T Nation

No Squats

I work out at home. I don’t go to a gym because I really can’t afford it and between work, night school, and 3 kids, I really don’t have time to drive to a gym or get there before most close. I usually end up working out about 10 or 10:30 at night.

That being said, all I have to work with is a weight machine (pulley/plate system) and dumbbells. I tried to find a way to do squats on it using the lat bar, but it’s just too awkward because the pull is at an angle. So I’ve been doing dumbbell squats. Is there a better exercise I could be doing with dummbbells to work my quads like step-ups or lunges?

one leg squat! Bulgerian squat. Split squat. Pistol squat. Jump Squat. Ride the cowboy squat.

If you’re concerned about the limited amount of weight that you can squat using dumbells, try doing pistols. They are tough.

Basically, it’s a one-legged squat with the non-working leg pointing out in front of your body. A single DB is held in close to your body with both arms. Just doing one with body weight can be difficult for some.

Hope this helps.

I recommend that you stay away from the one legged squat. Matters not what fancy name they give it (pistols), it’s a dangerous exercise. Man was not meant to squat down on one leg. Sooner or later you will incur knee damage, among other things.

However, there is something that you can do which will really help your legs. Get an old military duffle bag, or postal sack. Fill it with sand and squat with it!

There are a number of ways that you can do it. I like hoisting it over one shoulder for a set, then changing shoulders for the next set. You can also bear hug it and squat. When you want even more variety go out back (if you live in the country) and find a good log. Cut it to fit and you have another tool that you can squat with.

By the way I admire the fact that you continue to train even though you do not have ideal circumstances. You are a true T-Man!

Good call about the duffle bag Zeb,
you can also get a good ruck sack or a large backpack (available @ any army surplus store) and put your dumbells inside, squat w/that. You will have to adjust your form being that the weight is lower on your back and not on your shoulders, but it works.

the log idea is good also, I have an old utility pole cut into sections that can be used for squats, presses or DL’s

Thanks for the input guys. I’ll give these a try and see how I like them.

How about buying a trap bar? $150 for a good sqaut alternative - no rack required!

Another good idea - hip belt squats…very good exercise without the normal loading on the spine.

Why don’t you just buy or build a squat rack? There are literally hundreds of ways you could build one for about $20-$30 worth of wood. As long as you’re not using a ton of weight. Put your thinking cap on and draw something up.

I’ve suggested to people on here who asked the same question as you are asking to consider using the pistol. Zeb, I often agree with you, and I do here, but only in part. There is a risk reward element to every exercise, pistols are no different. There are many people who shouldn’t attempt them, anyone overweight, anyone with knee problems…but they require and further develop strength to weight ratio, are about as good a drill for developing core tension as I know, and for me, have had a tremendous impact on balance and co-ordination.
However, in my opinion, you do need to be pretty strong for your weight to profit from them. I’m 5’10…when I was 180 they were a staple for me…now I’m about 230, and I don’t go near them. Still, this move has too many benefits to simply write off. If you master this drill, I think you will see a rapid and pronounced increase in your ability to develop tension in the muscles of your lower body and core in concert. Depending on the individual, it can be very valuable.

Why don’t you just train with body weight plus like 10x gravity? :wink: j/k

I personally like jump squats especially if you are trying to build explosiveness. They also do a great deal for balance as it is quite difficult after a few sets to control your landings right into a deep squat position and then explode out. I have literally fallen over before. Do them out on grass. Or for another variation find some sand and do them, very tough.


No question, there are benefits to doing one legged squats. Just as there are benefits to Behind the neck pressing. Unfortunately, the potential hazards are too high a price to pay for such benefits, in my opinion.

I think there are a number of movements that can do nearly the same thing and you don’t have to worry about the potential of serious injury. I always take a long term view when it comes to these things. If you gain strength and speed thats great! If it costs you a trip to the surgeon and three months of recovery what have you gained? Furthermore, if you are unable to perform any sort of squatting movement after age 30 or 35 what have you gained?

Every strength coach is looking for that one thing that can make him stand out in your mind. That way they gain market share. Quality strength coaches like CT distinguish themselves with their top notch information. Others like Louie Simmons have a track record that is incredible and speaks for itself. Pavel pushes over priced kettlebells and one legged squats called pistols. And a few other things of questionable value. I think he cares more about your wallet than he does your training longevity. This is simply my opinion on what I have seen.

“Why don’t you just train with body weight plus like 10x gravity? :wink: j/k”

Thanks for the tip Vegita. Unfortunately, I can’t start building my gravity capsule until I complete my hyperbolic time chamber.

Yea the time chamber would definately have to come first, one full year of training in a day. You could go into a weekend at 175 and come out at 200+.

All good points, and yes, Pavel is largely full of shit. But not entirely; western strength coaches, in my view, have largely ignored the value of the so-called ‘high-tension’ techniques from the martial arts. Simply bringing the benefits of the valsalva manuever for high-intensity efforts into the light is, I think, Pavel’s greatest contribution. Yes, many will argue that this too is dangerous, and of course, for some it is (e.g. those with high blood pressure, heart problems, etc…) Again, risk-reward…

And Pavel didn’t invent the pistol: the exercise or the name (although reading his stuff you might get the impression that he did…)

In summation, if you read him with a healthy dose of skepticism, you should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff…there’s some valuable stuff there.

BTW Uncle Bruceter,

I should have mentioned this earlier, but a squat rack isn’t feasible as I simply don’t have the room for it. I barely have enough room for the weight machine and dumbbells. The basement is partitioned off - one part contains the washer/dryer, weights, and storage. The larger part is used for the kids’ playroom, which is a necessity for maintaining myself and my wife’s sanity.

If you have kids, then you may be overlooking one way to train and spend quality time with them. Try piggy back squats for reps, or load up with all three for low rep work. you could also have one climb on for piggy back stair climbs. Of course this works best if they are in that 5-10 age range, but hey, it’s a great way to put a 15 year old in place too.

If money isn’t an issue I would just ditch the weight machine and get a power rack.That’s all you need.
You’ll only get so far doing one-legged squats and such.

I was in a similar situation earlier this year, I built up to doing pistols with 110lb (holding a heavy sack in the crook of my elbows plus a dumbell in each hand). It is a tough exercise but as Zeb pointed out, there is a huge amount of pressure on the patella tendon during the movement.

I would actually look at doing various box jumps (gradually easing into other plyometric exercises) plus high rep dumbell work (eg. bulgarian split squats). Don’t be worried about fibre conversion to red… unlikely unless your sets are lasting 3 min+.