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While air squats — squatting down and standing back up without weights — are good for cardio, one of the most popular workouts for strength training is the back squat. You hold a barbell with varying weight behind your neck and rest it on your shoulders, then squat down and stand back up.
But it’s not for everyone.
Insider spoke with two fitness pros — an NFL star and a celebrity trainer — who aren’t fond of squats to hear why, and learn their alternatives.
A less-intensive squat angle can make squats easier
Cleveland Browns star linebacker Myles Garrett told Insider he’s hated doing squats since his days as a high school football player.
“My least favorite workout was squats. I hated it because my coach made me pretty much touch my butt to my calves, and I’m a tall guy so it’s a long way to go,” Garrett told Insider while discussing his workout supplement Ladder.
Glute strength is key in football, but Garrett believes he and other players could be highly successful today without doing squats at all.
These days, he does them as part of his team training, but has a modified approach that he finds easier. “I don’t do it at the same depth now. I try to do it at 90 degrees, a more comfortable position. It’s more accustomed to my height and my body.”
The Bulgarian Lunge and resistance band split squats can be effective replacements
Celebrity athletic trainer Mike Boyle agrees: he has abandoned squats completely in his training regimens.
“I have not done a back squat with a football player in 20 years,” Boyle told Insider. “With any sport except for rowing, you never push with both feet on the ground at the same time. If you look at football, it’s all steps. The entire game is played unilaterally.”
Boyle uses alternative training techniques focused on working out one leg at a time called split squats. He tries to wean football players and other athletes off of traditional back squatting from day one of his program.
One method of split squats is rear-foot elevated split squat, also known as a Bulgarian Lunge. It involves holding two heavy weights with your hands, putting one foot on a bench behind you while keeping your other foot on the ground, and lunging up and down.
Another variation is resistance band split squats. That workout requires you to hold one end of a resistance band down with your foot while holding the other side at chest height. You then lunge in a similar motion to the rear-foot elevated split squat until your back knee touches the ground.
“We are still squat patterning, but we are not doing the conventional, bi-lateral, two-feet-on-the-ground squat,” Boyle said. “We will use a strict one-leg squat.”