Do Somethin’ Different: 6 Awesome Squat & Deadlift Alternatives

Squats and deadlifts are great, but we need variety in our workouts to avoid injury, experience enhanced athletic performance, and keep our bodies guessing.  Here are six alternatives to conventional squats and deadlifts.

Goblet Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats 1.5 reps

– Loading the front of the body engages the trunk to a greater extent as the body is fighting to remain upright.  This differs greatly from having a loaded barbell on your back.

-Throwing in the 1.5 reps makes the exercise quite a bit more demanding.  There is an extra half eccentric phase for every rep which is bound to fry your glutes and hamstrings.

-In the above video, Ben Bruno completes the exercise from a deficit, meaning he is hiked up a few inches allowing him to drop his knee slightly lower than if we were on level ground.

Barbell Reverse Lunge (Front Squat Grip)

-You will find the reverse lunge to be more knee friendly as there is less deceleration compared to walking or forward lunges.

-Similar to the goblet RFESS, the weight is loaded in front of the body which stresses on the trunk as it counters flexion.

-I prefer doing the cross-arm grip, but if you have the flexibility in your wrists and feel comfortable with the Olympic style, go for it.

-You’ll find you won’t be able to load up the weight right away.  Get the movement down first; practice with just the bar, and go from there.

Rhythmic Jump Squat (1/4)

-These are performed in a rhythmic fashion, where the concentric or jumping phases occur immediately after each other.  After ascending, quickly allow your body to lower into a 1/4 squat and jump again.

-Rate of Force Development (RFD) is what we are most concerned about when dealing with explosiveness and power.  1/4 jump squats are great for this and will transfer to enhanced performance in a variety of abilities from sprinting, to striking and leaping vertically.

-You obviously won’t be loading up 85% of your 1RM for these jump squats.  Start with maybe 15% and work your way up to 40-45%.

Reeves Deadlift

The snatch grip deadlift is one thing, but the Reeves deadlift is just ridiculous.  You completely disregard the fact that the bar is there for you to grab – go ahead and grip the plates on each end.

-Assuming such a wide grip will really test your upper back, rear deltoids, and grip/hand strength.

-You’re setting up as if it’s any ordinary deadlift and completing the exact same hip hinge movement.  The only difference is the super wide grip

-A great way to increase your deadlift is, yes, you guessed it – to deadlift more.  But this post is all about variety, and we need to understand that an important limiting factor in increasing your deadlift is arm, hand, and grip strength.  The Reeves deadlit focuses on building what may be your weakest points.

Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are great.  You can lift tonnes of weight and look extremely manly while doing so.

The video below shows Ben Bruno doing rack pulls.  He’s using a snatch grip, which you can try out, but is by no means mandatory.

-Set up in a squat rack with the pins in your preferred position.  They may be below the knees, just above the knees, or perhaps at mid thigh level.  This depends on what stage of the deadlift you want to work on.  If you have a ‘sticking point’ in your deadlift, it is wise to focus on the specific point and eliminate it by doing rack pulls from the desired height.

-You will really be able to load up the weight with these, as your range of motion is reduced.  Because of this you may need to use a mixed grip which is fine.

-Like other deadlifts, once the bar reaches just below mid thigh, the glutes really come into play – make sure to fully engage them to achieve hip extension.  Don’t be one of those guys who hyper extends their lower back instead of activating the glutes.

Landmine Skater Squats

-Single Leg exercises are usually more “knee friendly” because the ankle, knee, and hip joints are given the opportunity to stabilize and carry out the movement without being ‘locked into place’ in a bilateral stance.

-This is a great exercise, and although it’s carried out in a single leg stance, you’ll be able to throw on a bit of weight.

Wrap up

I hope you enjoyed these variations of deadlifts and squats.  Not only is it fun to try out new things in the gym, but these really will transfer over into your main lifts and overall athletic performance.

Depending on your goals, you will benefit more from certain exercises above (i.e. rhythmic 1/4 jumps for vertical).  In terms of raw strength transfer however, I would say the rack pull is ideal.

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