Today we’re going to compare a few basic variations of the squat to see which is the easiest and safest to do and how we can progress these to the point where we can do a full back squat.

I hear people tell me that they can’t squat, but if you can sit in a chair or on the toilet, then you can squat.

The two areas most commonly cited as reasons not to squat are the knees and low back. One more spot of potential concern is the shoulders, as some lack the mobility to reach back and hold the bar without pain when doing a back squat.

The first two squat variations we’ll look at are the low dumbbell sumo squat and a bench or box squat.

Remember I said if you can sit in a chair, you can do a squat, while essentially, doing a bench squat is just that sitting on a bench or a box.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when doing bench squats. Taking a wider stance gives you a more vertical shin reducing the stress on the knee. Sitting back on the bench reduces it even more.

When you do this, your hips go back, and you bend deeper at the waist, boosting hip activation and increasing glute and hamstring involvement in addition to the quads making this a more whole-leg exercise.

When you squat like this, you won’t be able to use as much weight as when doing a suitcase or back squat. I recommend dumbbells for this exercise over a barbell as it’s easier to stabilize a weight down low, taking some of the stress off the low back.

Because you’re sitting on a bench, it gives you a defined stopping point and ensures you’re going deep enough on every rep. You pause at the bottom, so there’s no bounce and continue to keep your core braced throughout the movement. An additional bonus is it helps to develop more power out of the bottom of a squat.

Next up is the low dumbbell sumo squat. Having the dumbbell down low makes for an easy setup, as you don’t have to get it into the goblet position, which can be somewhat awkward. The dumbbell provides a stopper keeping you from going too low. Mind you, as you get stronger and start to use a heavier dumbbell, it will reduce your range of motion.

Because the sumo stance is wide, again, this reduces the stress on the knees and increases adductor, abductor and glute involvement.

Next up is the suitcase squat. The body mechanics are much like a trap bar deadlift with a little less hip flexion when compared to a traditional deadlift.

I place the dumbbells on a bench and start in the standing position. This allows me to control the depth of my squat based on my body mechanics. Protecting my back and ensuring I don’t compromise my posture while picking up the dumbbells from the floor at the beginning of each set.

Before we move to an exercise that requires more core stabilization, I want to mention a piece of equipment I tried out when I was at Bells of Steel, and that’s their belt squat machine. It provides all the benefits of a squat without the stress on your back because the load is on the hips and not the upper back.

So if you have one of these in your gym, you should give it a try or consider making it an addition to your home gym.

Because the weight is in front on a goblet squat, it puts you in a more upright position taking stress off the back. But it’ll require more core stability than either a suitcase or low dumbbell sumo squat. In addition, you may find you get a greater range of motion and might have to lighten up the weight until you gain strength in this new range.

Another advantage of a goblet squat over a back squat is holding the weight in front is more shoulder-friendly than having a straight bar on your back. There’s what’s called a safety bar which allows you to back squat while keeping your shoulders in a comfortable position with your hands in front.

Getting the weight into the goblet position can become challenging as the weight gets heavier. The heaviest dumbbell I own is 100 lbs, and I get it into place by standing it on a bench and then squatting down to pick it up. If I want to use more than 100 lbs, I’ll use 2 dumbbells and clean them into place. This becomes a dumbbell front squat with all the same advantages as a goblet squat.

As you gain strength, you may want to elevate your heels to increase the range of motion, making it more challenging without increasing weight.

I want to bring up split squats. Because of the balance component, I wouldn’t list them as the easiest squat, but by the time we are at this level, we’re well past the easiest squats.

Split squats allow us to train each leg unilaterally for even development and cut the weight we need to use in half.

    29 replies to "The Safest Squat (Best for Back and Knees)"

    • Fit and 50

      If you would like help losing excess body fat and building muscle, please email me at for information on my personal training services.

      Bells of Steel is a home gym equipment supplier, they have everything from the basics to commercial gym quality products

      To purchase the tee shirt or shorts I’m wearing in this video or any other Fit and 50 workout wear click here,

      Check your testosterone levels from home. Just click this link and receive 30% off with code: LAURENCE30 I receive commissions on referrals to LetsGetChecked. I only recommend services I know and trust.

      If you would like to purchase a set of Torrobands for yourself, here is my affiliate link so you can receive 50% off on your purchase

    • kerkireos

      the landmine hack squat checks both boxes too

      • Fit and 50

        Good suggestion!

    • D diddles


      • Fit and 50

        Lol, I’ve been having a tough run with my spelling lately. But it gives you guys something to look for.

    • yep

      Exceptionally well explained. Thank you. Very nice video instruction.

      • Fit and 50

        Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

    • Paul Mistretta

      A question about using belts, do you suggest it or no?

      • Fit and 50

        I don’t use one, but I think it could help. Worth trying

      • Paul Mistretta

        @Fit and 50 30+ in uniform ,duty belt has done a number on it , chiropractor is on speed dial 🤷🏻‍♂️😂

    • Lou Lopez

      So glad you covered this as bad knees are a huge problem for many of us.

      • Fit and 50

        Lately for me I’ve been finding my low back tires out and needs a little more recovery time.

    • edguyrocks

      I do all the first 4 now…I get great leg activation over the typical barbell squat. Great info…Try these peeps.

      • Fit and 50

        Nice, I think a lot of people underestimate the effectiveness of these variations.

    • Brian's Brain

      If it helps anyone, when doing lunges, I step BACKWARDS. This takes almost all the pressure off the front knee.

      • Fit and 50

        That’s a good tip!

    • Francisco

      Thanks for this! I was a little afraid to do traditional squads and deadlifts because of lower back issues. Going to add these to my routines.

      • Fit and 50

        I think you’ll find them effective

    • Filippo

      You are the best 🔝🔝🔝❤️

      • Fit and 50

        Thank you

    • Ruben Rios

      Can those belts also benefit the glutes as well?

      • Fit and 50

        I think so glute activation comes from being able to squat low and I found by keeping my feet a bit forward and pushing back on the belt as a squatted down I could get lower

    • The New Fitness 2M

      अगर आप हिंदी मे जाणकारी देंगे तो बोहत बढिया होगा सरजी

      • Fit and 50

        Unfortunately, I don’t speak Hindi. Hopefully one day YouTube will have a translation feature

    • Randy Mason

      As you mentioned the plates (elevated) heels is better for activation doing the Goblet squat…they question is are you elevating in the other types of squats..hard to tell with the black mat and and plates..BTW excellent video

      • Fit and 50

        Elevating the heals improves range of motion. You can do this with suitcase squats too. I don’t elevate heals on the low dumbbell sumo squats or the bench squats.

    • nord kristal


      • Fit and 50

        Thanks for stopping by Nord.

    • Gordon

      Some great advice here and a few good reminders for me! I’ve become a big fan of the trap bar squat; as you noted very similar to suitcase DB squats but you can load up much more weight and I find it easier to set up. Both in some ways better than a squat for me as it adds in both grip and trap work too. Sadly, need to go to the gym for that one. Impressed with how well you cleaned the DBs for the front squat! I’ve Power-blocks (90s) and I find that hard to do; either my lack of skill or the shape makes it tough for heavier sets. Last, Bulgarian Split Squats (pretty much the split squat with the rear leg elevated as you know) can be a killer too!

Comments are closed.