No squats, no gains. But you don’t have to put a bar across your back to do them. Try the lumberjack squat. Here’s how to do it.
If you struggle with squat depth or if your wrists, elbows, or shoulders hurt, try the lumberjack squat. Or just do it because it’s an extremely effective lower-body exercise. Though similar to the goblet squat, it offers the benefit of being able to go heavier.
If you’re familiar with landmine squats, you may be confused about why I use a bench for these. The bench minimizes the risk of getting hurt while picking up and putting down a heavier load. And it prevents you from tiring out while getting into position. You don’t want picking up the bar to be the hardest part of the work set.
You might think the bench setup isn’t worth it. Well, you’d be wrong. Try it and you’ll quickly figure out how comfortable the starting position feels. It’s safer too. (A plyo box may work too.)
Setting up in this way also helps standardize squat depth, and it makes for an easy way to bail out if you need to. It’s not necessary to train to complete failure, but if you’re going to, then the lumberjack squat makes it easy.
Use a portable post landmine (on Amazon) or a rack attachment (on Amazon). Just don’t use the corner of your gym. With the loads you might get up to, it’ll likely drill a hole through the wall. It’s also less secure.
Even most beginners can handle the load of a 45-pound bar quite comfortably. And because of the fulcrum, you’re not truly handling the full weight of the bar anyway.
You CAN just whip the bar up into position, but a smarter approach would be to use a bench (or box), as shown in the video. That way, there’s no twisting or jerking of your back and no awkwardness while getting into position.
If you’re tall, you can use a plyometric box or even stack a few plates on the bench to get the perfect height. A standard gym bench could be suitable.
As a 5’11" lifter, the bench height works well without any adjustments. If you’re shorter, you can use a step with risers to get the correct height. You can also use smaller plates on the landmine. Figure out what’s best according to your frame and squatting anatomy.
Like conventional squats, your foot position can vary depending on your own anatomy or what you’re looking to emphasize. At the bottom, try to drive your knees out with your elbows and keep your feet flat on the floor.
Get set, get tight, and start your first rep by overcoming the inertia of the weight in the bottom position. As you fire out of the hole, you’ll move slightly forwards. The landmine will determine the angle; just keep the bar close to your chest throughout (in cupped hands), and don’t let it inch down.
You’ll probably find you need to stand further behind the bar than you initially thought. There’s a sweet spot, but don’t worry, you’ll know when you’ve got it.
Make sure you’re staying tight throughout and take a deep breath on every rep – breathing out on the upward effort.
Once you’ve nailed the setup, add some load. Providing you don’t have tiny hands and a horrible grip, you’ll be able to handle some respectable weight, typically more than a goblet squat allows.
Here are a few ways you could use this variation:
As you approach the top of the rep, the tension drops a little. This means that while it’s harder in the bottom position, as you reach full extension it gets easier. To accommodate for this and even out the strength curve, use a resistance band.
A band will encourage you to fire through it while also accelerating you on the way down. Because of the slightly more horizontal nature of this squat, it’s a great option for athletes looking to develop more horizontal force. Pick the load according to your goals. This can also be a good option to improve strength-speed (high-load power output and rate of force development).
To add intensity to your lower-body workout, drop sets work well. The lumberjack squat setup makes it easy to strip plates as you go.
In the video, you’ll see a single drop-set, but feel free to add multiple drops for some extra nastiness. Only someone with a masochistic side will enjoy these. You’re welcome!
Lumberjack squats work well when combined with a heel wedge. This might take a few tries to get right. For most, the heel wedge would be level with the end of the bar when stationed on the floor. Adjust accordingly, though.
The heel wedge will increase quadriceps activity and allow an even greater depth over a variety of foot placements.
- Go super narrow to hit the outer quads a bit more (vastus lateralis).
- Take a wider, toes-out stance to hit more of that teardrop (VMO).
Lumberjack squats can be used as an alternative to conventional squats if you’re unable to do them anymore, or just toss them into your rotation for variety.
They’re also a great option if you want to increase the number of days per week you squat without repeating the same style of squat too often. Try using them throughout different phases of your training, or add them in for some extra intensity during lower-body workouts.
They’re a versatile exercise and can work with a variety of sets, reps, and tempo choices. They may just be your new favorite leg-day exercise.
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