My Hopeless Gym- No Squat Rack!!

I wasn’t sure where to put this so I decided to stick it in the off-topic area. The gym I just started going to (and the only one I have access to) has no squat rack! I did bodyweight training for a while and while it produced decent results I just had to get back to the iron.

A few months ago my parents (I’m 16) had signed up my family and made us members of some YMCA ‘fitness facility’. When I found out it had a weight room I decided to check it out.

Their ‘weight room’ is basically composed of: 30+ treadmills, 15-20 ellipticals, 10-15 stationary bikes, a hell of a lot of weight lifting machines, and a tiny spot set apart for free weights including dumb bells up to 100* or so, a couple of benches, a couple of weight plates and that’s it.

Their weight room is composed of bloody cardio machines. The free weights area is something like 15 feet by 25 feet (I think) and is covered with so many benches and random lifters doing curls in front of a huge mirror that I can’t even clean the weight into a squatting position.

When I asked a personal trainer (by the way the personal trainers I saw were all really tiny, none looked like they had ever lifted a weight in their life) where the squat rack was (perhaps hidden in the mess of machines and treadmills, she pointed at a smith machine (why me?!?!?).

So I’ve been there a couple of times and the only guy I’ve ever seen that looked like he lifted weights was doing upper body work (who knows maybe it was just upper body work for that day) but he also had no legs worth mentioning.

Can anyone please give me some suggestions as to how I’m ever going to squat? No cleaning it off the floor also as I’m pretty sure they consider it too ‘dangerous’ to be doing (I’m pretty sure that they consider oly lifts a no-no…).

This is the only gym I have access to unless I want to invest my summer earnings (2 grand or so form construction) into a home gym but I’ll be moving out in 2 yrs for uni. All advice is appreciated!


Just use the smith machine, you gotta make do with what you have.

If the dumbells go up to 100 lbs, do lunges. Reverse lunges and split squats using a bench in particular replicate the squat movement very well. You won’t get the back loading you’d get from squats, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When you can do lunges or split squats holding hundred pound db’s, your legs will be freaky strong. Also, if there’s a bar and weights to put on them, do cleans and front squats.

Squats can be done in the smith machine. It’s not ideal, but if you can’t get a training effect of some sort from it, you’re not trying very hard.

A decent cage and 300 lb Oly weight set can be found on craigslist or even local sporting goods stores for not much money. And can be sold when you leave for university. Shouldn’t set you back for more than $500 if you’re not too picky. It’ll be much less if you care about function rather than looks of the equipment.

Other advice - focus on what can be done rather than what can’t be done.

Do split squats with those 100lb dumbbells.

This is why I bought a power rack, I suggest you do the same.

Bleh. I’ve read too many negative things about the smith machine I think. Since squats are in pretty much every program I’d be using it quite a bit.

Do you really think it would be safe enough to use for that long of a period of time. I just remembered that I’ll have access to a school gym in a couple of weeks so hopefully they’ll have a squat rack there crosses fingers.

Alright well thanks for the advice.

Lol don’t worry skid I’m not even lifting for vanity reasons. I need to start preparing my legs for the snowboarding season and the rugby season that follows. I was just worried that using a squat machine wouldn’t be too great considering its bad reputation.

Weird, the YMCA’s in my city are all top-notch. That same thing happened to me last week though. My YMCA membership expired and I didn’t renew since I’m moving, so I went to a local “gym” thinking it would be fine.

They didn’t have any benches, racks, not a single barbell in the whole place. Their dumbells only went up to 80s. Yesterday, I had very good luck though. Me and a buddy snuck in to an olympic gym that only athletes are allowed to train in. There are no memberships.

This place was a dream man! 10 squat racks, 4 lifting pads which you can drop any amount of weight on. Dumbells up to 200. Containers of chalk everywhere, and every fitness accessory you can imagine. I even set a new record on my deadlift - 410 lbs - and then a guy next to me did the same for 6 reps LOL. The place was hardcore.

If you’ve got DBs up to 100 lbs, you have all you need to get by for the summer. That’s a fair amount of weight for One-Legged DLs, DB Snatches, etc. Use your imagination and ingenuity, not your excuse-maker.


Not being able to squat sucks, but there are many exercises you could use to hit legs (with emphasis on different areas).

Deadlifts (sumo, conventional, romainian), single leg romainian deadlifts, dumbbell squats, dumbbell lunges (many varieties, as mentioned by another poster), step-ups, suitcase deadlifts, barbell hacksquats, zercher squats, thrusters, overhead dumbbell squats (if allowed), turkish getups, single leg squats (hold on to a support until you learn to balance), glute ham raises, sissy squats…

I know some will disagree, but I would not squat in a smith machine. There are too many other exercises available.