Leg Workout without Squats

Squats are known as the king of leg exercises. Some even deem them as the best overall exercise. It’s true that nothing builds mass and strength like squats. But what if you can’t squat or don’t have access to a squat rack? I want to share an effective leg workout without squats.

First of all, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t perform squats in your leg workouts. I’m a firm believer in them. If you can and if you’re able, you should indeed do squats. But if you’re not able to squat, you can still work your legs hard and get a great workout.

No Squat Leg Workout

  • Leg Extensions
    • 10 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Seated Leg Curls
    • 7 sets x 12 reps
  • Leg Press
    • 10 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlifts
    • 5 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Calve Raises
    • 7 sets x 12-15 reps

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What prompted me to post this leg workout without squats is one-half of my gym was closed this morning due to a power outage (our gym is separated and the side with the heavier free weights was impacted). So we were stuck working out on the side of the gym that consisted of mostly machines. And of course there was no squat rack or hack squat machine.

Still wanting to do legs in order to stay on my schedule, I used what I could. I found two leg press machines. Granted, these were the weight-stacks and pins kind but it got the job done. And there were a few leg extension and leg curl machines. So  made it work.

High Volume for Legs

Those of you who have followed me for a while know I’m a big fan of increased training volume for legs. And this theory works even better when you have minimal equipment. Missing a few key exercises? Simply do more sets with the ones you have access to.

I actually did two rounds of leg extensions and leg press (the workout above is similar to what I did this morning, but it’s only to be used as an example). I started with 10 sets of leg extensions. I later went back and did five more single-leg sets. I did the same with leg press doing five sets the first time and going back and doing five more (the last time was with a closer foot stance, something I do often on the regular plate-loaded leg press).

Hack Squats

To Squat or Not to Squat

As I said in the beginning, and throughout many blogs and articles on my site, I’m a firm believer in doing squats if you’re able to do them. I personally don’t do free-weight squats these days because of a lower back issue I struggle with. But I do hack squats and we also have a plate-loaded squat machine in our gym. Sure, it’s not the exact same as free weight squats but I still get many of the benefits of regular squats with these leg exercises.

I certainly don’t recommend a leg workout without squats on a regular basis. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be free weight squats. It can be one of the exercises I just mentioned that mimic the movement and feel of squats. Squats may indeed be the king of leg exercises but it doesn’t mean you can’t get a great workout without them.

It’s also good to switch things up once in a while. We may benefit from doing a complete change for a day or even a week. I’m curious to see how my legs feel tomorrow and the next day.

Obviously I can’t wait to do a normal leg workout again. But sometimes you have to make the best of what you have. This morning was a prime example. And I wasn’t about to turn around and go back home.

Train with Passion,


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