Are you experiencing low back pain while doing barbell back squats and are unsure if you should perform squats at all? Here is something interesting to consider. A study titled “Altered squat movement pattern in patients with chronic low back pain” found that individuals with lower back pain (LBP) use their hip and knee joints more extensively than those without LBP during maximal squats. (1) During a barbell back squat, the bar puts substantial pressure on your lumbar spine and forces you to move more from hips and knees than ankles when doing squats. This is why incorporating suitcase squat variation in your workout is essential. Suitcase squats put less stress on your lower back because of its setup. In addition, they are also excellent for strengthening your core and improving your overall grip strength.
In this article, you’ll learn how to perform suitcase squats correctly, the muscles worked, its benefits, and the most notable alternatives.
How To Do a Suitcase Squat: Step-By-Step Guide
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to perform suitcase squats correctly:
Step One — Get Into the Starting Position
Stand upright while holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand. Assume a hip-width stance, keep your knees extended and back flat, and look straight ahead. Pro Tip: If you lack ankle mobility, turn your toes outwards to achieve a deeper squat.
Step Two — Initiate the Eccentric Phase
Slowly lower yourself into the bottom squat position by bending at your hips, knees, and ankles. When you achieve maximal depth, hold that position for one second. Ensure your back is neutral and core tight throughout the whole movement. Pro Tip: Use three-second eccentric phases to increase muscle stress and bias hypertrophy.
Step Three — Initiate the Concentric Phase
Extend your ankles, knees, and hips to return to the starting position. Ensure your back is flat and your core is activated throughout the concentric phase. Your hips and knees will be fully extended at the top of the range of motion. Pro Tip: To build more explosive strength and power while ensuring you don’t butcher the form and technique, rip through the concentrics.
Muscles Worked During Suitcase Squats
The primary muscles include:
– Gluteus maximus
The secondary muscles are:
– Core musculature
– Forearm flexors
– Erector spinae
Benefits of Suitcase Squats
These are the pros of adding suitcase squats to your exercise arsenal:
Suitcase squats are a beginner-friendly exercise as the weight is not placed on your back, substantially reducing injury risk. Secondly, you can’t go as heavy on them as barbell squats, further reducing injury risk. Finally, they are easy to teach, making it perfect for beginners to learn the squat mechanics.
The number one reason suitcase squats are one of the best squat variations to implement during rehabilitation is because they place less strain on your back. Nonetheless, you must consult your healthcare provider before starting a new training routine. Suitcase squats strengthen your core muscles, which is usually one of the primary goals of every rehabilitation program. A strong core plays a major role in preventing different lifting and sports-related injuries.
Lower Body Strength
Suitcase squats can help build lower body strength and muscle mass, especially for beginners. This is why you can find suitcase squats in most beginner weightlifting programs.
Balance and Core Stability
Suitcase squats are especially effective at increasing your core strength and overall balance as they force your internal and external obliques, transversus abdominis, and rectus abdominis to stabilize the movement. Depending on the weights in your hands, different muscles will fire up.
Suitcase Squat Variations and Alternatives
Below are the best suitcase squat variations and alternatives:
Dumbbell step-up is an intermediate unilateral exercise. It is widely used in sports such as volleyball, basketball, and handball to build core strength, stability, and balance.
1. Stand in front of an 18-inch plyo box with a dumbbell in each hand.
2. Position your feet hip-width apart, knees extended, back straight, and your eyes locked straight ahead.
3. Start the exercise by stepping on the plyo box with your right foot.
4. Stand on top of the box with both your feet placed next to each other.
5. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
6. Repeat on the same side for recommended reps.
7. Switch legs after completing the desired number of reps.
Pro Tip: If you want to work your posterior chain more, lean forward during the exercise to stretch those glutes and hamstrings.
Kettlebell lunges are among the most challenging unilateral exercises because of how much your adductors are activated during the movement. Your adductor acts as dynamic stabilizers during lunges and will tire quickly because they weren’t built for repetitive endurance-based activities.
1. Stand erect with a hip-width stance and a kettlebell in each hand extended at your sides.
2. Your knees should be extended, your back flat, and your eyes should be fixed on the wall in front of you, meaning you must keep your neck neutral throughout the exercise.
3. Start the exercise by lunging forward with your right leg.
4. Lower yourself until your left knee almost touches the ground.
5. Extend your knees and hips and bring your left foot beside the right.
6. Alternate between legs for the recommended reps.
Pro Tip: Feel free to let your knees extend beyond your toes if you are an athlete. Such a thing is desirable since you will never have a real-life or game situation where you can limit ankle dorsiflexion.
Bodyweight Glute Bridge
Glute bridges are considered a regression exercise to suitcase squats because they require less stability and external resistance to overcome. You can perform glute bridges for quite some time before transitioning to suitcase squats. This approach is particularly beneficial for seniors or those who have been inactive for some time and must first reestablish their foundational strength levels.
1. Lay on the floor on your back.
2. Bend your knees and hips so your heels are next to your glutes.
3. Place your hands on the sides…