How to Add Leg Strength Without Squats

It is important to remember that there are other lower-body movements that deserve attention in addition to the Squat.

Squats are great, let's just get that out of the way. The squat pattern is a wonderful way to build lower body strength and is often viewed as the premier "leg day," exercise. But it is important to remember that there are other movements and planes that deserve attention as well.

As an athlete or coach it is important to not get stuck on one primary movement to train the lower body in a knee dominant movement. Below we will discuss other options to use in conjunction with Squats. (Hinge movements like the Deadlift won't be covered but they are just as important as knee-dominant movements.)

All movements can be performed and are shown with a variety of implements such as kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells.

Forward Step-Up

Stand in front of a box or bench holding the weights at your sides, in a front rack position, or on your back. Step one foot up on the box with your toe and knee pointed straight ahead. Keeping your chest up tall, drive through the box with the front foot and avoid pushing off of the back leg as much as possible to emphasize the front leg. Control on the way down and keep the front leg on the box the whole time.

Lateral Step-Up

Set up a box just the same as above but stand parallel to the box. Step up onto the box with the foot closest to the box. Keep the toes and knee straight ahead, avoiding any lateral movement of the knee. Drive through the top leg, keep the chest up and control on the way down. Lateral movements are often neglected in lower-body training but it is important to remember to train in all planes of movement, especially for athletes who will be playing in all planes.

Lateral Lunge

Hold weights in one of the various positions and start with the feet together. Keeping the chest up, step straight out to the side with one foot. Keep the feet flat, bend your outside knee, keep the inside leg straight, and push the hips back as you lunge. Push back of the outside foot and return to the starting position and repeat.

Reverse Lunge

Hold the weights in one of the discussed positons and start with feet under the hips and the chest up tall, instead of lunging forward we are going in reverse. Step straight back with your right foot into a lunge position making sure to keep the front leg as vertical as possible and the toe/knee pointed straight ahead. Drop down until your about an inch off the ground then powerfully drive through the floor and return to the starting position. Moving in reverse versus forward allows for a much easier time keeping the front shin vertical and can often be done without pain for those with knee issues that don't normally allow them to lunge.

Split Squat

Yes, this is a squat variation but an often overlooked version that has great benefits. Set up with feet under your hips holding the weight in one of the discussed positions. Step one foot back into a lunge position. Instead of pushing back out of the lunge, stand up and straighten the legs. Hold here. Keep your chest up tall, bend the knees and drop down into the bottom of the lunge position and return to the top. Repeat without leaving this split stance. Make sure the split is wide enough to allow your front leg to be completely vertical and perpendicular with the floor.

Give those movements a shot along with regular squat variations to get your lower body strong! Check out my Instagram or YouTube channel for daily tips, technique and workouts.