, I really mean, a pretty good looking dude with his shirt off.

    That’s what I want. And that’s what I’m going for. Thanks for the stellar writing.

    Ben Wyatt. Out. :)

    PS: Here’s a picture from my gym today in lieu of the oreos. Try not to faint.

    • Wow. Disqus fail. First on the wrong post. Then double of me. Sorry. Hope it takes. Laters.

  • Nice motivation

  • Brandon S.

    While I’m biased and a competitive powerlifter, I respect your right to do what suits you best. That’s the great thing about training. Only you know what works best for your body, what you like/don’t like, and the risk/reward you pay for doing so. Will I probably be beat to hell by the time I’m 50 if I stay highly competitive for decades…you bet. But to me personally, I see it as worth it until I reach goals X, Y, and Z. So props to you man, I respect you being honest and thinking about YOU! The only little thing I ask is, what is your thought on “doing the things you hate”? Clearly this falls in that category. Good post though, Roman.

  • squatette

    Bulgarian split squats are way more damaging to the knee than back squats.

  • Great question!

    The problem with most leg press machines is that they’re selectorized, and the weight stack is on one side. So, you get more loading on your right than your left.

    If you have a plate loaded leg press (hammer strength etc), it’s not as much of a problem.

    Still, I prefer to do them unilaterally.

  • Interesting! What do you use in place of deads?

  • If you love, do it. Hope you enjoy =)

  • That’s totally fair =)

  • Thanks for stopping by, Scott. Appreciate the feedback!

  • I much prefer trap bar deads, personally.

  • Hey Cindy,

    You know, I do get emails about the language from time to time. Yours was the first time someone really took the time to look at it from MY perspective before writing it. I felt like you were making a suggestion, not chastising me. That makes a difference.

    I can’t promise I won’t swear, but I can promise I’ll keep your words in mind.

    Thank you, Cindy.

    • Alexis Mayer

      And some of your audience despises 100% politically correct language.

  • Robert Bateman

    I am a Chiropractor 5′ 8″ and play basketball. I have never done bar squats and never will. I have always used plyometrics, bodyweight squats including Bulgarian squats and jump training. At 19 years of age I could dunk a volley ball. I never had the ups to dunk a basketball. My point is the loading on the knees is not beneficial long term due to the complex mechanics of the flexion-extension phase. There are plenty of other exercises to use. I’m 42 now and still playing ball and giving the kids a run for their money. BTW I think Boyles theories are somewhat flawed and don’t altogether make sense.

  • Mike

    Personally, I always thought that compression from the loaded bar on my spinal column was too much (regardless of how strong the trapz are). About a year ago I started doing body-weight squats and their different variations. Now, I’m able to do 10-15 Pistols on each side and feel much more rounded in terms of my leg strength and balance. Great article thank you for the post!

  • Your Living Body

    I’ve had squatting issues for years due to my extremely flat feet. Playing soccer for years didn’t help either as I had all sorts of alignment issues. I’m impartial to the squat but I think it’s a great exercise. I think you summed it up nicely though with your reasons to squat if you actually need to squat. Now that I’m in my 30’s the only thing I really care about is staying healthy and looking like I’m in good shape – the last thing I want is to end up with an injury and/or chronic low back pain because I’m trying to push myself at squats. My main love in life is surfing – as long as I keep my strength and endurance up for that and the occasional 10K I’m happy.

  • Augie S

    I do belt squats. Haven’t done front or back squats in years.

    • Do you use plates, or a cable?

      • Augie S

        Plates. I use a Spud Inc. squat belt (check elitefts, Rogue, Amazon, Sorinex, etc) and an Olympic loading pin. I train at home. Lowes sells these reinforced rubber step stools that are a perfect height for belt squats. They’re also stackable so they take up little space. But I’ve got a friend who does belt squats at his local gym. He just packs his loading pin and belt in his gym bag and stands on benches. Bruno wrote an article for t-nation on hip belt squats on 8/26/11. Good read.

      • Augie S

        BTW, you’re not limited to plates. I’ve seen guys hook a chain to kettlebells, heavy chains, etc. Nothing wrong with cable if you can set it up and get enough weight. Most functional trainers use pulley systems with a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio so you have to stack a decent amount of weight to get enough resistance for belt squats.

        Not many gyms have belt squat platforms (Westside does) but I don’t have the real estate for that in my home. Some platforms use cables while others use plates.

  • Pankaj

    There are many things I hate doing. But that’s my fault. If I don’t like my medicine, I try to find some way to sugar-coat it and gulp it down.

  • Alex J

    Like you Roman, my bootay grows exponetially with back squats (BS) and very very little quad development, So in Engineering Da Alpha, would you advise replacing BSs in all phases it occurs? And with what??

    • Allow me to answer your query with a few of my own:

      1) Would you prefer more quads and less glute recruitment?
      2) If that’s the case, what exercises do you feel work well for your quads?

    • don slater

      Boyle is right. You do not have to squat. I say, Hill sprints will rip your legs and are good for your overall health and weight. Be natural,eat right ,train hard. 99% of us will never compete in anything meaningfull after high school anyways. And for those that do at least 20% of them(cheaters) take drugs to do it.So focus on priorities. God,family,health etc. Bought the alpha book its worth the money.

    • If you would prefer to avoid it, feel free to sub with front squats, trap bar deads, etc

  • That’s actually a great question. As it happens, my booty gets work from deadlifts, which are my primary lower body movement. Also gets hit in RDLs, lunges, glute bridges etc

  • Mike

    Damnnnnnnn you really hate those things dont you. I do too, thats because when I was a teenager I was following this workout in a magazine that called for squats and then follow up with dead lifts.Bad order of exercises! My legs were taxed after the squats so my back was all that was left for the dead lifts…so im still dealing with that injury 20 years later. Not the squats fault but never the the less I hate both of those exercises.

    • Depends on the goal. As you will have noticed in the descriptions of my current leg workouts, I’m using trap bar deads and front squats–both big compound movements that allow for multiple muscles to be used.

      However, at a higher level of development, and for the purposes of pure hypertrophy, isolation can be important. For me, it seems that my quads grow more readily with direct work.

  • Bret Contreras

    Good article Johnny!

  • Cindy

    This article shows how much you have grown as a trainer, a bodybuilder and a man. Good on you. I myself have never liked back squats, they just don’t “feel right”. It is great to have someone I admire tell it like it is and give ” permission” to trust my own instincts rather than do what is told to me is good. Everyone is different in bodies, injuries, abilities and imbalances. Thank you for this article I enjoyed it immensely – except for the F— language. I am not a prude and I realise you probably write as you would speak but women read your articles and I just find that language unnecessary and I cringe whenever I see you write it. Just a thought for you to consider that you have no idea of who is reading your stuff – young, old, men, women, kids, religious, ethnics, your mum, your fiancé – anyone. Please don’t be offended and just tell me to unsubscribe if I don’t like it as that is not my point. I love your opinions and an in awe of your knowledge, pretty much I love your work.. I’m just asking you to consider that some of your audience may be offended or put off by the use of such language . I hope you take my comments in the loving, caring way in which I mean them. Thanks John.

  • Guest

    Like you Roman, my bootay grows exponetially with back squats (BS) and very very little quad development, So in Engineering Da Alpha, would you advise replacing BSs in all phases it occurs? And with what??

  • TonyGentilcore

    LOL on the Brussel sprouts comment. I fucking HATED them as a kid. Now, though, my girlfriend and I can’t get enough of them.

    Nice article, too dude…..;o)

    • Well, thanks.

      Important question: what was your favorite ice cream flavor when you were 6? Same as 26 or different?

  • Travis

    I tell my clients this. There is no such thing as a bad exercise, only a bad application. If back squats are not good for your structure or your mobility isn’t good enough, there is no reason to do a back squat. Of if you just hate an exercise don’t do it. I might be a minority here but I hate direct arm work. Bores the hell out of me. Maybe that’s why I have small arms. I love back squats though:) I really liked this blog post. Nice job Roman

  • Beancounter61

    And trap bar deads are really squat replacements and safer deads all wrapped into one. For the older, wiser guy. Right Roman?

  • Beancounter61

    It’s the fiance. Roman noticed that she has achieved great fitness without back squats, so he’s going “body part preservation fitness,” which is smart. Right, Roman?

  • Patrick O’Flaherty

    Roman,

    On your trap bar deficit deadlifts…
    How many inches were you elevated off the ground?

    Was this elevated platform a commercially available piece of equipment or did you make it yourself?

    Were your 20 rep sets “Touch & Go” or did you pause to reset your grip after each rep?

    Thanks,

    Patrick O’Flaherty

    • Good questions.

      For height, I actually just stand on a 45 pounds bumper plate. Some I’m elevated about 3.5 inches.

      Reps were touch and go; no resetting grip if I didn’t need to.

  • mvalent23

    I saw the title of this in my email, and almost unsubscribed from your mailing list. But then I read it and thought “I’m not sure if he’s an evil genius or not, but I get what he’s saying”. I read through it and instead of finding reasons to not squat, I found a whole bunch of reasons to keep doing it. I find it so funny that some of the best lifters and even body builders out there started doing heavy squats at or below parallel. Now that they have great strength, they abandon the one exercise that helped them get there the most, while preaching against it. Then I read later on that “You don’t have to squat, you can do these 5 things in it’s place”. Really, let’s think about that: 20 – 25 minutes in the squat rack, or 90 minutes doing a leg circuit and same result (2 of which are squat variations, by the way). Thanks, I’ll take the squats.

  • Lou

    I love me some trap bar deads, but I need to use straps to get any real work in on my legs without my grip giving out. Is that OK???

    • ChuckS123

      Advice I’ve seen is to do as much as you can without straps, then use straps. That way you exercise your grip to it’s limit, then go to your limit of other muscles. Many people’s grips give out long before they get to the limit of other muscles.

  • Liza Laura

    I understand you want to build your kwadz, but Roman girlz love guys with a nice bubble butt too :) what do you do to keep you glutes nice and round without squats? As a proud owner of a bombshell bootie I find nothing has shaped my apple bottom like high volume ATG squats :))

  • Scott Tousignant

    Solid article Roman. It’s great to see that you shared your opinion and experiences while stating reasons why they may not apply to others.

    …and the sample workouts you shared look wicked awesome!

    I was totally in agreement with the ‘enjoyment’ factor… until I realized that I didn’t do any leg workouts in my late teens and 20’s because I didn’t enjoy leg day… like many guys…

    …and it’s the reason why I had to bust my butt off in my 30’s to make my stick legs a thing of the past.

    Ironically, leg day is now my favorite training day… closely followed by back day.

    Thanks for the share

    Scott Tousignant

  • Alex

    This post is just an opinion and should be treated as such.
    Same thing I said on Facebook. If people have a mobility squatting or got injured at some point doing it, they start bashing it.
    2nd, the low bar squat is not a leg press, it’s a hip movement and it involves what It involves not just quads and glutes (abs, lower back, hamstrings too)
    Just my 2 cents. If I can’t squat correctly, I’d like to learn, not substitute for 5 machines worth of exercises and lose 1hour in the gym just for legs.
    Sorry Roman, i loved your book, but I can’t agree on this one, ever.

  • Nerast

    I really don’t see what’s the big fuss about. I think one should train a certain movement pattern (like the squat), or a muscle group (if that’s your way of looking at it), but specific excercise selection is totally goal/equipment/individual/context dependent and, IMO, doesn’t really make a difference as long as you are able to impose whatever training adaptation you were looking to get. People tend to get religious about certain pieces of equipment or excercises. I personally (still) enjoy doing back squats, but there is absolutely nothing magical about them, at the end of the day it’s just another tool in the toolbox. Sometimes they are just what is needed and sometimes there are better ways to get things done and it would be really stupid to keep doing them if you don’t feel you’re getting anything out of it.

  • Barney Vincelette

    I used to be indifferent about Bulgaria until I discovered that they manufacture and sell glow-in-the-dark cloth that is very affordable on e-bay. I bought some and made a suit that is a riot to wear when walking out of the bright sun into a darkened movie theater while complaining about a nuclear waste disposal engineer having spiked my laundry detergent with plutonium salts because he thought I was trying to seduce his wife. Trust me, you haven’t lived till you wear clothes that glow in the dark.

    But I digress. I find full range of motion hack squats more salubrious because they are athletic but not jockocratic. I hate most sports especially the commercial ones and bodybuilding is less about whom you can beat and more about demonstrating to the world that nobody has to become a victim of the obesity epidemic and suffer all the physical disfigurement and disease that goes with it. Several women and men have beaten anorexia by living the bodybuilding way of life. That to me is an inspiration.

  • Jim

    I retired myself from back squats long ago, simply because they never did anything for me. Think about it, loading up your spine with as much weight as you can handle. We’re supposed to be opening up our spine, not compressing it. Along with deads, two of the most overrated exercises ever. I’ve had much better physique enhancement without them.

  • Anne

    After reading this…I’m going to squat with even more passion!! I love the rack.

  • You speak Elvish? That’s baller.

  • Alex

    How come you sent out an email on 2/28/13 titled, “5 USELESS Exercises (Don’t do them!)‏”, where one of the exercises listed was the leg press, but then you blog about doing leg presses? You even said they are “destroying” results and can “actually harm your body?”

  • frunt skwatz 4 ur kwadz, brah.

  • Yannick Noah

    Awesome post Roman. Such an epic way to end the article. I guess for non professional fitness enthusiasts like me i tend to be inclined to follow whatever some high level experts say. So when such coaches say “you shall squat” , it is like a command of a prophet that I cannot say no to haha. But thanks to people like you you have offered me another perspective of things. You didnt diss squats straight away but you provided reasons for doing so and you didnt make your personal choice everyone’s choice. As for me, I used to love the squats (down to parallel) because i used to chase the big 3 as well. But i became unhappy doing them after a while because there are just too many cues to pay attention to and like u, i felt nervous doing them. And for some reason which is unexplainable, I didnt feel good doing them and they were not quite enjoyable anymore. Now i far prefer front squats.I find that it is easier to do and they feel better although some may say it is a more complicated lift. I still do back squats but i now squat deep so i feel on the legs more without worrying too much about the load. I use deep back squats now for volume work.

    P/s: i thought of comparing your ending to an epic scene in World War Z but i fear there are some that might not have watched the movie so i decided not to. haha

  • Jason John Klein

    Good stuff coach

  • Roman K

    Hi Roman on the other side of planet! I recently came across this page…your information is good in one sense to go in the direction of what you like as you will excel more however just because you are not competing or are not aiming to be an athlete does not mean you dont do exercises that you dont like. These exercises make you stronger and improve limitations usually.

    My view is the back squat is essential for many reasons however i dont load a house on to it. Yes you dont have to do it as you are doing other variations however for me it is too fundamental. I guess if you are getting the results elsewhere it isnt a ‘need’.

    I am not a fan of extensions due to the shear stress on acl. Do we train to destroy our ligaments and increase instability or to have strength with stability? In regards to good quad development yes you will get that.

  • Austin Smith

    I agree with this article. I happen to love back squatting, but it is definitely not a “100% must have exercise that everyone in the world should fucking do.” Because some people shouldn’t.

    Also, this article would get a +1 even if I didn’t agree with it, because you introduced me to the word “kwadz”.

    • Christos Tsiftis

      Hey Roman, long time no speak!
      Nice article bro. I’ve always hated back squats and up until recently would do exercises like Vince Girondas Sissy Skwadz which worked well…until I read Keys To Progress by John McCallum who says Skwadz or bust. Since I started 6 weeks ago on back squats Ive put on 7 kilos and hit 90kg. My strength has increased in everything and i needed new shirts and slacks for work! Only downside is my ass has widened somewhat, LOL. I now backsquat during winter during bulk up.
      Whatever works for you, right!
      Oh, BTW Congrats and nice work with Arnie.
      Ciao.

  • Nick Efthimiou

    So what you are saying, is if I like gin, and my friend likes scotch, we can both go to a bar, order what we like, and still end up in the same place?

    • If that place is “Awesometown,” then yes that is exactly what I’m saying.

      • JuiCy

        looooool. i love you guys

  • Man, great reading. If there’s one that that I, from my completely know-nothing perspective, try to impart about weight-training, it’s that everything isn’t for everyone. Not everyone has to do this or that lift to be (or to get) in good shape.

    Do what works for you, and just make sure you have some fun while you’re in the gym. QED.

  • Boyle hates Bulgaria, LOL. This post can be applied to so many things that get blasted with groupthink. Solid read as always, thanks for sharing dude.

  • martin

    Yeah, you’re a dick Sorry you got raped by boys that did curlz in the squat rack then squatted over your roided face.. :*

  • I’ve never liked the squat much either – I can’t go low without arching my lower back. I always felt that it worked my lower back more than my legs also. Kinda figured that meant I needed a stronger core. Thoughts?

  • Dan

    Until Mark Rippletoad can squat his bodyweight, I’m not going to take him seriously.

    • jenny

      there’s a vid of Mark doing 405×5.

    • Clifton Harski

      giggle

      • Fair enough.

        But answer me this: is Rip pro or anti Bulgaria?