Best Squat Accessory Exercises for Better Muscle Growth

Struggling to improve your squat? We researched and compiled the most effective squat accessory exercises to target specific weaknesses, enhance powerlifting performance, and strengthen leg muscles. Find the best exercises to elevate your squat training.

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Overview

Subsequently, we all know, that squat is acknowledged as one of the finest exercises for the development of full-body strength and muscle mass. However, there are instances when regardless of the effort given to train the squat itself, we reach a point of stagnation.

Smart accessory work is the answer to that question! Because of this, it’s possible to work with the definite areas that are limiting ourselves to achieve further progress.

This guide outlines 15 of the best squat accessory movements to get a crazy amount of hypertrophy and continue to progress with your squats. For each and every movement we’re going to detail how it works, why it works, and how you can ensure you’re getting every rep spot on.

The 15 Best Squat Accessory Exercises

Barbell Good Morning

This hip hinge variation is a back hamstring exercises like no other! Good mornings load up the posterior chain in a similar pattern to the squat while taking stress off the quads.

How To Do A Barbell Good Morning (Video Credit: PureGym YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Reinforces strength and muscle in the spinal erectors and glutes for a bigger squat
  • Improves hamstring flexibility without stretching
  • Trains your lower back to maintain a neutral spine under load

How to Do It:

  • Set up like a back squat, with the bar across your upper back
  • Soften your knees slightly, then hinge back by pushing your hips back
  • Go down until you feel a big stretch in your hamstrings, keeping your chest up
  • Squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to stand back up

Front-Rack Kettlebell Elevated Split Squat

This split squat variation is a beast for developing single-leg strength, hip mobility, and stability – all crucial for a bigger squat. Having the kettlebell in the front rack also builds a stronger, more muscular upper back.

Kettlebell Front Rack Front Foot Elevated Split Squat (Video Credit: Base Training YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Fixes strength imbalances between your legs
  • Increases leg drive and power out of the hole
  • Bulletproofs your shoulders and upper back for heavy squatting

How to Do It:

  • Clean two kettlebells into the front rack position
  • Put your back foot up on a bench behind you, laces down
  • Descend by sending your hips straight down, while keeping your torso upright
  • Drive through your front foot to return to the start

Back Extensions

You need a strong posterior chain to keep your back locked in and transfer maximum force in the squat. Lower Back extensions exercise strengthen the entire backside of your body – back, glutes, and hamstrings.

Back extension strong (Video Credit: Rehab My Patient YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Builds back strength and muscle in the spinal erectors for a safer squat
  • Reinforces powerful hip extension for exploding out of the hole
  • Can be progressed by adding weight as you get stronger

How to Do It:

  • Lie face down on a back extension bench, with your feet locked in
  • Cross your arms across your chest or hold a weight plate
  • Keeping your body straight, raise your torso until it’s in line with your legs
  • Squeeze your glutes and back at the top, then lower under control

Ab Rollout

While the squat is a lower body exercise, you can’t overlook core strength. The ab rollout is a savage anti-extension exercise that reinforces a strong, stable midsection – a must for squatting huge weights.

Ab Wheel- How to PROPERLY Use an Ab Wheel (Video Credit: Mind Pump TV YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Prevents your lower back from rounding under heavy load
  • Works your entire core in a dynamic, functional way
  • Highly scalable for any fitness level by using different equipment

How to Do It:

  • Kneel down and grab a barbell, ab wheel, or stability ball
  • Keep your hips tucked and shoulders down, with a neutral spine
  • Brace your core, then roll out as far as you can without losing Form
  • Roll yourself back to the start by squeezing your lower lats

TRX Y The

TRX Y is deceptively tough! This move strengthens your upper traps, rhomboids, and rear delts – smaller muscles that play a huge role in keeping a tight, stable upper back during squats.

How to perform the TRX Y Fly (Video Credit: CORE Strong Fitness YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Builds isometric strength from a new angle
  • Improves shoulder mobility and posture
  • Can be scaled up or down by moving your feet position

How to Do It:

  • Grab the TRX handles and lean back to create tension
  • Pull your arms up into a “Y” position, keeping them in line with your ears
  • Squeeze your upper back hard at the top
  • Lower under control, then repeat

Front-Rack Pin-Stop Split Squat

These pin squats eliminate the stretch reflex, making them outrageously tough – but that’s exactly why they’re so effective! You’ll build explosive power and confidence out of the hole.

Barbell Front Rack Split Squat (Video Credit: Performance Course YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Takes momentum out of the movement to increase quad engagement
  • Improves single-leg strength, balance, and stability
  • Front rack position builds crucial upper back endurance

How to Do It:

  • Set the pins in a rack to the bottom of your squat depth
  • Get in a half-kneeling position with a barbell in the front rack
  • Squat down until you barely touch the pins
  • Pause briefly, then drive upward without any stretch reflex

Pause Squat

Similar to the pin squat, the pause squat makes you own the most difficult portion of the lift – the bottom position. This overloads the muscles for incredible strength gains.

The Paused Squat: Gym Shorts (How To) (Video Credit: Barbell Logic YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Extends time under tension for serious muscle growth
  • Reinforces proper depth for competition squats
  • Eliminates using momentum to get out of the hole

How to Do It:

  • Set up like a regular back squat with 70-80% of your max
  • Squat down to your typical depth, then pause for 3-5 seconds
  • Keep full-body tension, then drive through your heels to stand up

Anderson Squat

The Anderson squat is a twist on the box squat that allows you to overload the concentric (upward) portion of the lift. It’s awesome for building confidence and power out of the bottom.

Anderson Squat Tutorial (Video Credit: Maui Athletics YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Reduces reliance on the stretch reflex for pure strength gains
  • Improves hip mobility by training through a major range of motion
  • Lets you handle heavier loads than a regular box squat

How to Do It:

  • Set pins in a rack at the bottom of your squat
  • Unrack the bar and walk out as normal
  • Squat down until you lightly touch the pins
  • Pause briefly, then drive upward with everything you’ve got

Sissy Squat

If you want tree trunk quads, sissy squats need to be in your program! This bodyweight squat variation isolates the quads through an enormous range of motion.

Sissy Squat – The forgotten quad building exercise of the pros (Video Credit: Mind Pump TV YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Takes quad engagement to the absolute max
  • Challenges your balance and stabilizer muscles
  • Easy to add into any workout with no equipment needed

How to Do It:

  • Stand tall with your feet about hip-width apart
  • Push your hips back while sending your knees forward
  • Lower down as far as you can with good form
  • Drive through your quads to return to the start

Zombie Front

Squat The zombie front squat is an awesome accessory exercises for grooving proper front rack positioning. By taking your hands out of the equation, you’re forced to stay upright and keep the bar in the right spot.

How to: Zombie Squat (Video Credit: Christy Senay | Unchained Strength YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Ingrains good posture and torso positioning
  • Serves as a perfect front squat warm-up drill
  • Trains explosive hip and shoulder mobility

How to Do It:

  • Set a bar in a rack at shoulder height
  • Grab the bar with straight arms while standing under it
  • Squat down as low as you can while keeping the bar tight
  • Drive through your heels to return to standing

Side Lunge

Most squat variations only train your body in the sagittal plane. The side lunge adds a frontal plane element to improve overall mobility and stability through the hips and groin.

Side (Lateral) Lunge Technique (Video Credit: Mind Pump TV YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Strengthens oft-neglected adductor muscles
  • Enhances hip mobility for squatting to deeper depths
  • Reduces risk of groin/hip injuries

How to Do It:

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart
  • Take a big lateral step out to your left
  • Push your hips back and bend your left knee as you lunge down
  • Drive through your left heel to return to the center, then repeat on the other side

Band-Resisted Barbell Squat

Adding resistance bands for squats introduces accommodating resistance, making lockout at the top much more challenging. This laser-focuses your training on improving that common sticking point.

Optimize Weekly // Resistance Band Barbell Squat (Video Credit: Stroops YouTube Channel)

Band-Resisted Barbell Squat Benefits:

  • Emphasizes power production throughout the entire lift
  • Increases lockout strength without adding more bar weight
  • Provides extra resistance without excess joint stress

How to Do It:

  • Set up resistance bands on either side of the barbell
  • Ensure the bands are properly secured and aligned
  • Squat as normal, driving through the bands at the top
  • Focus on explosive power during that lockout phase

Leg Press

The leg press is an excellent squat accessory for allowing extra quad training volume while minimizing stress on the spine. Big wheels make for a big squat!

Leg Press for Huge Legs and Glutes (Video Credit: Hypertrophy Coach YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Allows you to crank up the weight for maximum overload
  • Reduction in balance requirements means more focus on the quads
  • Promotes mobility and strength out of the bottom position

How to Do It:

  • Sit down and place your feet at your preferred width
  • Initiate the movement by unlocking your knees first
  • Press until your legs are just shy of full extension
  • Control the descent, going down until your knees are at 90 degrees

Box Squat

Box squats are a popular plateau-buster that teaches you to own the most difficult ranges of the lift. They can be done with a variety of squat variations as well.

How To Box Squat The RIGHT Way (Video Credit: Mind Pump TV YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Strengthens you out of the hole where you’re weakest
  • Allows you to handle heavier loads than regular squats
  • Box height can be adjusted to target different sticking points

How to Do It:

  • Set up a box 2-3 feet behind you at the appropriate height
  • Squat down as normal, sitting back until you lightly tap the box
  • Drive your feet through the floor to return to standing
  • Don’t relax onto the box – treat it like a brief pause

Deadstop Row

The deadstop row is the ultimate single-arm row variation for building an awesomely strong back to keep your torso locked in during squats. It allows you to use maximum loads!

Deadstop Dumbbell Row – Neutral Grip (Video Credit: Jordan Syatt YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Increased range of motion and stretch for more growth
  • The deadstop allows your grip to rest between reps
  • Develops strength and muscle symmetry between sides

How to Do It:

  • Grab a dumbbell and hinge down until your back is parallel
  • Row the weight straight up to your hip, squeezing your lats
  • Let the dumbbell deadstop on the floor before each rep
  • Reset your body before rowing again

Muscles Worked by the Squat

The squat is a full-body exercise extraordinaire, hitting nearly every major muscle group. Here are the key players:

Upper Back

Your lats, rhomboids, and traps form a beefy upper back shelf to keep the bar locked in place during squats.

Lower Back

The erector spinae muscles in your lower back have to fight tremendously hard to keep your spine stable and neutral.

Glutes

The glutes are your prime movers for hip extension. Powerfully exercising glutes are essential for explosive squats!

Hamstrings

Your hamstrings work alongside the glutes for huge hip extension power and control during squats.

Adductors

The adductors assist with squatting by enhancing hip mobility, pelvic stability, and overall leg strength.

Quadriceps

Of course, your quads are the main drivers of squats! You need massive quad strength and endurance.

Programming Your Accessory Training

How much accessory exercises you need depends on your training experience:

  • Novices (under 1 year): 8-12 weekly sets including accessories, over 2-3 days
  • Intermediates (1-4 years): 10-16 weekly sets, 2-3 days
  • Advanced (over 4 years): 16+ weekly sets as needed

When selecting exercises, choose based on your weak points. For example:

  • Struggle with the hole? Do more pause/box squats.
  • Weak lockout? Prioritize leg presses and quad workouts at home.

As for sets and reps:

  • For strength: 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • For muscle: 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • For endurance: 3 sets of 12-15 reps, especially with single-leg moves

Progressive Overload in Squat Accessory Exercises

As with any exercises, you need to apply progressive overload over time to continue making gains. The same principles apply to your accessory work:

  • Start in the higher rep ranges using a moderate weight
  • As that becomes easier, increase the weight and drop the reps
  • When you can complete the top of the rep range with good form, it’s time to increase the weight again

Don’t be afraid to cycle higher rep accessory exercises during your next training phase to allow for continued progressive overloading.

Squat Accessory Exercises Tips

Train for Muscle AND Strength

Both muscle and strength go hand-in-hand for a bigger squat. Make sure to incorporate accessory exercises that maximize both – heavy compound movements like box squats for strength, along with higher rep work like leg presses for hypertrophy.

Warm-Up Properly

Before diving into your main squat and accessory exercises, take the time to thoroughly prepare your body with an appropriate warm-up routine. This should include:

  • General mobility drills
  • Specific muscle activation
  • Progressive ramping up of weight on core lifts

A proper warm-up reduces injury risk and allows you to perform at your highest level.

Don’t Neglect Single-Leg Work

Bilateral exercises like barbell squats can potentially let muscle imbalances slip under the radar. Single-leg variations are a crucial part of accessory exercise to:

  • Build equal strength in each leg
  • Improve balance and stability
  • Reinforce mobility and flexibility

Hit these aggressively with high reps, shifts, drops, and other intensity techniques!

Prioritize Recovery

Squatting with maximal weights and putting in serious accessory volume is incredibly taxing on the body. Make sure to plan for adequate recovery between these intensive sessions:

  • Take 2-3 days between tough squat workouts to fully recuperate
  • Utilize lighter recovery days focused on mobility and blood flow
  • Listen to your body and back off if needed to avoid burnout or injury

By incorporating smart accessory exercises, programming them intelligently based on your needs, and following these key tips, you’ll be well on your way to squatting heavier and busting through any plateaus that come your way. Build an irreversible squat foundation!

final words of accessory exercises for squatConclusion

Squatting is one of the most effective exercises for building full-body strength and muscle. But eventually, most lifters will run into a frustrating plateau on their squat numbers.

That’s where smart accessory work comes in! By training the specific areas that are holding you back, you can bust through any sticking points and keep progressing on your squat for years to come.

This guide has provided you with 15 of the absolute best squat accessory exercises to bring up your weak points. Whether you struggle with mobility, strength out of the hole, lockout power, or anything in between – there are targeted movements to solve the problem.

Follow the simple programming guidelines to work these accessory lifts into your routine based on your experience level and individual needs. Prioritize recovery, listen to your body, and apply progressive overload just like your main lifts.

With discipline and commitment to doing the right accessory work, you’ll quickly build an incredible squat foundation. Stronger quads, glutes, hamstrings, and better mobility will translate to effortlessly busting through plateaus.

Make these proven accessory exercises a staple in your programs. Walk into the gym with confidence, ready to dominate the squat rack with weights! Continual gains and all-new personal records await.

Heather Black, CPT

Heather Black, CPT is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer, & a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach.
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