Front Squat Alternatives

12 Front Squat Alternatives To Develop Lower Body Strength

Front Squats are one of the best exercises for building strength. Front squats are a variation of the traditional back squat exercise. They’re not only great for developing strong legs, but they’ll also help develop a strong back and a strong core.

However, as effective as I believe the Front Squat to be I also understand that there are situations where you might need an alternative.

Maybe you don’t have the necessary equipment or maybe you don’t feel comfortable with your Front Squat technique.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve come here looking for Front Squat alternatives, then you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 10 of my favorite exercises to substitute for Front Squats.

Front Squat Alternatives

I’ve tried to include as much variety in this list of alternatives as possible. There are exercises that incorporate different pieces of equipment – barbells, dumbbells and even one that doesn’t require any equipment at all. There are also beginner-friendly exercises and others better suited for more advanced lifters.

Finally, there are traditional exercises as well as a couple that are a little more ‘outside the box’.

Hopefully, at least one of these Front Squat alternatives will be a good fit for what you’re looking for.

Back Squat

Man Back Squatting 315 Pounds

This is probably the most obvious answer, but I can’t do a list of Front Squat alternatives without including Back Squat. Bottom line, Back Squat is, in my opinion, the single best lift you can do to develop strength.

If you’re able to do them, Back Squats should be a staple in your strength training program.

How To

  • Place the barbell on a squat rack at chest height. Stand facing the bar.
  • Grip the bar wider than shoulder-width apart and duck under it, placing it on your upper traps.
  • Stand up, lifting the bar off the rack. Take one or two steps back to clear the rack.
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointing outward. Keep your chest up and eyes forward.
  • Bend your knees and hips simultaneously, pushing your hips back and down.
  • Lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground, keeping your knees over your toes.
  • Push through your heels, extending your hips and knees to return to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Heels coming off the ground is a common technical error at the bottom of the Back Squat, where the bar comes forward of the athlete’s center of mass and forces them to lift their heels off the ground.

Two common fixes for this are to have the athlete sit back into the squat to keep their balance over their mid-foot, and to have the athlete actively pull the bar down into their back using their lats.

Athletes who are still having trouble due to poor ankle dorsiflexion, long femur length relative to their height, or a combination of both, can use a device to elevate their feet such as weightlifting squat shoes, an angled plate, or 2.5lb weights to help address the issue.

Leg Press

Leg Press

I’m generally not a big fan of the Leg Press, just because I think there are so many better options to choose from. However, the Leg Press does have its place in the weight room and one of its uses can be as a Front Squat alternative.

If you’re not able to do traditional squats because of a limitation (injury for example) then the Leg Press can have value as a way to develop lower body strength.

How To / Coaching Points

Instructions on how to do Leg Presses are going to be extremely dependent on the machine itself. All Leg Press machines do not function in the same way. It’s actually quite the opposite. I would guess there are at least a dozen different designs that all work differently.

With that being said, instead of specific instructions, I’m going to give you some somewhat universal tips when it comes to Leg Press.

  • If using a Leg Press Machine you’re unfamiliar with, always start with no weight on the machine.
  • Make sure you know how to unrack and rack the safeties as well as do a full rep before adding weight to the machine.
  • Go up in weight slowly. No need to make a big jump and get yourself pinned and potentially hurt.
  • Do NOT overextend your knees. Learn how to fully extend your legs without locking out your knees.


The main benefit of a Leg Press is that you can build leg strength without having to load weight on your back (axial load). This is extremely benefit for anyone who may have back issues that prevent them from being able to Back Squat or even Front Squat.

Leg Press can also be beneficial for beginner lifters who are not yet comfortable with their Back Squat technique. I would rather a beginner Leg Press safely rather than Back Squat with improper form.

Zercher Squat

Zercher Squat

Zercher Squat is a unique squat variation that front-loads the weight just like a Front Squat. Zercher Squats are a staple in many powerlifting programs not just for their ability to develop leg strength, but also for both lower and upper back strength.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Position a barbell at waist height on a squat rack and load it with the desired weight.
  • Stand facing the bar, and hook your arms under it, cupping the bar in the crooks of your elbows.
  • Lift the bar off the rack by straightening your legs and take a step back.
  • Assume a hip-width or slightly wider stance with your toes pointing slightly outwards.
  • Begin the squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees, ensuring your torso stays upright.
  • Lower yourself until your elbows reach the inside of your knees, or go as deep as comfortable.
  • Drive through your heels, extending your knees and hips to return to the starting position.

Coaching Points

If it’s your first time doing Zercher Squats, you’ll quickly realize just how uncomfortable having a barbell laying across your forearms can be. And, it only gets worse the heavier you get. Use a towel or pad if need be to cushion the bar against your arms.

It cannot be understated how important it is to keep the core braced while doing Zercher Squats.

Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift Setup

Trap Bar Deadlift isn’t a squat but is an excellent movement for building lower body strength. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Load the trap bar with the desired weight and stand inside it.
  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, aligned with the bar’s handles.
  • Bend at the hips and knees to grab the handles, palms facing your body.
  • Take a deep breath and brace your core, keeping your back flat.
  • Push through your heels while extending your hips and knees to lift the bar.
  • Fully extend your hips and knees, standing upright with the bar.
  • Reverse the movement, lowering the bar back to the starting position.

Coaching Points

Easily the most common mistake for Trap Bar Deadlifts is allowing the back to round, placing unnecessary stress on the back. Keep the back flat throughout the movement and the core braced.

Do not bounce the bar off the floor between reps. Yes, bouncing the plates off the floor into the next rep may make the lift easier to do, but it’s also a good way to allow your technique to break down. Reset for each rep.

Unlike barbells which have a standard weight, hex bars weight can vary from one bar to the next. Keep this in mind if using set weights off of your training program.

Single Leg Squat Off Box

Single Leg Squats off a box is a Front Squat alternative that barely requires any equipment at all. Don’t underestimate this bodyweight movement though – they’re incredibly challenging and are a great isolateral movement.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall with one leg down and the other straight drifting off the side of the box.
  • Initiate the squat by hinging at the waist and bending at the knee simultaneously.
  • Descend until the hip crease is just below the knee.
  • Keep the heel flat and center of mass over the mid-foot.
  • Keep the torso as vertical as possible. Sometimes holding the arms straight out from here will help with balance and torso positioning.
  • Once you reach depth, drive through the heel, keeping the foot flat, and stand tall.

Coaching Points

Single Leg Squat Off a Box is by far one of the most difficult variations of single-leg training. A proper progression needs to be followed in order to prepare the athlete for a movement like this.

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Barbell Step-Up

Barbell Step-Up is another quality single-leg movement that can be used as a Front Squat alternative. Dumbbells can also be used too if you don’t have a barbell available to you.

Pro Tip: You can adjust the emphasis of Step-Ups by adjusting the height of the box. A taller box will target the hamstrings and glutes more while a shorter box will focus more on the quads.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Position the barbell across your upper back, securing it with a comfortable grip.
  • Select a box or bench at an appropriate height, typically around knee level.
  • Stand facing the box, barbell securely placed on your back.
  • Place one foot onto the box and powerfully press through that leg, raising your body onto the box.
  • Stand tall on the box, the other leg can either be beside the working leg or lifted.
  • Control the descent back to the ground, using the same leg that stepped up.

Coaching Points

A stable box cannot be overstated here. If the box is not stable, do not do Barbell Step-ups.

Dumbbell Lunge

DB Lunges

Lunges and all of the their variations – walking lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges – are always a quality replacement for any lower body exercise, including barbell Front Squat.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells


  • Select appropriate dumbbells and hold one in each hand, arms fully extended, and palms facing your torso.
  • Stand upright with feet hip-width apart and gaze forward.
  • Take a step forward with one leg, landing with the heel first, and then lowering your body by bending both knees.
  • Ensure your front knee is directly above your ankle and the other knee hovers just above the floor.
  • Push through the heel of the front foot, returning to the starting position.

Coaching Points

When you step out for Dumbbell Lunges, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your lunge there is a good chance that you are stepping the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).

Bulgarian Split Squats

The final single-leg exercise on this list of Front Squat alternatives is Bulgarian Split Squats. Bulgarian Split Squats also have the added value of challenging your balance and stability and can help improve your overall coordination.


  • Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand
  • Get set up in front of your bench, reach one foot back and place it on the bench. Make sure you feel comfortable and balanced before proceeding.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable back to help with bracing the upper body and to keep the dumbbells from swinging unnecessarily.
  • Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
  • Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.

Coaching Points

Keep the front foot flat on the floor when in the lunge position. One of the most common mistakes is raising up onto the ball of the front foot. 

Make sure to take a big enough step. Often times I see athletes give themselves way too little distance from the bench. This leads to lunge being extremely cramped and can lead to a whole host of other issues (like coming up on the ball of the foot as mentioned above).

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat is an exercise that is very similar to Front Squats but is much more beginner-friendly. You don’t need to learn a front rack position with a barbell. You can simply hold a kettlebell or dumbbell. You can also use as light of a weight as needed. 

This combination of factors makes Goblet Squats a great Front Squat alternative for teaching the proper setup and movement.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by selecting a suitable weight dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it close to your chest.
  • Position your feet shoulder-width apart, turning them slightly outward.
  • Begin the squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees, maintaining an upright torso.
  • Ensure your elbows travel inside your knees as you lower yourself down.
  • Go as deep as comfortable, ideally thighs parallel to the floor or lower.
  • Push through your feet, extending your hips and knees, to return to the starting position.

Coaching Points

As with any squat, the most important aspect of Goblet Squats is to keep the core braced to protect the spine and to maintain proper posture – chest out and lats engaged.

Wall Sit

Wall Sit (1)

A Front Squat alternative that doesn’t require any equipment at all (outside of a sturdy wall) is the Wall Sit. The Wall Sit is an isometric exercise that is great as a finisher at the end of a workout or as part of a competition.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Locate a clear wall space with no obstructions.
  • Stand about 2 feet away from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slide down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Make sure your knees are directly above your ankles, forming a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your arms at your sides, crossed over your chest, or on your hips.
  • Maintain the position for as long as you can, keeping your back flat against the wall.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistakes I see with athletes when doing Wall Sits all come from the setup. The thighs should be parallel to the floor with the ankles directly below the knees.

Having the hips too high or the feet too far in front of the knees will take strain off of the quads. Athletes inherently know this because these are two of the best ways to try to ‘cheat’ if it’s a competition. (If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’, right?)

Tire Flip

Tire Flips

Tire Flips are an ‘outside-the-box’ exercise that can add some variety to your lower body workouts. Admittedly closer to a Deadlift than a Front Squat, Tire Flips still do a great job at developing lower body strength.

How To

  • Choose an appropriate tire size that you can flip safely.
  • Stand facing the tire, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down and grip the tire with your fingers under the edge, arms fully extended.
  • Take a deep breath, tighten your core, and keep your back flat.
  • Drive through your heels and extend your hips and knees, lifting the tire off the ground.
  • As the tire reaches knee height, reposition your hands and push it forward.
  • Extend your arms and hips fully to complete the flip.

Coaching Points

The biggest key to Tire Flips is perhaps in finding the right tire.

Every school I’ve ever worked at had big tires that were used for Tire Flips. However, the size and weight of these tires have all been drastically different. They’ve ranged from tires that were barely heavy enough to be worth using to tires that took two and sometimes even three football players to flip.

Just like with Deadlifts and Power Clean, it’s extremely important to drop the hips, use the legs and keep the back flat. Once fatigue starts to set in I generally see athletes resort to using more back than legs. If form reaches this point then it’s time to stop flipping the tire.

Prowler Push

Prowler Sled

Another ‘outside-the-box’ Front Squat alternative is Prowler Pushes.

Pro Tip: Use lighter weight to move faster and emphasize conditioning or heavier weight and a slower tempo that will emphasize strength.

Step-By-Step Instruction

  • Set your prowler in an area where you can push it at least 20 yards without hitting anything.
  • Load the prowler with weight.
  • Get behind the prowler and grab the high handle position.
  • Hinge at the waist, bend the knees and extend your arms.
  • Drive your legs and push the sled forward.

Coaching Points

The Prowler Push is a full body movement. Keep the core tight, nice neutral spine, and keep those arms extended (Arms can be bent when focusing on heavier loads).

Focus on a strong knee drive and pushing through your feet to keep the prowler moving. Your body angle will be very similar to how you start a sprint. So the lower body action should be very similar to running.

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Final Thoughts

Front Squats are an amazing exercise for developing both size and lower body strength. However, some situations may have you looking for an alternative for Front Squats.

Hopefully, at least one of these alternate exercises that I’ve listed here for you can work as a replacement for Front Squats in your strength training program.

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