Squats. It seems you either love them or you hate them.
This week I was asked – can you get big legs without squats?
“Hey Russ, can I get big legs without squats?
Not for medical reasons. I’ve just never enjoyed them, they burn too much and make my legs ache for days when I go heavy.”
And once I’d spat out my protein shake in disgust (big fan of squats here), I faced the fact that the simple answer to this question is yes, you can.
It’s a dark part of reality which I don’t really want to accept. Much like the fact that a lot of guys don’t train legs at all, or that Juice Plus is a thing.
How To Get Big Legs Without Squats
You see, there’s a huge volume of leg exercises to choose from. You don’t need to rely on any one in particular – even the so-called king of them all.
That’s right, I said it.
You can build legs of great definition and substantial size without a single squat, if you really want to.
Heck, one recent study showed us that the box squat is an exercise capable of generating more raw power than regular squats, so let’s not pretend it’s untouchable. (1)
And then there’s the Dwayne Johnson example.
I used Dwayne as the header image for this article because Dwayne, who owns a pair of the most well-muscled legs in the business, has a history of knee issues from this pro football days and, as such, The Rock doesn’t do squats when preparing for movie roles.
You see, the machine is only as good as the sum of its parts.
Because while the barbell squat may sit on the throne as the king of all exercises, he/she is surrounded by a plethora of smaller movements which occupy the roles of queen, prince, jester, motherfucker who is about to be sent to the gallows for selling weight loss wraps, etc.
These exercises include:
- Leg Press (narrow/wide/regular)
- Leg extension
- Lying leg curl
- Stiff leg deadlift
- Sumo deadlift
- Kettlebell swing
- Weighted step ups
- Bulgarian split squats
- Single-leg leg press
A well put-together plan consisting of a variety of these exercises would enable you to hit every muscle fiber in your lower body and, sure, you could build big legs without doing any squats.
To put this into perspective, I love my Sony Xperia phone.
It has enough features for me to run my business from the gym, and it’s large enough for my big dumb caveman fingers to operate when I’m covered in chalk and iron.
That’s pretty much all I need from my phone.
But I’m sure that if I were to take aspects of other phones (iPhone, LG, HTC, etc) I could probably come up with something that would work just as well.
But there’s another thing I want you to take into consideration here.
Unless you have a medical reason to avoid squats, I suggest you don’t avoid squats!
If your reason is simply “They burn and they ache”… Boo-fucking-hoo.
That’s because they work.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and the golden era of bodybuilders don’t refer to the barbell squat as the king of exercises – a view shared by the National Strength and Conditioning Association – for nothing.
Alongside the deadlift, it’s the exercise which can fire up more muscle fibers than any other.
- You want a leg workout? You got it.
- You want a stronger core? Got that too.
- And how about training your glutes? Yep.
Barbell squats allow you to train almost every muscle in your body with a very heavy load, all at the same time.
And if they’re this beneficial, why would you want to ignore them?
The answer is you shouldn’t!
Now it’s time for a free quad-destroying leg workout from the site. Click here to unlock the nasty “Legatron.”
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- McBride, J. M., et al. Comparison Of Kinetic Variables And Muscle Activity During A Squat Vs. A Box Squat. J Strength Cond Res 24(3):779-84, 2010.