I work out at a gym that doesn't have a squat rack (they have a Smith machine, but I don't use it). I have been doing goblet squats for the last few weeks. I like them. I feel like my form is a lot better than when I do barbell back squats. The downside is that the gyms dumb bells only go up to 85 pounds. I tore my groin a year ago and hadn't worked out for 6 months while I was trying to let it heal (it still hurts after PT but im desperate to work out again and squats don't bother it that much). After all of that time off and wanting to be cautious with my groin, 85 pounds is fine for now. I am, however, outgrowing it pretty quickly and soon I will need to be able to add more weight.

With dumbbell side squats I can do more weight, but it hurts my hands and my grip isn't all that great. They also tend to bang my legs. I feel like its still a great workout, but my form is off and I feel like I lean forward too much. I can do them, but its not ideal.

I have tried zercher squats, but along with front barbell squats, I feel like my arms get tired long before my legs do. I can add more weight than I have available for goblet squats but I am still limited by my arms.

Is there some form of squat that doesn't rely too heavily on your arm strength but also doesn't require a squat rack? I know that's probably asking too much, but even if I have to look in to some home equipment I may be willing to. Maybe there is a way I can do a zercher or other front squat without as much pain? I can do leg press and other machines, but its obviously not the same as a squat.


  • 1
    Wrist straps might help if your grip is the most limiting factor.
    – Tyler
    Mar 11, 2015 at 5:50
  • Ill have to look in to them. I am willing to invest!
    – bsayegh
    Mar 11, 2015 at 13:04
  • 1
    Why are you avoiding the Smith machine? The "it's either barbell or nothing at all" seems nothing more than another trend, unless someone can show me at least one scientific paper in which a comparison were made between two group of athletes training with machines vs barbells for the same muscle group. Read this analysis of Smith Squats by the author of EXRX for a more knowledgeable opinion.
    – Mephisto
    Mar 11, 2015 at 14:58
  • While I agree that the hate for Smith machines is more of a popular trend than fact-based opinion, I don't like them based on experience. I used to do the Smith a lot at a gym I used to go to because they also didn't have a squat rack. Then at some point I started going to a different one that had a rack. I went in expecting to be able to squat something SIMILAR to what I did on the Smith, but it wasn't even close. Literally like a 100 pound difference.
    – bsayegh
    Mar 11, 2015 at 18:13
  • @bsayegh, yes, but who cares about that difference? You adjust the weight so that you work out close to your limit and then you make progress anyway, who cares if the numbers are different? - There may be many reasons to prefer barbells, I hold no doubt about it (recruiting more stabilizer muscles for instance), but in the absence of a power rack, I think the Smith machine is a far superior surrogate than the goblet or any other option.
    – Mephisto
    Mar 11, 2015 at 21:50

4 Answers 4


Smith Machine is not, and cannot be an alternative to full squat. It works the leg alright, but leg press does that too.

Goblet squats are better and superior, you made a good choice. I would recommend you to decrease your cadence, get your reps slower, thus more time under tension, and it will tire you more.

Front squats are good, but I believe they are harder to do, simply because it needs perfect rack position and mobility. I would say until you can get a Squat Rack, stick with Goblet Squats. Increase your reps, decrease your resting time, and slower reps would help the exercise to get harder.

  • This is most likely what I will end up doing. While I can do more weight when I do front squarts with a barbell, I feel like the limiting factor is still holding the weight. With goblets I feel like I am in control and not rushing so that I can put the weight down. I already do them pretty slowly, but ill try to increase reps until I can get to a properly equipped gym.
    – bsayegh
    Mar 23, 2015 at 14:10

There's a similar question over here, and I'll steal from that a little bit and re-mention the hack squat:

enter image description here

It's the best "squat" I know of when you don't have a rack to use. If you're up for home equipment though, consider just building a squat rack depending on your ability you can find some pretty sweet DIY ones ($40 and an afternoon). Craiglist usually has lots of cheap weights and decent barbells.

So I'd vote for hack squats (and maybe some lunges, and work on pistols), and if you have a spare $100 you can probably assemble a fairly decent squat set up. A couple of hundred more (or some craigslist luck) and you're adding bumper plates.

  • Its sad but I have tried hack squats before and couldn't get it off of my legs. Its a form thing, I know, but I was scratching the back of my legs when I got up to higher weight. I do stationary lunges, but its hard for me to do normal lunges because of the groin issue. I am not super handy, but I can afford to get a rack or certainly find one on craigs list. That's probably the route ill go. Thanks!
    – bsayegh
    Mar 11, 2015 at 13:00

A front squat should not tire your arms. The bar is supported by your shoulders, with the fingertips merely holding it in place--there is no need to grip the bar. Without a squat rack, you'll need to power clean the barbell into position, which will take some practice.

Also, keep in mind that squats are not just a leg exercise. In fact they're not a leg exercise, period. They work the legs, hips, and back to almost equal degrees, and for most people the legs are not the first part to fail. The squat is useful far beyond merely stressing the leg muscles.

  • Up to a certain weight it doesn't bother me, but even 135 is hard for me to hold on to. I am most likely not holding the bar correctly. I do grip it more with my hands than the lady in the link you sent. Ill have to work on it. Ill never be able to do the same weight as a back squat but it would certainly be more than im doing now. Ill try them this week and let you know. Thanks!
    – bsayegh
    Mar 11, 2015 at 13:05
  • Grip should really not be an issue with front squats. To get a feeling for the front rack position used in front squats, you could try cleaning the bar to your shoulders and then removing your hands entirely to do zombie squats. Best of luck. Mar 11, 2015 at 13:22
  • (Grip can be an issue with the clean, but you should be fine if you hook grip.) Mar 11, 2015 at 13:23

Have you considered double kettlebell front squats? http://breakingmuscle.com/kettlebells/the-2-kettlebell-front-squat-the-best-exercise-youre-not-doing

Two 53's would give you 106lbs..

  • Probably a very good alternative, but the kettle bells in the gym don't go up very high. Maybe like 20 pounds at the max? Wish I could hold 2 dumbells that way.
    – bsayegh
    Mar 23, 2015 at 14:07
  • Hmm sounds like you really need to find a better gym, chief. You could always get your own kettle bells too.. They go for about $.75 per pound new or you can sometimes find them much cheaper on Craigslist.. If you do get them, make sure you get quality ones. That seam will rip your hands to shreds if you don't. My gym has rouge fitness ones and they're among the best I've used.
    – Tehninjo0
    Mar 23, 2015 at 14:37

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