4 Back Squat Methods for Big and Functional Legs

March 25, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

4 proven methods for the back squat to produce strong, aesthetic and functional legs. 

Back squat is a phenomenal leg exercise to develop the lower body (quads, hamstrings and glutes). Your thoracic spine and core need to work hard to hold the weight as well.

Although the back squat is an excellent exercise, it's still just one leg exercise among many. To get the best results, you should not only do many variations of the back squat but to also do many other leg exercises.

Different leg exercises merely emphasize the different parts of the legs. Just because the back squat hits most of the lower body, it doesn't mean all of the muscles in the lower body are thoroughly worked.

What will make the biggest difference in athletic ability, movement capability and overall functionality is not how much you can squat. The mobility of your lower body matters a lot more than the power of your dominant muscle groups.

Athletic movement is versatile and to be able to do that, every part of the legs need to be strong. This is why the leg training of Movement 20XX is versatile and focused on mobility. You are simply not going to move well with squats and deadlifts alone.

Other excellent leg exercises include:

Mobility is the 1. but after that developing power with heavy lifts can help a lot to develop functional power and aesthetics of the legs.

Should you go ass to grass (ATG) ? Yes and no. ATG squat is actually very different to the parallel squat and the ATG squat can emphasize more the hamstrings than the quads. The quality of your squat is far more important than depth.

1. Back Squat Complex (Narrow to Wide)

back squat complex narrow back squat

There are many ways to do a squat and you should use as many different variations as possible. In this back squat complex we are doing 3 types of back squats : wide, shoulder width and narrow.

Wide back squat will target the glutes and inner thighs (adductors). It's also a great way to add flexibility and mobility to your groin.

Shoulder width back squat is a well-rounded back squat variation that will emphasize quads, hamstrings and glutes.

Narrow stance back squat will diminish the activation of the glutes but increase the activation of your quads and hamstrings.

Use lighter weight and do 10-30 repetitions per set. You can do 1-5 repetitions of one variation and then adjust the width during the same set.

2. Duck Stance Back Squat

duck stance squat for quads

Duck stance squat is the most quad dominant back squat variation that exists. In the duck stance back squat you take a narrow stance and point your feet outwards. 

You will target many heads of the quads but especially the inner quad (tear drop muscle, vastus medialis).

Whether it's the squat, leg press or leg extensions, you will hit the tear drop the best when your legs are turned outwards (external rotation of the hip). Duck stance deadlifts can also be a great alternative to the duck stance back squat.

Do 2-6 repetitions per set for 2-4 sets. Focusing on the mind-muscle connection is important to properly activate the quads. 

3. Use 1.5 Reps

normal width squat

1.5 reps means that you do a full rep followed by a half rep. Using 1.5 reps in any exercise can produce outstanding results and this is not an understatement. 

The difference is bigger than one could think. In the full rep squat it's easy to use the bigger and stronger muscle groups to perform the movement, especially if you descend fast and explosively squat yourself up.

When you stop in different portions of the repetition, different and often weaker muscles need to engage to generate force and control the movement.

Doing back squat with 1.5 reps will emphasize more the bottom and middle portions of the squat. You may feel your quads and glutes working better than ever before.

6-10 repetitions for 2-4 sets can work very well. Each repetition is a 1.5 repetition.

4. Widowmaker (20 reps BW squat)

Widowmaker is the 20 repetitions bodyweight (on the bar) back squat. It's the old school workout starter, an amazing workout finisher and a great plateau buster. 

When you do the widowmaker set at the end of your workout, your legs should be fatigued but not completely done. You finish the 20 reps no matter what: take deep breaths between sets and take mini periods of rest if you have to.

In the beginning, you may need to use less weight and gradually work your way up. Eventually you can use more than your bodyweight.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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