Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.
8 Alternatives To The Squat Rack (With and Without Equipment)
Looking for alternatives to the squat rack?
Well, you're in luck today because we have some of the best alternative options for you with and without other equipment needed!!
Whether you want to switch up your workout routine or don't have access to a gym, there are plenty of exercises that can help build lower body strength.
In this post, we'll explore bodyweight, dumbbell, and barbell exercises as well as machine alternatives for those looking to shake things up from regular squat racks and power racks.
Stay tuned and find out what you can do instead of using a squat rack!
Can You Squat Without A Squat Rack?
Bodyweight squats, dumbbell squats, and kettlebell goblet squats are all great alternatives to using a squat rack.
Bodyweight squats can be done anywhere and require no equipment, making them perfect for home workouts or when traveling.
Dumbbell squats allow you to increase the weight without needing a rack and can target different muscles depending on how you hold the weights.
Kettlebell goblet squats provide a challenging workout for your legs while also working your core muscles.
When it comes to building strength and muscle in your lower body, the squat provides dozens of exercise options.
However, not everyone has access to a squat rack or gym equipment.
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives that still allow you to get an effective workout in without needing costly machines or equipment that takes up space at home.
Body weight exercises are a basic (and free) alternative to using machines or equipment like the squat rack.
Air squats, for example, can be done anywhere and are effective at targeting the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Band Zurcher squats and barbell hack squats also provide a challenge without requiring a squat rack.
Bodyweight exercises like pistol squats and Bulgarian split squats offer great alternatives to the squat rack for building leg strength while improving balance, stability, and core engagement.
Pistol squats target one leg at a time while also improving balance and stability. Bulgarian split squats work the same muscles as traditional squats but add an extra challenge to your core.
Step-ups not only engage your lower body but also improve coordination and agility.
All of these bodyweight exercises offer great alternatives to the squat rack for building strength in your legs.
1. Pistol squats
Pistol squats are a challenging single-leg exercise that can be performed without any equipment. To do a pistol squat, stand on one leg with the other leg extended in front of you and slowly lower down into a squat position while keeping your balance. You can use a band or hold onto something for support if needed.
If you want to add resistance, try holding onto a dumbbell or kettlebell during the exercise. Other squat variations you can try include air squats, band zercher squats, and barbell hack squats for more variety in your workout routine.
2. Bulgarian split squats
Bulgarian split squats are a great alternative to traditional squats, providing an intense workout for your legs and glutes. This exercise can be done with or without weights, making it a versatile option for those who don't have access to a squat rack.
Here are some benefits and variations of Bulgarian split squats:
- Improves balance and stability
- Targets quads, hamstrings, and glutes
- Can be done with dumbbells or kettlebells
- Rear foot elevated Bulgarian split squat
- Bulgarian split squat jump
Step-ups are a versatile and effective lower body exercise that can be done with or without equipment.
They target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves while also improving balance and stability.
To perform step-ups, simply place one foot on a raised surface such as a bench or box and step up until your hip is fully extended before stepping back down.
For added resistance, hold dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand or use other equipment such as air squats, band Zurcher squats, or barbell hack squats.
Step-ups can be modified to increase the difficulty by adding height to the surface you're stepping onto or by performing them explosively for plyometric benefits.
Additionally, incorporating variations such as lateral step-ups or reverse lunges from the elevated position can provide additional challenge and variety to your workout routine.
Step-ups are an excellent alternative for those looking to strengthen their lower body muscles without access to a squat rack.
Dumbbell Based Alternatives
Goblet squats are a great alternative to traditional barbell squats. Holding the dumbbell at your chest engages your core and helps with balance.
Lunges with dumbbells work multiple muscles in the legs and glutes, as well as improve stability and coordination.
Keep good form by keeping your knee above your ankle and lowering until both knees form 90-degree angles.
4. Goblet squats
Goblet squats are a versatile exercise that can be done with just a kettlebell or dumbbell, making them a great alternative to the squat rack. Holding the weight in front of your chest helps you maintain good form and engage your core muscles while targeting your quads and glutes.
To perform goblet squats, hold the weight close to your chest, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, sit back into a deep squat position while keeping your chest up and core engaged.
To increase difficulty, you can try holding heavier weights or adding an upper-body movement like an overhead press at the top of each rep.
Goblet squats also allow for more range of motion than standard barbell back squats, which can help improve hip mobility over time.
Lunges are a versatile exercise that can be done anywhere, with or without weights.
They primarily target the glutes and thighs while also engaging your core for stability. To perform a lunge, step forward with one foot and lower your body until both knees are bent at 90-degree angles.
Make sure to keep your front knee directly above your ankle and avoid letting it go past your toes.
Variations of lunges include reverse lunges, walking lunges, and jumping lunges for added intensity.
You can also use dumbbells or kettlebells to increase resistance while performing lunges.
Incorporating different types of lunges into your workout routine is an effective way to build strength in multiple muscle groups without needing a squat rack.
Barbell Based Alternatives
Front squats and Zercher squats are two effective barbell exercises that can be used as alternatives to the squat rack.
With front squats, the barbell is held on the front of your shoulders instead of your back, which helps engage your core muscles while targeting your quads and glutes.
Zercher squats involve holding the barbell in the crook of your elbows, which requires a strong grip but also activates more upper body muscles in addition to working out your lower body.
Both exercises can be performed using a traditional Olympic bar or lighter-weight training bars for beginners or those with mobility issues.
6. Front squats
Front squats are a popular exercise that can be done without a squat rack.
This variation of the squat focuses on engaging your quads and core muscles.
To perform front squats, you will need to hold the barbell in front of your body with your arms crossed over it while keeping your elbows up.
Another benefit of performing front squats is that they put less strain on your lower back as compared to traditional back squats.
This makes them an ideal alternative for those who experience lower back pain or discomfort when using a squat rack.
By incorporating front squats into your workout routine, you can still target and strengthen the same muscle groups without needing access to gym equipment like a squat rack.
7. Zercher squats
Zercher squats are a great alternative to traditional back squats that place less strain on the lower back.
This variation involves holding the barbell in the crook of your elbows, which also helps to strengthen your biceps and forearms. To perform Zercher squats:
- Start with the barbell on a low rack or blocks at about mid-thigh height.
- Approach it from behind and squat down, hooking your arms under the bar so that it rests in the crooks of your elbows.
- Stand up while keeping your torso upright and core engaged.
- Perform reps as you would for regular squats.
Adding Zercher squats into your workout routine can help improve overall strength and add variety to leg day workouts.
Give them a try next time you're looking for an alternative squat exercise!
Machine Based Alternatives
Looking for a way to switch up your leg day routine? Consider these squat rack alternatives.
The Smith machine is a popular option, providing the same vertical movement as a squat rack with added safety features.
Another option is the leg press machine, which can provide an intense lower body workout without putting pressure on your back and shoulders like squats might.
For those who prefer functional training, try using a functional trainer with J-hooks.
This allows you to perform squats and other lower body exercises while incorporating upper body movements as well.
And if you're looking for options that don't require machines, lunges and step-ups are effective exercises that can easily be incorporated into your routine without any equipment needed.
8. Smith Machine
The Smith Machine is a popular alternative to the squat rack. Its fixed bar allows for easier weightlifting without the need for a spotter. However, it can limit range of motion and does not engage stabilizing muscles as well as free weights.
Another option is the leg press machine, which places less stress on the back and knees compared to squats. It targets primarily the quads but also engages glutes and hamstrings depending on foot placement.
9. Leg press
The leg press machine is a great alternative to the squat rack for targeting your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. This exercise can be performed seated or lying down depending on the machine you are using.
Here are some benefits of incorporating the leg press into your workout routine:
- Provides a safer option for those with lower back pain or limited mobility
- Allows you to lift heavier weight without putting as much pressure on your spine
- Targets specific muscles in your legs that may not get as much engagement during squats
Pro tip: To switch up your leg press routine, try different foot positions such as wide stance or narrow stance to target different muscle groups.
10. Squat Machine
A squat machine is a popular alternative to the traditional squat rack. It is designed to help you perform squats safely and effectively while reducing the risk of injury. Squat machines can be found in most gyms, and come in different varieties such as plate-loaded or selectorized.
If you are looking for a safer way to do squats without using traditional squat racks, here are some benefits of using a squat machine:
- Provides support for your back
- Targets specific muscle groups
- Reduces pressure on joints
- Offers greater stability
While the squat machine may not provide the exact same benefits as traditional barbell squats, it can still be an effective option for those who want to work on their leg strength and overall fitness.
11. Functional Trainer With J-Hooks
A functional trainer with J-hooks is a versatile piece of equipment that can provide an effective alternative to the squat rack.
It allows for a wide range of exercises, including squats and lunges, as well as upper body movements like chest press and rows. The J-hooks make it easy to adjust the height of the barbell, making it suitable for users of all sizes.
In addition to its versatility, a functional trainer with J-hooks can also save space in your home gym compared to a traditional squat rack.
It's compact design takes up less room on your floor while still providing you with many exercise options. Plus, it often comes equipped with various cable attachments that further expand its functionality and increases exercise variety.
When choosing an alternative to the squat rack or power rack, it's important to consider your fitness goals.
Are you looking to build strength or increase muscle size? Different exercises will target different areas of the body and provide varying levels of resistance.
Proper form and technique are crucial for any exercise, especially when using alternative equipment.
Consult a trainer or coach who can demonstrate correct positioning and movement patterns, helping you avoid injury while maximizing results.
Incorporating variety into your workout routine is key to avoiding boredom and plateaus.
Experiment with different machines, free weights, and bodyweight exercises to keep your muscles guessing and continue making progress toward your fitness goals.