Why Squats Suck For Me (And May Not Be For You)

Do you even squat, bro?

No, in fact, I don’t.

Here’s why:

I used to preach to my clients that squats were a necessary component of any training program, regardless of primary goal.

But I was wrong.

If squats are not working for you, don’t do them. 

Seems like simple advice, but rarely do people listen to their own bodies (myself included…)

In my early training days, I’d train legs heavy, expecting them to magically grow to the size of Ronnie Coleman’s. But no matter how much weight I lifted, not a whole lot happened (other than sore knees).

So instead of pounding my head against the wall, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I figured I needed to change my approach to leg training, but it took awhile to come to that realization.



For me, at 6-foot-2 with long legs, even with perfect form for ME, there’s a fair bit of forward lean on squats and my knees tend to get wonky after a certain weight threshold.

For my goals – muscle hypertrophy – barbell squats are not a necessary component of my programming. And they may very well be unnecessary for you, too.

I want to be able to play sports and live life without knee pain outside of the gym. Squats are the only exercise that gives me trouble in this area, and I’ve tried every variation possible, so they’re gone.

Instead, I focus on the mind-muscle connection, do mostly medium and high reps with shorter rest periods for producing high levels of metabolic stress (I like the pump), focusing on isolation exercises such as unilateral leg work (lunges, split squats, one-legged deadlifts etc.) while incorporating bilateral joint-friendly movements like goblet squats, smith squats (which prevent the forward lean for me), and leg presses. I pyramid up in weight as I go but rarely if ever go for <3 RM sets.

Here are my legs as I type this w/o squatting
Here are my legs as I type this w/o squatting

Legs respond well to a lot of volume. If you aren’t a powerlifter or strength athlete – and just want to look sexy and live functionally above all else – then squats may not be needed.

Answer these questions..

Do you feel ‘beat up’ after every squat session?

Then drop them from your programming.

Do your knees ache after every squat session?

Then drop them from your programming.

There is more than one way to skin a cat (I hate that cliche), and no one-size-fits-all program for everybody.

I have clients and friends who LOVE squats and get a lot out of them, but there are just as many who don’t benefit.

Presumably you’re exercising to function better in your day-to-day life and fight back against aging, whether that be running around after your kids or working pain-free at your 9-5.

Don’t let something you do in the gym affect the other 23 hours of your day.

Listen to your body, not a google search.

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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.