Best Accessory Exercises for Squats

Best Accessory Exercises for Squats

by Evelyn Valdez

Accessory exercises, also known as secondary exercises, are movements that help you maximize your performance during your primary lifts. They help strengthen the muscle groups involved in the main exercise for better support by hitting them from different angles and at different levels of resistance, improving your overall form.

When it comes to squats, accessory exercises help build strength and stability all around your body. From your legs, hips, and core to help you perform the squatting movement properly to your arms, chest, shoulders, and back to be able to handle the weight during weighted squats – this makes them essential in any squat routine!

To help you take your squat performance to the next level, we’ve put together a list with some of the best accessory exercises for squats that you can try next time you train your strength. This way, you’ll be able to support your squats properly and make progress in no time!

Forward lunges

Unilateral movements such as lunges are crucial in strength training because they help you fix muscular imbalances by working one side at a time, improving your functional strength at the same time.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet around hip-width apart and your head tall. You can hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands by your sides to increase resistance.
  2. Begin the movement by stepping forward with your right leg, flexing both knees as you lower yourself until both legs are bent at 90 degrees and your left knee almost touches the ground.
  3. Squeeze your muscles in this position, then push through your right heel to go back to the starting position and repeat with the other leg, alternating sides on each rep.

Leg press

Your quad strength plays a very important role by holding both your body weight and the weight you’re lifting during the bottom part of the squat, and leg presses are perfect for increasing that strength!

How to do it:

  1. Load the leg press machine and sit on it, lying down on the backrest with your feet firm on the platform at a shoulder-width distance and slightly pointed out.
  2. Keeping your hips down at all times, begin the movement by pressing the platform with your legs until your knees are almost at full extension, without locking them.
  3. Hold this position while you squeeze your muscles, then slowly bend your knees and hips back again and repeat.

Back extensions

Back extensions aren’t just good for lower back and hamstring strength, but also for flexibility so you can achieve a greater range of motion without experiencing any discomfort during your squats.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the back extension machine to your height and get on it, securing your feet under the ankle pads and crossing your arms in front of you, as if you were hugging yourself.
  2. Engage your core and begin the movement by hinging forward at the hips, lowering your upper body until your torso is bent at around 90 degrees.
  3. Pause for a moment as you feel the stretch on your posterior chain, then slowly go back up and repeat.

Pause squats

By increasing time under tension with pause squats, you’ll be able to improve your overall control during squats, helping you prevent that unwanted bouncing at the bottom part of the movement.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your head tall. You can hold a barbell over your traps and shoulders for additional resistance.
  2. Engage your core and begin the movement by bending at the hips and knees, lowering yourself into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the ground or as low as you can get.
  3. Pause the movement for 3-5 seconds while you feel the burn on your legs, then stand back up and repeat.

Barbell hip thrusts

Glute strength is crucial during squats since you need them to extend your hips and go back to the standing position swiftly, which is why hip thrusts are one of the best accessory lifts for squats out there!

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your back against the long side of a bench and your legs extended in front of you, and roll the loaded barbell above your hips.
  2. Place your feet on the floor by bending your knees, then grab the bar with both hands in an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart and place your upper back and shoulder blades on the edge of the bench.
  3. Begin the movement by thrusting your hips upward, extending them while driving the bar up until your torso and thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Squeeze your muscles in this top position, then lower your hips to the ground and repeat.

Box jumps

Power and speed are two things that you might not associate with squats, but they’re very useful when trying to come up from the squat position without struggling, and box jumps help you improve just that.

How to do it:

  1. Find a plyo box or bench that’s around knee height and secure it so that it doesn’t slip, then stand in front of it with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. With a slight bend at the knees and hips, begin the movement by pressing through the balls of your feet and explosively jumping onto the box, swinging your arms to propel your body.
  3. Land on the box and immediately reverse the movement, jumping back down to the floor, then repeat the exercise until you’re done with your reps.

Ab rollouts

While ab rollouts are great for strengthening your core, which is crucial for squats, they also help you develop anti-extension strength, which allows you to prevent lower back flexion when squatting with heavy weights.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel with an ab wheel in front of you, then grab it by the handles with both hands in an overhand grip, making sure it’s directly underneath your shoulders with your arms perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Engage your core and begin the movement by rolling the wheel forward as far as you can as you extend your hips and knees, aiming to get your arms parallel to the floor.
  3. Squeeze your muscles in this position while keeping the wheel under control, then slowly roll it back until it’s back underneath your shoulders and repeat.

Start improving your squats

These accessory exercises will help you achieve proper squat form and be able to make progress in your strength training journey without setbacks. And if you’re ready to spice up your squat routine, make sure to check out our list of the best squat variations that you can try!

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1 comment

  • It would be helpful if you posted a short video with these to make sure I am doing these correctly … for us who are new to working out!

    Dawn -

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