If you ask 100 athletes what they consider healthy, you get 100 different answers. But bodybuilders, health coaches, and fitness fanatics agree on one thing: squats are a the king of lower body exercises. The undefeated champion: the barbell back squat should be on everyone’s priority list, But if you’re squatting in pain, stop pushing through it like a chump. Listen to your body, it’s trying to tell you something. If you suffer from lower back pain, squats are not necessarily the solution, here are some great variations that you can try.

1. Belt Squat Machines

The Valhalla Strength Belt Squat Machine is designed specifically to target the lower body, without any load going through the spine. Lifters of all heights are able to use this machine.
It is king over exercises like the leg press for a number of reasons, but at the very top of the list is specificity.
using the Belt Squat, you are still squatting!

2. Lunges, Split squats, Bulgarians.

We also recommend the split squat, ideally with dumbbells in one or each hand.
This is a great unilateral leg building exercise, which will have you working on your core and stabilisers as well.

3. Leg Press.

If your gym doesn’t have a belt squat yet, the leg press can be a worthy alternative.
It minimizes the load that goes through your back, whilst still letting you load up the quads.

4. Front Squats

Once you are moving pain free in day to day life, adding Front Squats back into your training program will be the first step in to full training again.
There are many reasons why front squatting can be a better alternative to back squatting if you have a sore back, such as;
1. Reduced spinal loading – Less weight is required for an effective front squat workout.
2. More vertical torso – Having you more vertical in the squat puts less load through the spine.
3. Increased core activation – Having the weight in front of your body forces you to brace tighter, further protecting your spine.

5. Isolation Machines

Machines are a great way to still load the lower body, without any load going through your back.
Exercises like the leg extension, hamstring curl, glute/ham raise (GHR) are all great exercises which will allow you to continue training, without going through the pain.

Squats may be the king of leg exercise but if you are experiencing back pain, stop pushing through the pain or worse yet, giving up!
Start trying out some of these squat alternatives, building stronger legs and looking after one of your most valuable assets… Your back.