This is another post inspired by a strengthcamp video. The video is below and it’s a workaround, if your gym doesn’t have a squat rack.
– A ‘gym’ without a squat rack isn’t really a gym at all. It’s more like a health club… whatever the fuck that means.
– The squat is more than an exercise. It’s a primal movement pattern that you should train, even without access to a squat rack.
– If you are unable to gain access to a squat rack, train the prime movers (your legs in this case) with isolation movements, but still do squat movements for neural efficiency.
Optimal Solutions to Your Lack of Squat Rack Problem
Before I’m going to give you alternatives to the back squat, I want you to first do your absolute best to somehow gain access to a squat rack. If none of the options presented will work for you at all, then move on to the alternative exercise selection.
Option 1: Buy Your Own Squat Rack
This one is pretty straightforward. If you have the room at your house or in your garage, maybe it actually makes sense to cancel your shitty gym membership and buy a squat rack instead. While the racks at Rogue Fitness are beyond awesome and what I would recommend to anyone without hesitation, not everyone can afford them.
If you’re on a budget and that’s why you’re at a terrible gym without a squat rack, maybe you can find a used rack on Craigslist or one of the following are a nice budget-friendly option for you.
For $370 (shipped), you can get a decent power rack like the one below. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
If you can’t fit that or it costs too much, maybe just get a squat stand ($140 shipped) and some mats to ditch the weight onto. You might have to practice dropping the weight off your back, but Oly lifters seem to do okay without a power rack.
You’ll also need a barbell…
This is probably your overall best option. Let’s say you end up buying a power rack for $370, a nice bench for $165 (you might be able to find one cheaper used), a barbell for $100 and weights for $500 (more or less depending on current strength levels). That’s a pretty good start to a home gym for about $1100. A gym membership might cost $30/month or more plus whatever it costs to get you back and forth… let’s say another $30/month.
So $60/month invested total. 1100 divided by 60 is 18.33, which will be the number of months it takes for the home gym to have paid off. So if you plan on training for more than two more years, it’s a good investment. Especially if you don’t have a squat rack at the gym and now you do have one at home!
Option 2: Build Your Own Squat Rack
If you’re very handy, maybe you can weld one together out of metal. The cheaper, easier option would be to build one out of wood. Click here or on the wooden squat rack picture below for instructions on how to build one!
It says it’s about $100 to build this one, so you’d be saving about $270 as opposed to buying a regular power rack. You can also customize this to fit wherever you need it to, because you’re building it yourself anyhow. Obviously you’ll still need to buy the rest of the equipment… or build it yourself. Good luck building a barbell!
Option 3: Switch Gyms
This one is probably the easiest. Find a gym with a squat rack and go lift there instead of your current health club.
Alternatives to Heavy Squats
If you can’t make the above options work for whatever reason(s), then here are some nice options to still train the squat movement pattern without heavy weights.
Clean to Front Squat
For this to work, you need to learn how to do a barbell clean. Watch the three part series from Glenn Pendlay at California Strength below.
After you can clean the weight up, just do some front squats with it.
This will allow you to use the most weight possible in absence of a squat rack.
Front Loaded Bulgarian Split Squat
These will allow you to overload one leg more. To make it work without a squat rack, you’ll have to clean the weight obviously, just like with the regular front squat.
Another nice squat movement that forces a vertical torso like the front squat. You can use a kettlebell like in the video or a dumbbell. It doesn’t matter too much.
Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat
These are squats done on one leg, so you can use less weight to heavily tax one leg at a time. Good eading material on the topic of pistol squats: Breaking Down the Single Leg Squat by Ben Bruno
You can assist these movements with heavy isolation work like the leg press, but try to still train the squat movement pattern with what you have available to you. Good luck with your training!