Jack Hanrahan

Squat without knee and low back pain

Squat without knee and low back pain

It’s Monday. Which means LEG DAY (If you train chest we can no longer be friends). After working through a few stretches, you hit the squat rack, load up a barbell, and crank out a couple of light sets to grease the hips. It doesn’t feel that comfortable. Squats never do. But you proceed to add load to get some work sets in. You un-rack the bar, set the feet and take a deep breath. As you squat down, you feel a discomfort in the low back. It’s not enough to stop the set, but you’re cautious of loading heavier. So you struggle through a couple more rounds and move swiftly on to the next exercise.

This is a common theme amongst many gym goers.

Whether it’s knee pain, low back pain or just general discomfort, squatting under such circumstances is not doing you any favours.

The reality is, barbell back squats are a tricky beast. It’s NOT a mandatory exercise and it’s NOT for everyone. It’s an exercise that requires significant ankle, hip, spine and shoulder mobility. And one which demands the highest level of technical proficiency. Even if you tick both boxes, it just might not suit your anatomy.

Now for some good news. There is more than one way to squat. Don’t think of it as an exercise, but rather a movement patter that can be loaded in a myriad of ways.

Today Im going to introduce you to the most joint friendly variation of them all – The Landmine Squat.


Squat pain-free with the Landmine Squat


The landmine squat involves front loading a barbell against your chest, in what’s called the ‘goblet’ position. It very effectively loads the hips. So it’s great for building leg strength, muscle mass and a brutally strong core. All while being incredibly joint friendly.

Here are a few reasons why it’s a great pain-free alternative to barbell back squat:

  • Front loading the barbell will allow you to squat with a more upright torso which places less strain through the low back.
  • The arc of the bar forces you to ‘sit back’ which will effectively load the glutes and hamstrings and take load off the knees.
  • The ‘goblet’ position of the bar puts the shoulders into a very strong and stable position, without requiring them to express appreciable levels of mobility.

Here is a complete run through of the Landmine Squat – taking you through the set-up and demonstrating it in-action.


Landmine Squat Tutorial




Here’s a recap of the key points in the video:


Set up


Quick note: The set up is KEY. Do not ignore this step. Many people will attempt to ‘clean’ the barbell up off the floor. This is not only dangerous, but it will prevent you from ever loading the bar with enough weight to challenge you.

  • Prop the bar up onto a bench. You may need to place a weight plate underneath the loaded bar also, depending on your height. Doing this will allow you to get into a perfect squat position from the bottom up.
  • Squat down and glue the end of the bar to your chest. Interlace fingers and keep the heels of the hands directly underneath the bar. Tuck  your elbows to stabilise the shoulders.
  • Inhale through your nose, brace abs and drive up.

Foot Placement


  • It will take a few reps to find your ideal squat stance if you’re new to the exercise, so always start with a light weight.
  • Depth: Feet should be behind the bar, so you are leaning into it (The bar will arc outwards so you need space to sit back). As a general rule of thumb, if you’re on the taller side, you need to start further back, particularly if you have long femurs. If you’re on the shorter side, you’re going to be better off a little closer.
  • Stance: You can play around with width and toes either straight forward or slightly turned out. Start with feet just outside shoulders and toes slightly turned out. Then experiment with minor adjustments to find the perfect stance for you.




Treat this exercise like any other compound lift. Because of the SMART and SAFE set up that allows for heavier loading, the Landmine squat can be performed for either strength or hypertrophy set/rep schemes. It’s very versatile. Here are a few ideas:


4×4-6 reps. (2.5-3 minutes between sets)

Hypertrophy (Option 1)

3×8-10 reps (90 seconds – 2 minutes between sets)

Hypertrophy (Option 2)

Think of this as a last exercise ‘finisher’ to induce a sickening / delightful pump and sky rocket your heart rate! 😂 

3×15 (45 second rest between sets)


Wrapping Up


Training through pain or discomfort is never a good idea. You won’t make progress and you’ll be doing your body more harm than good. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon squats completely. Landmine Squats are an incredibly joint friendly alternative to the barbell back squat. It’s easy on the knees and the low back. And it can be loaded heavy if you follow the protocol outlined in the video. Give it a try. Load it up and go and make some pain-free gains 💪

3 thoughts on “Squat without knee and low back pain
  1. Keith Thomas

    Very well explained and illustrated.
    Unfortunately, most gyms don’t have a secure mount for the other end of the bar.
    I would add that if you experience back or hamstring pain, not only should you not press on through it. In some cases, especially sudden hamstring discomfort (especially on the way down), stop immediately. The next lift, should you do it, could leave you in pain for a week. But don’t just ease off, make an urgent appointment with a sports masseur who uses trigger point release. Book a one-hour appointment, not a half hour one.

    July 1, 2019 Reply
  2. Rinto Cyriac

    Thank you for the new method. Will definitely be trying this out.

    July 1, 2019 Reply
  3. Terry Johnson

    I am a 58 year old female. I have had shoulder pain and low back
    Pain for years. I purchased your workout and since following you on Instagram for several months and now using your workout (I am on week 4) I have noticed less pain and have realized how bad my form was before. You are amazing! Great tips and a great tutorial. I only wish I had found you sooner! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!!!

    July 1, 2019 Reply
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.