The common wisdom that squats are the go-to exercise for leg and butt building and sculpting is coming into question. Word on the street (and among many personal trainers) is that squats could be murder on the knees and a waste of your workout time.

The jury is still out, though. One team says that squats are OK and even necessary, as long as they’re done correctly and safely. The other side begs to differ, and offers up an array of alternatives that are kinder to the back and knees, but just as effective for your legs and ass.

Here are some concerns to consider before you head to that rack, especially if you are not completely versed in squatting do’s and don’ts:

It could damage your back. You’re not invested into your fitness program in order to harm your back. Intense pressure should not be applied to your spine, ever.

It could damage your knees. The knee is both sensitive and complex, making it highly prone to injury. Ligaments can tear very easily, and tendons could swell with any kind of gym floor abuse.

Most guys who are not Olympic powerlifters dread doing any type of squats. In fact, not everybody is even built to do them. Those with bad lower backs or weak ankles should consider avoiding the idea altogether.

The good news: there are very effective alternatives that don’t require squatting. Consider the following:

The chair squat. This exercise won’t ask you to get lowdown. If you’re at the gym, use a bench; at home, use any old chair. Stand with your feet parallel to each other. Simply lower your butt to a sitting position, keeping your arms long and straight and parallel in front of you. Once your butt hits the chair, use your heels to push yourself back up to a standing position. Repeat, slowly, for about a minute.

Lunges. Standing, lower your body so that your back knee is almost touching the floor and your heel is raised. Lift that knee a few inches. Use a chair if you need balance. Hold for 30 seconds, or for as long as you can. Then lower your knee back to the ground. Now switch legs.

Kneel and push. Get down on all fours. Bend your elbows to the floor and keep them directly in line with your shoulders. Clasp your hands together. Bend your left knee and place it directly behind your right knee. Lift your left leg up as far as you can stretch, all the while turning your knee and your hips to the side. Return your knee to the floor and repeat 25 times. Do one set at a time, then switch knees.

Glute squeeze. Lie facedown. Bend your knees and press your heels together. Bend your elbows and stack your hands on top of each other. Rest your forehead on your hands. Lift your thighs off the floor while squeezing your glutes together. Repeat 25 times.

The leg curl. Use the leg curl machine at the gym, with a reasonable weight. This builds your hamstrings without putting any undue stress on your knees or lower back.

Try a kettlebell. Ask a personal trainer for the best exercises for your body type. Kettlebells are a great method for building lower body strength. They’re also very effective for conditioning and even weight loss. The key to kettlebell success is muscle contractions through a range of motion.

Always remember to warm up first, and to ask your trainer for the best solutions for your individual training program.

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