Who doesn’t love a great set of squats and lunges? It turns out, quite a few people! Squats and lunges have long been a staple of lower body workouts, and for good reason – they work! Fitness experts everywhere know this to be true, so it is hard to find a good lower body workout that doesn’t include one or both!
The problem is that there are many reasons that people are unable to perform squats or lunges effectively which leaves these folks standing around and wondering what to do while everyone else is moving! If that sounds familiar, we’ve got the answer for you! Whether you’re looking for a lower body workout that is easy on the knees, or quite frankly just tired of squats and lunges there ARE alternatives and we’ve got them for you here!
The Problem With Squats and Lunges
Don’t get me wrong, squats and lunges are awesome moves! There is a reason you can’t find a workout that doesn’t include them. They work and they work well. So what’s the problem?
The main problem is that both squats and lunges require flexion and extension of the knee joint. In addition, both squats and lunges put a lot of weight not only the knees but also the lower back, ankles, feet and more. For some people, arthritis in the knee or hip has taken its toll and these deep, weighted bends are no longer possible. The same is true for others who experience low back pain. Anyone who has experienced knee injuries, knee or hip replacements or other lower body problems might be looking for alternatives during rehab and recovery. Others who also may be wearing a boot or leg cast are unable to do anything in a standing position and might struggle to find an alternative to increase leg strength.
Don’t get me wrong: we LOVE squats and lunges and everything they do for the body. HOWEVER, the reality is that alternatives are important, and we are here to give them to you. So, what exactly can we replace squats and lunges with? Let’s start by looking at what they do so we can find like-minded replacements.
What Do Squats and Lunges Do?
We know squats and lunges fall into the lower body workout category, but what are the specific muscles we’re trying to strengthen? Squats and lunges focus mainly on glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and abductors. These major muscles of the lower body are crucial for most of your everyday activities making them very functional in nature. Let’s look a little more closely at four of these lower body muscles to get an understanding of why they need to be strong.
The gluteus maximus is home to the biggest muscle in your entire body. Your glutes need to be strong and learn to fire properly for everything from cycling to standing to walking up a set of stairs. Weak glutes can be the cause for many other lower-body injuries including knee pain, low back injury, hamstring strains and more. Of course, having a nice strong, tight rear end has more than practical purposes: it looks awfully good too!
The front of your thigh is another large lower body muscle. Large muscles like quadriceps are functional in nature, but they also burn lots of calories, so it is to your advantage to build them up and make them work. Quadriceps are involved in everything you to from walking to running to picking up boxes or suitcases. Strong quads also help protect the knee joint. These big leg muscles are very important!
Hamstrings extend along the back of your leg from your sits bones (ischial tuberosity) to the space behind the back of the knee. Whether running, walking or jumping hamstrings are important because they flex the knee and extend the hip with each movement. Like the other lower body muscles, weak hamstrings can cause problems in other areas of the body so keeping them strong is a must.
Outer thighs might seem like vanity muscles, but nothing could be farther from the truth. These babies help attach your leg to your torso so let’s treat them with some respect! The Hip Abductor, which includes your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and TFL, not only move your leg away from your body and rotate the leg at your hip joint, but they also stabilize your pelvis when you walk.
Those are the big 4 when it comes to training your lower body. The good news is that squats and lunges aren’t the only paths to success. There are plenty of other moves you can accomplish, and we’ve put together a few for you here. Use them as a stand-alone workout or replace squats and lunges in your other workouts or workout videos with these moves instead.
5 No Lunge No Squat Lower Body Moves
If you’re looking for a workout alternative to using squats and lunges, here you go. These exercises cover the muscles we just went through above but provide an alternative route keeping squats and lunges out of the picture.
Glutes and hamstring are about to change! The deadlift is one of the best overall moves for strengthening these muscles and yet keeping your knees in a steady position. Read the description carefully and make sure to keep your spine long and abs tight and engaged throughout. Do 12-15 reps.
Get down and dirty with a glute bridge. Especially if standing exercises are giving you trouble, the glute bridge is a direct hit on your rear end! As you lift into the bridge be certain to squeeze your glutes firmly and get them to activate. Do 10 -12 reps. If you have the strength to go deeper, you can also split that number in half and work on single leg glute bridge!
Hands down this is the most intense hamstring exercise you’ll ever do! This is truly a great way to isolate your hamstrings and teach them to work. The hamstring roll in will also require you to squeeze your glutes and tighten your core to help hold you up. Try for 10 reps but don’t be surprised if you can’t do that many at first. Do as many as you can and work your way to 10.
The step up is an overall leg exercise that will act like a lunge in its capacity to strengthen glutes quads, hamstrings and abductors all at once. You can alternate back and forth from right to left, or focus more in-depth and perform 10 on the right then 10 on the left. If you don’t own a step, use the bottom step on a set of stairs or a small, stable stool or platform.
Tighten those outer thighs and strengthen your hip movement with some side leg lifts. The phrase “feel the burn” might come to mind in the middle of these. Keep your abs tight so your hips don’t rock back and forth. You want to work on staying stable in the middle. Try for 15-20 per side.
Lower Body Strength & Cardio Workout
Check this out. We’ve combined our 5 lower body exercises with some quick low impact cardio blasts moves to give you an overall complete workout with both cardio and strength combined!
WARM UP: Start by warming your body up with 20 knee lifts, 20 jumping jacks (low impact if needed), 20 hamstring curls, and 5 inchworms. Then take off with this series!
- Deadlift – 10 reps
- Front Kicks – 1 minute
- Glute Bridge – 15 reps
- Mountain Climbers – 1 minute
- Hamstring Roll In – 10 reps
- Punching – 1 minute
- Step Up – 10 Right, 10 Left
- Burpees – 1 minute (if low impact needed stand and skip the jump)
- Side Leg Lifts
In addition, we’ve got a great free video on Exercises for Bad Knees:
You might also be interested in our series of chair exercise workouts! What if we told you it was okay to do jumping jacks, flutter kicks, and knee skips all while seated in a chair? What if you could lift weights and build body strength while sitting down? Well, we are here to tell you that you CAN! No more excuses; just the freedom to move in a different way! Check out our Chair Exercise Workout Program and all of the workouts: