13 Best Front Squat Alternatives (With Videos)

March 31, 2022

The front squat is a staple exercise for Olympic Weightlifters, sporting athletes, and anyone looking to enhance their physique or gain general strength. But the front rack position can force some lifters to avoid the front squat due to the mobility requirements.

Further, if you use the back squat as a primary lower body exercise, front squatting after as an accessory exercise can be brutal. There may be better substitutes when you’re targeting the quadriceps and glutes. Instead, give these front squat alternatives a try!

Front Squat Alternatives To Target The Quads

The reason you want to do front squats is likely because you want to target the quads. But I get it. The rack position can be difficult with poor mobility. So here are front squat alternatives that target the quads without needing front rack mobility.

Front Squat With Straps

In my experience, this is the best front squat alternative when you can’t get the front rack position. You still mimic the front rack without the fingers needing to be under the bar. So, how do you do it?

  • Take two lifting straps and place them around the barbell clamping them in your hands.
  • Position the bar on your shoulders and lift your elbows as high as possible while holding the straps. The position will feel very similar to the front rack without the pain in your wrists and elbows.
  • Perform your regular front squat in this position by squatting between your legs, pushing your knees out, and keeping your elbows high throughout the squat.

Hold them as close to the bar as possible when holding the straps. You will get a tighter feel in the rack position. If you hold the straps near the end, your rack position will feel loose and negatively affect your squat.

Cross Arm Front Squat

Another front squat alternative is to use the cross arm rack position. Also known as the bodybuilding front squat. Here’s how to do it:

  • Cross your hands, so the back of your hands are together. Walk to the bar and place it between your thumb and index finger.
  • Roll your elbows under the bar, so they are in front raised as high as possible.
  • Unrack the bar on your shoulders, maintaining the high elbow position.

Double Kettlebell Front Rack Squat

Sometimes, the barbell doesn’t agree with us. Previous injuries or little niggles can prevent us from performing the traditional barbell lifts. The double kettlebell front rack squat can’t be loaded as heavily as the barbell variation. Still, it will place greater stress on your core and upper back.

This is because the kettlebells are further in front of your body, whereas the barbell is against your neck. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pick up two kettlebells and perform a kettlebell swing to bring them to the rack position. The rack position will have your fists facing each other with the bells resting on your forearms.
  • Maintaining this strong position at your chest, squat by descending between your legs with your knees pushed out and feet flat.

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is typically taught to beginners as a regression to the traditional front squat. However, it can also be used as a front squat alternative. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell or upside-down kettlebell in the goblet position (palms facing up with fingers to the side).
  • Keep the elbows facing down to fall between your legs when you squat. If you let your elbows flare, they will touch your legs, stopping your descent.

The goblet squat is limited by how much you can hold in the goblet position, making it hard to challenge the legs. But there are some unique ways of adding extra load, such as draping chains over your neck or wearing a weighted vest.

Single Leg Front Squat Alternatives

While the front rack position is often why someone can’t front squat, sometimes it can be lower back issues preventing them from bilateral squatting. These single-leg variations are still front-loaded but may be easier on niggly injuries.

Double Kettlebell Front Rack Walking Lunge

Just like the kettlebell front squat variation, this has the kettlebells in the same front rack position while performing walking lunges. The benefit of loading the walking lunge this way is reducing mobility requirements while still challenging your trunk to stay upright.

To target your quads like the front squat, take shorter steps and maintain a more upright position. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pick up two kettlebells and perform a kettlebell swing to bring them to the rack position. The rack position will have your fists facing each other with the bells resting on your forearms.
  • Step forward and lower yourself until your back knee touches the floor. Push forward with the front leg and bring the back leg forward, so your legs are next to each other.
  • Continue the same pattern with the other leg.

Goblet Walking Lunge

The goblet walking lunge is easier to learn as the goblet position doesn’t require you to know how to swing kettlebells. Further, resting heavy kettlebells on your forearms can be painful. The goblet position takes care of that by resting the weight in your hands. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell or upside-down kettlebell in the goblet position (palms facing up with fingers to the side).
  • Step forward and lower yourself until your back knee touches the floor. Push forward with the front leg and bring the back leg forward, so your legs are next to each other.
  • Continue the same pattern with the other leg.

Barbell Front Rack Bulgarian Split Squat

If there’s one exercise I hate doing, it’s this one. For one, you have to support the barbell on your shoulders, challenging your trunk and upper back. Secondly, you need to work both legs within the set, extending the time of the bar on your shoulders. It’s killer!

But the exercises you hate the most are often the most effective. So don’t shy away from the barbell front rack Bulgarian split squat if you haven’t tried it before. Here’s how to do it:

  • Unrack the barbell in the front rack position. If you have mobility problems, use the above methods, such as using straps or the cross-arm position.
  • Place your back leg on a bench with your shoelaces face down.
  • Descend your hips straight down until your back knee is slightly above the floor.
  • Push through the entire front foot to return to the starting position.

Goblet Single-Leg Squat To Bench

The goblet single leg squat to bench is a simple method to load pure single-leg exercise. While lunges and split squats are considered unilateral (one side), they have the supporting leg contributing to the exercise. The single-leg squat to bench or box removes the other leg from the equation placing all the load on one leg.

The goblet position is an easy way to load this exercise. In my experience, the only way you want to load this exercise. Having bars on your shoulders or back isn’t necessary as you won’t be loading this heavy. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in the goblet position in front of the chest. You can also hold a plate for this.
  • Straighten one leg in front and descend in a squat on the stance leg.
  • Once your bum touches the bench or box, drive through the entire foot to the starting position.

This exercise does well when holding a plate with your arms extended in front of your chest. It acts as a counterbalance, so you don’t fall back onto the bench, so give this form of loading a try.

Front Squat Alternatives Without Front Rack

You may not be able to hold implements in the front rack position for whatever reason. Maybe it’s an injury or niggle, or the end of the workout after loading heavy front squats. Here’s how to load the quads using front squat alternatives without the front rack position.

Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat is not a common exercise. Especially within the commercial gym. But it is damn effective for developing full-body strength. The Zercher position is when the implement is held in the crooks of the elbows.

Not only does it heavily challenge your trunk and upper back, now your shoulders and biceps are involved in holding the weight. Here’s how to do it:

  • Rack the barbell at stomach height. Wrap a towel or squat pad around the barbell so it’s comfortably held in your elbows.
  • Unrack the bar with it in the crooks of your elbows and step back.
  • Descend in the squat with your feet flat and your knees pushed out. Your elbows will be between your legs in the bottom position.
  • Drive back to the top position.

High Bar Back Squat

The traditional high bar back squat is typically the substitute for the front squat within a training program. You still get mega quad activation with the upright position, and you can use heavier loads. Here’s how to do it:

  • Unrack the barbell on your upper traps and step back.
  • Begin the squat descent by pushing the knees out while keeping the feet flat and maintaining a big chest. Your knees should be over your toes in the bottom position, tracking your middle toe.
  • Drive back to the starting position by pushing with the entire foot.

Safety Bar Squat

I love the safety squat bar. If you have any shoulder problems, the safety squat bar allows you to squat heavy without aggravating them. Because of its design, the weight doesn’t sit across your back like a back squat. Instead, the load sits slightly in front, giving you a similar feeling to the front squat. Here’s how to do it:

  • Unrack the safety squat bar and hold the handles.
  • Squat as you typically work with a bar on your back by pushing your knees out, maintaining a big chest, and letting the knees track over the toes.
  • Push through the entire foot back to the starting position.

Dumbbell Walking Lunge

You can modify the walking lunge to place greater stress on either the quads or glutes. Longer steps with a forward-leaning posture will target the glutes, whereas shorter steps with an upright posture will target the quads.

That doesn’t mean they only work the quads or glutes. It just means you can preferentially target specific muscle groups. Here’s how to do it:

  • Holding two dumbbells, step forward. Once your foot hits the ground, immediately lower your hips until your back knee touches the floor.
  • Push off with your front foot and bring your leg forward, so your legs are together.
  • Continue with the other foot.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is just as horrible as the front rack variation but slightly more bearable since you are holding the load in your hands. That being said, there’s a reason this exercise is demanding. It works!

Here’s how to do it:

  • Holding two dumbbells, place one foot on a bench with the shoelaces facing down.
  • With most of your weight on your front leg, descend until your knee is slightly off the floor. Your front shin will be near vertical.
  • Drive back to the top with the front leg. You will feel your back leg working, and that is perfectly fine.


I’ve provided you with 13 epic front squat alternatives to develop brute strength and build your quads and glutes. There is a substitute for you, whether you struggle with the front rack position or need to work around an injury.ca

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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