A Leg Workout Without Squats and Deadlifts That Actually Works

STACK Expert Keith Tesch prescribes a workout regimen that builds lower-body strength and power without using Squats and Deadlifts.

For athletes, leg strength is critical regardless of the sport. However, some exercises, such as heavy Squats and Deadlifts, can put athletes with previous injuries at higher risk. Any structural damage to the spine reduces its capacity to withstand heavy loads during these exercises.

Fortunately, you can still get an effective leg workout without Squats and Deadlifts.

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I am not against squating and deadlifting. Both are great exercises, but in addition to loads on the spine, they pose a risk to athletes who don't have the body makeup for them, mostly because they are extremely tall. Or maybe they have limited experience, and they want to get an effective workout while they learn the Squat and Deadlift.

For those reasons, I wanted to provide a leg workout that can increase leg size and power without Squats and Deadlifts, using other leg exercises and plyometrics.

First, let's look at exercise options. If you have a troublesome spine or can't seem to master heavy Squats and Deadlifts, you can still develop solid strength by using the following exercises:

  • Reverse Lunges
  • Bulgarian Split-Squats
  • Single-Leg RDLs
  • Split-Squats
  • Goblet Squats

There are many more, but those are among the best exercises, because they are user-friendly and effective. To maximize their effectiveness, pair them with a plyometric exercise that uses the same movement pattern. This is called contrast training. For example, pair a Split Lunge Jump with a Reverse Lunge or a Bulgarian Split Jump With a Bulgarian Split-Squat.

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By performing a heavy strength exercise followed by an explosive plyometric move, you increase your strength and maximize your power potential, helping to increase your explosiveness—the key to athleticism.

Here are some other keys for incorporating this style of lower-body training.

  • Perform 3-5 reps of the strength movement, focusing on moving the weight as quickly as possible.
  • For the plyo movement, again perform 3-5 reps. Use only your bodyweight and focus on spending as little time on the ground as possible.
  • You can increase the difficulty of the plyo by wearing a weight vest.
  • Rest for 30 seconds between strength and plyo exercises, and for three minutes between sets. Perform a total of 4-6 sets.
  • Do contrast training after your dynamic warm-up and before other strength work.

With proper training, commitment, and consistency, you can promote great gains in strength that will show up on game day!

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