The Best Squat You’re Not Doing

by Ben Bruno T-Nation

Here’s what you need to know…

  • Landmine squats are the solution for lifters who can’t squat correctly because of joint pain or mobility problems.
  • For novice lifters, landmine squats teach proper squat form. For veteran lifters, they’re gentler on joints so you can augment your heavy back squats with landmine squats without repercussion.
  • The arc of the bar travels back as you squat down, so you have no choice but to sit back and stay upright. Doing so builds and strengthens the quads.

The Problem With Squats
Squats are hyped-up as the king of leg exercises, but that only applies to a very small percentage of lifters: ones who actually squat well and ones who aren’t injured.

Most lifters actually suck at back squats, at least initially. Mobility restrictions or their own anthropometry makes it tough to squat with an upright torso. As a result, the movement ends up looking like an ugly good-morning-squat hybrid.

Even those with good form find back squats to be problematic when they have lower back, knee, or shoulder issues.

Front squats are an option, but many find it tough to hold the bar, and it takes a lot of practice to get the hang of it. Learning to squat correctly is worth the effort, but trying to add heavy loads to an exercise you can’t do well is asking for trouble.

The Landmine Squat Solution
Landmine squats teach the squat pattern, so they’re an excellent way to work towards being able to do back squats and front squats. They’re also a great alternative for those who can’t perform regular squats because of injury.

Start with one end of the bar in a landmine unit, or if you don’t have a landmine, just put one end of the bar in a corner using a towel to pad the bar so you don’t scratch the wall.

If your gym has 45-pound plates with holes in them, you can also put a plate flat against a wall and put one end of the bar in one of the holes.

From there, hold the other end of the bar against your chest and squat down and try to touch your elbows to the tops of your thighs or just inside your knees, depending on the width of your stance.

It’s important to set up with the bar against your chest instead of away from your body so that you maintain an upright torso and don’t have to rely solely on your arms to hold the weight.

The Goblet Squat Comparison
Compare the landmine squat to the goblet squat. They’re similar to goblet squats in that they’re anteriorly loaded, but they’re better for teaching a good squatting pattern because the bar moves in a slight arc.

Take advantage of that arc to help reinforce the pattern of sitting back into the squat and maintaining an upright torso – two things people struggle with most when it comes to squatting well.

Since the arc of the bar travels back as you come down, you have no choice but to sit back, and you’re also forced to stay upright lest the bar jam into your sternum.

Notice that the landmine squat allows the lifter to stay much more upright with far less forward knee travel, making it more joint-friendly for the knees and lower back while still crushing the quads.

The landmine squat also allows for far greater loading than goblet squats, meaning it’s not just a teaching tool but a viable way to build strength and muscle if you load it up.

Landmine Box Squats

Here’s what a landmine box squat looks like as demonstrated by UFC athlete Brendan Schaub. It can also be helpful to perform landmine squats to a box or low bench that serves as a depth gauge.

A box or bench will also act as a reminder to sit back into the squat, which is especially useful for folks who tend to come too far forward rather than just sitting back and engaging the hips. Just make sure to set up close to the box so that your calves are just in front of it or even lightly touching it.

When and How to Use Them

  • Combined with a heavy dose of mobility work, they’re a perfect gateway to regular squats and front squats to groove the pattern.
  • For lifters looking to increase the volume of their lower body training, try landmine squats as an adjunct to regular squats since they’re a lot easier on the joints.
  • Most people can’t tolerate doing heavy squats more than 1-2 times a week, but you could augment traditional squats with 1-2 days of landmine squats to train the squat pattern and work the quads without beating up the lower back and knees.
  • For lifters who can’t do traditional squats because of injuries, landmine squats are a good alternative. Before you scoff at the idea, try doing them heavy and see what I mean.
  • Landmine squats are a great option for taller guys who struggle to stay upright and have trouble targeting the quads with traditional squats.
  • Doing 10-20 after you’ve completed your heavier leg work will blast your quads into oblivion.



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