The Spanish squat is a great squat variation for putting more emphasis on your quads and less strain on your knees.
It’s used in a lot of rehab settings for knee injuries – I’ve given it to many patients in the clinic over the years!
As to why it’s called “Spanish” squats… please enlighten me in the comments if you know.
I’ll show you exactly how to do the Spanish squat, give you some tips and tricks for it, talk about why and when you should do it, and more!
How To PROPERLY Perform The Spanish Squat
First off, you need a strong enough resistance band that’s able to hold your weight.
Using a band that’s too light and thin is going to make it really hard for you to lean back and keep your shins upright – and a good way to fall over and bruise your tailbone!
You can also use a stiffer strap if that’s more comfortable for you – but I recommend the band because it moves better with your leg.
Attach one end of the band to something sturdy at about knee height – make sure it’s on tight, you don’t want this thing whipping back at you!
Wrap it around your legs, right below your knees – in your “knee pits.”
Take a couple steps back so there’s solid tension on the band.
Now squat down, but try to keep your shins upright without bending at the ankles too much.
Each rep should be slow and controlled, hitting as much depth as you comfortably can – try to avoid bouncing out of the bottom position!
Spanish Squat Sets & Reps
This really depends on your goals.
If you’re doing Spanish squats to rehab an injury, you should talk to a Physical Therapist to guide you through a progressive program.
But, if you’re a rebel and going to do them without any help, try doing them for 5-12 reps – listen to when your pain hits a 3-4/10 and stop there!
This will make sure that you don’t push your injury to the point where you’re aggravating things…
Do 1-4 sets of this, and keep an eye on how things are feeling in the next couple of hours – if the pain increases and doesn’t go away, you’ve done too many reps and sets!
Simply cut back a little bit and try again once the pain eases.
If you’re doing it for general knee health or hypertrophy, try 2-4 sets of 8-15 reps – slow and controlled reps!
What Weight To Use For Spanish Squats?
Spanish squats are deceiving – your quads are going to be on fire here more than with regular squats, so you likely won’t load it super heavy right aways!
Once you can do about 10 comfortable bodyweight reps, load it similarly to goblet squats – hold a dumbbell/kettlebell in front of you, or even a barbell in the front rack position.
Load it with enough weight so that you can do about 8-15 reps – this can vary widely between people, so start light to feel it out!
Benefits Of Spanish Squats – Why Do ‘Em?
Spanish squats are really good for three main reasons.
- Rehabilitation – You have a knee or quad injury (like jumper’s knee) and want to treat it.
- Pro-Active Training – You want to BULLETPROOF your knees and strengthen the patellar and quadriceps tendons to avoid injuries from happening!
- Hypertrophy – You want to hit the quad muscles in a more isolated way while squatting to make some gains!
Let’s dig a bit deeper into those…
Spanish Squats Help With Knee Injuries
Now this depends a little on what type of injury you have and how severe it is (which is why I recommend you see a Physical Therapist), but it’s a popular exercise in the rehab world for good reason.
Regular squatting puts more pressure on the knee – which isn’t a bad thing, but can cause pain when you’re dealing with an injury there.
Spanish squats take a lot of that pressure away, and refocus it to your quads.
This way, you can start practicing squatting and building strength in your quads and tendons so that they can recover and heal!
It’s a great way to rush blood into the knee and its surrounding tendons/muscles as well, which improves healing further.
Spanish Squats Help You Avoid Future Injuries
Spanish squats are like putting on protective gear before stepping on the field – they give a layer of protection from injuries.
Healthy knees stay healthy until they meet a force or stress that they can’t handle…
Spanish squats prepare your knees to handle that force when it comes along, building strength through the quads and tendons.
This way, you’re getting AHEAD of the injury and covering your bases, making sure you’re prepared to deal with whatever comes your way!
Spanish Squats Isolate The Quads For Muscle Building
Spanish squats do a good job of really focusing the weight to your quads.
The way your body mechanics work with Spanish squats allow you focus on knee flexion and extension while keeping your upper body more upright than with normal squats.
That’ll do a better job of isolating your quads, making it a good exercise to really make those muscles burn!
Plus, you’ll find that your quads are constantly engaged and don’t “turn off” during your sets, giving them more time under tension for bigger gains!
Lower Tension On Your Back Than Regular Squats
Here’s a bonus benefit: Spanish squats don’t put as much strain on your lower back than regular squats do, which is something you can take advantage of if you’re dealing with back pain but want to keep squatting!
Spanish Squats Drawbacks
The main drawback to Spanish squats is that you can’t really do them if you don’t have a thick/taut enough band or a solid object to anchor it to.
It also requires more stability than a regular barbell squat, making it hard to push heavier weight on it as easily.
Spanish Squats Alternatives
You may want to hit your quads even harder, or dial it back a bit.
Either way, here are two great Spanish squat alternatives!
Spanish Squat vs. Sissy Squat
You may have been doing Spanish squats and thought it’s time to step things up a notch…
Enter the sissy squat.
Most people look at someone doing this exercise and wonder how that person’s knees aren’t getting blown off.
It used to get a bad rap because of how much apparent pressure is going through your knees, but the truth is it’s not bad for you!
In fact, the sissy squat is a great next step for you knee-health journey once you graduate from Spanish squats.
They prepare your knees in some crazy ranges of motion, which is really important in building strong joints, tendons, and muscles.
Of course, make sure you’re slowly building up to these and don’t jump into a full sissy squat without any preparation – that’s a good way to get injured with anything!
Plus, you get an insane quad pump with these – it’s kind of like a standing leg extension machine!
Spanish Squat vs. Spanish Lunge
The Spanish lunge is exactly like the Spanish squat, except a lunge (who would’ve thought).
This can be a really good exercise if you need to regress the Spanish squat, or if you want/need to focus on just one knee due to injury and pain.
It’s done quite similarly, except only your front foot has the band around it while your back foot is “free.”
Spanish Squats – Muscles Worked
Spanish squats go heavy on your quadriceps.
They provide constant tension throughout the rep, really making you work hard!
You’ll also activate the glutes and hamstrings because you’re straightening at the hip, and also feel it in the calves as they’re trying to stabilize.
But you should mainly be feeling the fire in your quad muscles – embrace the burn!
What’s The Verdict?
Spanish squats are awesome for anyone trying to rehab a knee injury or wanting to squat when they have knee pain with regular squats.
They’re also a great way to put more emphasis on the quads, activating them more and encouraging them to grow!
Definitely try them out at your next leg day and feel the difference – just get ready to be sore the next day!