T Nation

A Different Squat Thread

I recently nailed one of my long-term goals (405 squat), so it was time to re-evaluate my legs and my leg program and figure out where to go from here.

The good:
obviously, my legs have gotten stronger
my glutes have gotten bigger
my upper thighs have gotten bigger

The bad:
the lower portion of my thighs haven’t grown enough

The goal:
Figure out how to bring my lower thighs up to proportion with my upper thighs, using my limited equipment (power rack and barbells, dumbbells, and a bench with a leg extension attachment).

Leg extensions, step-ups, and reverse lunges are all good options and will be rotated in and out of my routine regularly, but I need a main power movement to start things off.

Revamping my squat:
I love squats, but they are notorious for building big asses and upper thighs (go figure). So I started reasoning through the squat rules.

  1. Stance width: Easy one. Narrow stance hits the quads better. Check.

  2. Break at the hips first: Why? Seems to me that it would recruit more glute and upper thigh, giving you a bigger squat. No safety issues here, so let’s try it the other way around and break at the knees first to recruit more lower quad.

  3. Push the hips back and keep the knees behind the toes: Same as above, but with the added benefit of hitting parallel at a higher point by keeping the knees higher. I figure that placing the feet lower on the leg press is about the same, mechanically, as letting your knees drift in front of your toes while squatting.

The result: I guess it’s somewhere between a front squat and a back squat in execution. The back is held at more of a vertical angle, breaking at the knees first and focusing the tension on the quads through the entire range of motion. I descend to the same height, using the same box to gauge depth that I use for powerlifting-style squats

My first impression, after using this technique for two sessions, is that it’s gonna work exactly the way I want it to. I ‘feel it’ in my lower quads, and they’re sore as hell for the next few days vs. little soreness in my upper quads, glutes, and back.

So I guess my question is about safety. Anybody think I’m screwing up, here? And why?

You’re describing an Olympic squat, no?
2. Breaking at the knees changes your center of gravity and makes me want to come up onto my toes.

I’m not so sure breaking at the knees first is ever such a great idea. But narrow stance as in the olympic squat is better for quads.

I’d say use a front squat and leg extension with an isometric squeeze for lower quads. Depth reverse lunges are also good for this.

IMO my knees would hurt like hell, but thats just me.

What do you mean by lower leg, inside or outside of the knees?

Just found out that squatting without shoes, and trying to ‘scrunch’ the ground with my toes as if it were paper (Or, put differently, gripping with your toes) helps to activate the quads a bit more.

You are basically describing olympic squats, but breaking at the knees instead. Just break at the hips and go through the full movement. Hit some reps with a good weight and your legs will come up.

I too converted from wide stance squats (PL) to olympic squats. Hit a couple goals and now reworking it. Got my bw(260)x20. Next is 315x20 and 405x5. Shouldn’t be too far off.

This is something I have been thinking about for a long time! My ass and upper thighs got a battering everytime I squatted. I tried breaking at the knees on back squats and front squats but my knees caught the brunt of the weight. So I wouldn’t recommend it!

Due to an unplanned layoff I have been tinkering with squating ‘without weight’ to try and establish a new squatting pattern or motor program and my thighs got blasted. I squat barefoot and scrunch the floor like silverhydra suggested. I spread the floor apart with a beyond shoulder width stance. I break from the hips as usual and squat to 90 or so degrees then continue down past 90 but force my knees out and forward over the toes and stop before my lower back rounds. I keep my torso as erect as possible.

Keeping the tension on the muscles by spreading the floor I push through the centre of my feet and return to the starting position.

It’s tantamonut to learning a totally new exercise. It takes a lot to break the habit of years and years of doing (ass) squats but I reckon it’s worth it.

[quote]TisDrew wrote:
You’re describing an Olympic squat, no?
2. Breaking at the knees changes your center of gravity and makes me want to come up onto my toes.

^Exactly how i injured my knee. Wouldn’t recommend it, then again, i’m no Olympic lifter.


My left knee doesn’t like front squats (motorcycle wreck), which is part of my reasoning for using a different squat strategy. The weight being on the front forces the torso to stay too vertical, forcing my knees too far forward.

The technique I’m talking about is similar to the vid posted, only low-bar instead of high. Also a bit narrower stance and not so deep (again, a no-go for my left knee).

Also, I wouldn’t dare let my knees cave in like that, but what do I know?

I’ll video it next time I squat, which will be Saturday. I’m not even really sure it will show up on video, as it’s done very much by feel. I just simply try to focus the weight where I want it.

what about trap bar deeds with the the high handle. It feels more like a squat if you want it to. This is just a guess since I have heard people compare it to a hack squat which I don’t agree with. They are pretty cheap

Jay- You have knee problems and you are thinking about changing up your squat form to break at the knees first? That doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. I am no expert and my legs are horrible but in my limited experience i have found walking DB lunges (with the weight held in front of your body) and split squats to really help target the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis.

And i don’t really think breaking at the knees will put much extra weight on your lower legs. Maybe the first couple inches of your ROM but once the hips break, they will take that weight. But having a more narrow stance should help. Also when you start the concentric phase of your squat, maybe you should really focus on driving your feet through the ground as opposed to driving your hips forward. I think that should put extra emphasis on your low thigh muscles.

**I am thinking about this anatomically, i don’t have much experience so take this post worth a grain salt.

How low do you squat? I find that deep squatting really hits the part of the quad around the knee, mainly the VMO, the best.


  1. Squat Deep
  2. Do Front Squats
  3. Squat with shoulder width stance.
  4. Break at knees first. That whole “push hips back” thing will definetly target the glutes. Hence why some old-schoolers (Gironda, etc) didn’t like back squats.

Also: Hack Squats, Lo-Close Leg Press,


[quote]bruno082985 wrote:
How low do you squat? I find that deep squatting really hits the part of the quad around the knee, mainly the VMO, the best. [/quote]

The box I use is 14", I think. Just low enough to break parallel on a PL-style squat. Much lower than that and my knee will nag at me for about three days.

[quote]BantamRunner wrote:
Lo-Close Leg Press,


Don’t have a leg press, but that’s exactly the movement I’m trying to duplicate. I actually think this way is even better because you’re not locked into one plane of motion, so it’s almost impossible for your glutes and hams to take over.

again, it’s not an extreme change in form from regular back squats, but you can definitely feel the difference

Didn’t get to train yesterday due to daughter’s birthday party running long, or today because of Easter plans. I’ll squat tomorrow.

What about trying box squats?

I always felt leg presses with my feet a bit lower on the platform, along with reverse barbell lunges, and step ups hit the quad near the knee better than back squats. MY legs are proportionally bigger in the upper thigh as well, but i am throwing in Zercher squats, step ups and leg presses to remedy this. I wouldn’t throw out back squats totally as they are great for building over lower body strength and having big strong glutes is never a bad thing for injury prevention or physique wise.

Buy yourself a pair of weightlifting shoes and start doing deep front squats.