Squats are the best exercises you can do for your lower body. Traditionally, heavy barbell squats are done with the help of a squat rack. And if you want to do a heavy barbell squat you should really consider getting a rack or building your own if you have a home gym.
However, if you do not have a rack, there are still plenty of ways you can squat heavy without a power rack. It will just require making use of some squat variations.
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Are There Advantages To Squatting Without A Rack?
If you choose to squat without a rack because your gym does not have one or because you work out from home, do not think that you cannot have a productive leg day.
A heavy barbell back squat is an amazing exercise that has been the traditional go-to for most lifters. But other exercises have benefits notably.
Since you will not be limited by rack, other squat variations allow you to target different parts of your legs and work on your balance and flexibility at the same time.
Squat Variations That Don’t Require A Squat Rack
Clean And Press Into Squat
If you are really deadset on back squats or front squats with a barbell, then these are going to be the option for you. You will not be able to use as much weight, but you will still get to back squat while also getting a nice upper body workout.
These require some technical skills to get the weight into the correct squat position. But you want to start from a deadlift position before cleaning and overhead pressing the weight up onto either your shoulders or chest.
Goblet squats are the easiest way to squat without a rack. This squat variation is very similar to a regular bodyweight squat except that you are holding some weight in between your legs usually in the form of either a dumbbell or kettlebell.
To do this, firmly plant your feet and have your toes pointing slightly outward to make room for the weight you are holding.
Pistol squats are very hard to perform correctly due to the balance required. The upside to this is that you need very little weight if any to get a nice workout.
When starting out, I recommend using a table to keep your balance.
Zercher squats may look a little goofy, but they work your entire body.
Essentially, instead of having the loaded barbell resting on your back or chest, you will hold it in your arms as you complete the squat movement. I recommend this variation if you like using heavier weights.
These are particularly challenging as your biceps, back, and core all have to work really hard alongside your legs to keep the weight stable.
Barbell Hack Squat
This squat variation looks a lot like a traditional deadlift, except with the bar behind your back. Few people do this movement, but it is incredibly beneficial.
By moving the weight behind, you are transferring lots of the load of your back and posterior chain onto your quads allowing you to get a similar feel to a squat.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Bulgarian split squats work your quad and glutes harder than any other squat variation that I have tried. You can really feel the connection in your muscles when you get this movement right.
The proper form for this exercise is extending one of your legs backward so to form a 90-degree angle. Now that you are in the starting position, you want to slowly lower yourself down until you reach the bottom position where your knee is just above the ground.
If you are someone that is used to only squatting with a barbell and a rack, some of these variations can be a little difficult and foreign. Do you make sure you are getting the most out of every single movement, make sure to avoid these mistakes:
If you gonna be doing a squat variation that works one leg at a time like pistol squats, you will need to have good balance. Put in the work to build up your balance and make sure you are using proper form.
Not using enough weight
Using light weights is a great practice to make sure you do the exercise correctly. But if you are physically capable, you should be adding weight to these movements ASAP. Just because you do not have a rack does not mean you should not be lifting heavy with a greater intensity
Not using a full range of motion
It can be hard to get the full range of motion if your muscle is a bit tight. That being said, it may be advisable to stretch or lower the weight so you can make sure that you getting the most out of every single movement
Sample leg day with no power rack
Here is a nice and simple leg day that will blow up your legs
No rack is required
Zercher squats: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Goblet squat: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Romanian deadlift: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Standing calf raises: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
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