Question about Squat Variations

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I started training at home 2 years ago when lock down started. I thought I would hate it, turns out I love it.

I have a basic set up, barbells, plenty of plates, dumbbells, squat rack, bench, leg curl / extension attachment for my bench, a pull down cable, and some bands.

Now for the question…

I do a squat variation 3 days a week, back squats, front squats, and speed squats. I do my front squats in the rack position. That works fine for lower rep strength work, but when I up my reps in a hypertrophy block my upper back gives out before my quads. Holding the weight for 10-12 reps is just too long for my upper back.

I need something that is more quad focused but easier on my upper back. If I was in the gym I would just load up the leg press, but I don’t have the room for one in my basement. Holding a dumbbell for goblet squats would not be nearly enough of a load percentage of my back squat to be worth it since my dumbbells only go up to 110 lbs.

Would Zercher squats be a good option for hitting my quads and keeping my upper back less fatigued than front squats? Are there any other options that would meet my goal of loading my quads while keeping my upper back fresh?

Thanks in advance!

Doing Bulgarian split squats holding dumbbells will double that to 220 pounds. Same goes for lunges and step-ups.

No, considering how much the upper back and core are involved in Zercher squats.

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Can you train at the gym some days?

You could buy/build yourself a slant board, that’d allow you to do very deep and very upright back squats with a lot of forward knee travel.


If you have a dip belt, and make / buy a couple boxes you can do belt squat. Poor-man’s dip belt can be made from a pool noodle, 1/4” chain and a carabiner.

Also, if you have a landmine attachment you can attach the dip to that for belt squats rather than using a loading pin.

I do have a dip belt, didn’t think of that

I could, but I would have a hard time justifying a membership just for a leg press

Bulgarians and lunges might work. Do those focus more on the quad than regular back squats?

I’m not sure about more but they are quad exercise that will work.

The gym was my first competition. I competed to become better than one of the members better built or stronger than me. Then when I reached that goal, I found another guy better built or stronger than me and set out to accomplish that goal; and so on, and so on.

Personally, I needed the competition to accumulate the drive and determination to give the weights 100%.

I agree with the single leg suggestions above, especially if you’re not already training that movement pattern. You might also think about a front squat/zercher harness if you wanted to keep doing the high rep front squats.

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Why not just cross your arms?

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I’m not training any single leg work. It might be the way to go

I tried crossing my arms, I though that mich take some strain off my upper back. Strangely enough, I have mobility to get into a rack position, but not cross my arms. I can’t seem to get my elbows up high enough to keep the bar on my shoulders that way

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Why not make your front squat stronger?

I love the front squat. And I think it is possibly one of the most underrated movements. I would say - if you are struggling with back strength after 10-12 reps - get a stronger back. I know ts not “that” simple. But rather than see this is a “my back strength is limiting the work my legs can do” think of it like this: “My legs are that strong my back is having to work hard to keep up”.

I would focus on improving the original movement. Keep it in there. Get better at it.


That is part of the plan. I have put in movements to target my upper back and it has gotten stronger, just not to where I want it yet. In the mean time I just want to replace the front squat with something that will keep my quads moving while my back get to where it needs to be. I figure I’ll work front squats back in eventually and see if my back has caught up.

Bulgarian split with dumbells will smoke you fo sho. Least they smoke me

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Advice does not come from people much more experienced than Brickhead.

Also as someone that had TRIED to do a 110lb (50kg) goblet squat let me tell you - it needs some upper back strength. However - there is a movement I like. It is a dumbbell dead lift. But you use 1 dumbbell, stand it on end between your legs. Like this:

But unlike this guy keep the back upright and bend the knees more. Doing this with 50kg for reps will produce big quads.

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