20 Rep Back Squat: What Alternative is Best for Me?


If your hip, knee or back is feeling out of sorts just in time for our 20 rep back squat cycle, opt for one of these alternatives instead. If doing the full twenty reps with the alternative exercise is still aggressive, scale to 10 or 15 reps. 10 or 15 reps still leaves potential for significant gains in strength and muscular endurance, without the high volume of a twenty rep set. Below is a little information about each movement, so that you can make the most informed decision about which is best suited for you:

A. Squat to Box: Transfers more work to the posterior chain (hips, hamstrings) for a less knee-dominant exercise by sitting the hips back (as opposed to directly down) and sending more weight to the heels. Start with a 14 in box, then use plates to adjust up or down as needed to get the tops of your thighs just below the knees when seated. When performing a rep, use the box as a target, not a seat – gently tap the box without transferring weight, and stand right back up. 

B. Box Squat: Very similar to the Squat-to-Box, but even more posterior chain dominant with a full stop at the bottom. This pause prevents you from using the momentum created by the stretch-reflex (bounce out of the bottom), instead forcing you to improve starting strength at depth. Try to stand directly up from the bottom (as opposed to “rocking” off the box by shifting weight forward and then up as you stand). Check out this video on more details explaining the difference between A.and B.

C. Front Squat: You may choose to front squat if back squats are generally uncomfortable due to your specific anatomy or mobility restrictions. It may seem like a small difference, but back and joint angles adjust significantly to maintain your center of mass over the midfoot, depending on whether the barbell is in the front or back rack position. A front squat requires more anterior core strength and creates greater torque at the knees as they translate farther forward than they would in a back squat, while your back angle remains more vertical. In a back squat, your hips typically experience the most torque as your back angle adjusts to become more horizontal. The most comfortable option between front and back squat may be an obvious choice for you, due to variations in range of motion at the ankles and hips. proportionally long/short femurs or trunk, and midline strength relative to your legs. Alternatively, you may be equally comfortable with both options due to none of these being a huge limiting factor. It’s all individual, so adjust as needed. 

D. Rear Foot Elevated Back Rack Split Squat: There are two important reasons to opt for this one: 1) If you are looking to work on reducing a significant imbalance between sides, or 2) if your trunk struggles under heavy load. One leg = lighter barbell = less torque on your back. And of course, your weaker leg can’t rely on the stronger one to take over, so this one keeps you honest. Movement Demo


E) Deadlift: If you need a completely hinge-dominant option because squatting as a movement is out of the question, this is for you. You may opt for Conventional, Romanian (taken from the rack, starting at the hips, lower down to mid-shin), or Sumo (wide stance). 


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