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Squats are a type of leg exercise for both at home or in the gym. Find out what equipment you can use to make this exercise more effective.
Squats are in essence a bodyweight exercise where you raise and lower your body by folding your legs. Absolute resistance training beginners likely do not need equipment to build muscle with squats.
However, to keep growing and strengthening strong muscles like your legs, you likely soon need extra equipment to make squats challenging enough. Making squats more challenging at the right points in your training can also help you achieve results quicker.
So the best squat equipment options are extra weights. There are different alternatives with each their upsides and downsides.
There are also squat machines at home or in the gym that combine extra weight with helping you focus on different parts of your legs or making sure you have to worry less about balancing.
Squat equipment at home
Most people know that you can build muscle at the gym. Luckily you don’t need the full setup of an entire gym to get in a good squat workout. One or two relatively inexpensive pieces of fitness equipment are often enough.
A barbell is a long bar that can hold weight plates. For barbell back squats you will also need a barbell rack. Even though there are a few alternatives, a barbell setup is one of the, if not the, best options for making a squat weighted.
This is because the barbell allows you to put the weight on your shoulders. Your legs, which are the main muscles that have to work during squats, are relatively strong. To challenge them enough for a lot of muscle growth you generally need heavy weights.
When using other squat equipment that you have to hold in your hands, an issue can be that your grip muscles fatigue faster than your legs.
Another benefit of investing in a barbell for your home workouts is that it allows you to do many other exercises for a variety of body parts. A barbell setup also generally lasts an extremely long time. One investment can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades.
On top of that, a barbell does not really lose its value a lot. This means that if you decide to stop using the barbell you can likely sell it for a very similar price as what you put into it.
The disadvantage is that a barbell with weight plates often requires a slightly bigger investment compared to more short-term fitness equipment like resistance bands.
Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. You can use this piece of exercise equipment for a few resistance band squat variations.
You can loop the resistance bands around your shoulders and your feet to make the squat more challenging for your glutes (butt), quadriceps (front thighs), calves, and core.
Something else you can do is loop a small loop resistance band for squats around your upper legs to challenge your outer thigh muscles more.
Some of the benefits of resistance bands are that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable. They can also be used in other exercises to train your chest, biceps, shoulders, abs, and back muscles.
One downside is that resistance bands are not the type of gym equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to replace the last set with new resistance bands.
One-handed free weights
One-handed free weights are basically the free weights category excluding the barbell and the EZ curl bar. This distinction is important when talking about squat equipment.
Some examples of one-handed free weights are dumbbells, kettlebells, the right types of weight plates, certain workout sandbags, wrist weights, etc.
To make squats challenging enough you need relatively heavy equipment. A downside of one-handed free weights is that your grip muscles may fatigue faster than your legs. One-handed free weights also have a lower weight ceiling which may not be heavy enough.
Another disadvantage of these one-handed free weights is that they often require a slightly bigger investment compared to more short-term fitness equipment like resistance bands. That being said, they still require a lower investment than a barbell setup.
A benefit of one-handed free weights is that they generally last an extremely long time. One dumbbell can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades. On top of that, many of these weights do not really lose their value.
This means that if you decide to stop using dumbbells or similar one-handed free weights you can likely sell them for a very similar price as what you put into them.
Sissy squat bench
There is a home squat machine called the sissy squat bench. As the name implies this is a construction that helps you do the sissy squat variation. This is a squat variation that focuses more on your quadriceps (front thighs) and less on your glutes (butt).
This home squat machine works in the sense that it does help you do this variation and in turn focus more on your quadriceps. However, not many people benefit that much from doing this squat variation over the regular version.
In that sense, this squat machine can be pricey for the potential benefits you get. Especially if you can do a quad isolation exercise like leg extensions with resistance bands.
One potential upside of certain sissy squat bench types is that they sometimes can be used for back extensions. This is an effective exercise for strengthening your lower back that is otherwise challenging to do at home.
Gym or home gym squat equipment
It is also possible to use certain leg gym machines as squat equipment. Below you can find some examples of these machines.
The smith machine looks similar to a squat rack but there are a few differences which make the smith machine more of a machine.
First of all, the barbell is attached to a rail system. This makes it so it can only move up or down alongside these rails and not forward or backward. Secondly, it has a system where you can rack the barbell at any height. This can be helpful during a heavy squat.
During a smith machine squat you have to place your feet slightly more forward and lean slightly back to avoid discomfort at the bottom of the movement. This will lead to slightly more quadriceps focus.
Another difference between a smith machine squat and a barbell back squat is that the smith machine makes it so the squat movement trajectory is fixed. In turn, this leads to more focus on your leg muscles and less on other balance muscles.
The cable machine is a type of gym machine where a steel frame holds weights and pulleys. Thanks to the cable going through these pulleys and attached to these weights you can do many types of strength training exercises for a wide variety of muscles.
An upside of the cable machine is that it is extremely versatile. It can help you train basically any important muscles. You can also select relatively heavy weights.
The downside of the cable machine as squat equipment is that the ways to put the weight on your shoulders, for example a double rope handle, are not as comfortable. The alternative is holding an attachment in your hands which can fatigue your grip muscles.
Leg press machine
The leg press is a gym machine where you push away weights from your body with your legs. This can be both sideways but more often upward while sitting in a low seat. You can describe the leg press as a squat in machine form.
For this machine, the main exercise is a regular leg press with your two feet placed on the platform at about shoulder width. Push the weights away until your legs are slightly less than stretched and then slowly return the weights to starting position.
The leg press machine is an equipment option that allows you to do squats with heavy weights without having to engage your core and balance muscles as much.
A potential downside if you plan to get one in your home gym is that the leg press machine is not very versatile. To train other body parts you will have to invest in other fitness equipment too.