Bearhug Squats


You’re stranded on a desert island and can only do one lift the rest of your life. What would it be? I guess that hypothetical situation doesn’t really work as well for exercises as it does for movie selection, but you get the idea. My choice would be deadlifts, followed by squats. What’s the biggest limitation of a small room, home gym set-up? No squat rack and no olympic weights. This post will outline how I’ve managed to incorporate squats into my regular workout in a way that I have found to be meaningful and challenging.

Sandbags have been my saving grace in a lot of ways. In a future post I’ll expand further on the specifics of my sandbags (sounds dirty). For squats, I’ve found sandbags to be a great way to move weight without a rack or barbell.

When I first started doing squats at home, I tried doing a front squat movement with PowerBlocks. Without a barbell, the struggle was in keeping the Powerblocks (or dumbbells, if you will) into position on my chest. With only 180lbs total between the two Powerblocks, I also needed to start incorporating a weighted vest (+40lbs). It still felt awkward at best.

In the last four or five months, I’ve ditched the Powerblocks and started using a sandbag. I put three 60lb bags of sand into a duffle, put the weighted vest on, and bearhug the duffle. I’ve found this to be a great alternative to my failed attempt at front squats with dumbbells. There isn’t a single workout I do that gasses me more than this one. By the time I’m done with my 5 sets, I’m ready to call it a day. Usually I’m ready to die. And I almost always have to lay down for at least five minutes.

Warm-ups are pretty straightforward. After my normal routine of mobility, stretching, and a bodyweight circuit, I’ll perform a couple sets of 10-12 bodyweight squats. I’ll then put on the weighted vest and do two sets of eight and six reps.  I’ll then grab a 60lb bag of sand, with the vest on, and do two sets of six. As with all my warm-ups, I don’t time my rest periods, but the few times I have I find I rest around 45 seconds to a minute between each set.

I then pull my bench over to where I’ll be squatting, load up a duffle with 180lbs of sand, and place it on the bench (did I mention I love deadlifts?). This makes it significantly easier to load up for each set. Five sets of 10 is the goal, and I’m just a hair under that mark today. Once I reach it, I’ll put another 40lbs of sand in the duffle and rinse and repeat.

One Comment on “Bearhug Squats”

  1. […] walk in the morning proved painful. Monday morning (two days later) I woke up at 5am to get in some squats, and found I was still in too much pain. As much as it hurts, and as much as it is shocking to have […]

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