Perform The Spanish Squat Exercise For Stronger Quads

Spanish squats are one of the more unusual exercises that you probably don’t see being performed that often.  

That’s usually because it’s carried out in a rehab environment under the supervision of a physical therapist to help with knee injuries like patella tendinopathy. 

But, when the Spanish squat exercise is executed with proper form, it can be a great way of developing strength in your quads while minimizing stress on the knee joint.  


Recommended Reading – 9 Goblet Squat Alternatives To Transform Your Quads


In this article we’ll be covering everything to do with Spanish squats and why you may want to consider incorporating this effective exercise into your leg day training. 

What Is The Spanish Squat Exercise

The Spanish squat, sometimes called the Basas Spanish squat, is a bit like a cross between a regular squat exercise and a wall squat (or wall sit).  

It involves placing an anchored resistance band around the back of your knees so that you can sit back into a squat position to maintain an upright torso and vertical shin.   

spanish-squat-exercise

The mechanics of the Spanish squat exercise are quite different when compared to doing an air squat or any other typical squat variation. 

With regular squat fundamentals, the torso leans forward slightly as you descend downwards into a squat position while the knees track ahead of the toes. What’s more, the longer the femur (thigh bone), the greater that forward lean is.  

This can cause the low back to round and put additional strain on the knees, which puts you at a greater risk of injury.  

On the other hand, the Spanish squat involves squatting down but also back with your overall balance being supported by the band which is around the back of your legs.  

Take a look at the image below.  You’ll notice that when doing a wall sit the angles of the hips, knees, and ankles remain at a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground.

This is the exact same body position you should be adopting when at the bottom of a Spanish squat exercise.  

When you compare this to the air squat, the angle of the joints is significantly reduced.  And, the deeper the squat, the smaller the angle becomes.    

air-squat-wall-sit

The key difference between a wall sit and a Spanish squat is how you maintain your balance.   During a wall sit, your back is supported by a wall.  

Conversely, when doing a Spanish squat the resistance of the band in front of you holds you in position as you sit back into the squat.  

While Spanish squats aren’t considered a particularly easy exercise, they can put less stress on the joints making it a good option if you have any pre-existing tendon injuries or if you lack ankle and hip mobility.  

What Muscles Do Spanish Squats Target

Spanish squats elicit greater muscle activation to the quads, which are recruited to a significant degree to help you maintain balance.  

They contract hard in the bottom position of the exercise to hold your body weight in a seated position against the resistance of the band.  

quadriceps-muscle-group

While Spanish squats can be done for repetitions, you can also perform them as an isometric exercise.  

This means once you’ve descended back into the squat, and the back of your thighs are parallel to the floor, you simply hold this position for a set period of time.  

The sustained effort of maintaining this stance increases time under tension, which enhances both the strength and endurance of your quads.  

As well as your quadriceps, there will be secondary activation from other lower body muscles, specifically your gluteus maximus (your largest butt muscle) and hamstrings which work to help with pelvic stability and alignment.  

You’ll also be engaging your core muscles which kick in to help you keep that upright torso position.  

What Are The Benefits Of The Spanish Squat Exercise 

Spanish squats can be a good exercise to do for several reasons, let’s look at these below:

  1. You can perform Spanish squats with very little equipment making them a good home exercise. 
  2. When done properly, they can reduce stress on your knees and ankles when compared to other squat variations. 
  3. Spanish squats can significantly increase strength and endurance to your quadriceps. 
  4. As your hamstrings and glutes are activated, this can help to improve hip mobility.  
  5. If you do them often, Spanish squats can also help to improve your posture and core strength.  
  6. They help to relieve conditions such as patellar tendinopathy.  

We’re pretty sure we’ve convinced you to give the Spanish squat a try, so keep reading to learn how to do this exercise properly while avoiding common mistakes.  

How To Set Up & Do The Spanish Squat

Below you’ll find clear step-by-step instructions on how to properly execute the Spanish squat.  Get yourself a booty band, these are the closed-loop style resistance bands that are quite wide in design.  

basas-spanish-squat
  1. Start off by anchoring your band to a stable support.  If you’re in the gym, this could be a power rack or if you’re training at home, something like a table leg would work just as well.  Just make sure it’s stable! Position the band to knee height.  
  2. Step inside the band with both feet so it’s just below the knee joint and at the top of your calf muscle. 
  3. Take a couple of steps back to create tension in the band.  This is important as, without enough tension, you could lose balance and fall.  
  4. Make sure that your feet are around hip-width apart with your toes pointing forward. 
  5. From here, slowly sit back as though you’re about to sit in a chair.  
  6. To help with balance, you could try extending your arms straight out in front of you.  
  7. Once you’re hips and knees are roughly 90 degrees, pause briefly before pushing through your heels back to a standing position. 

You should feel your quads working hard to maintain this sitting position.  If not, double-check your form.  

Remember, the Spanish squat exercise is about quad emphasis so ensure that your torso is upright, thighs parallel to the floor and shins almost vertical at the bottom of the exercise.  

If you’re lucky enough to have super strong quads already, you can make the exercise more challenging by holding a kettlebell at chest height.  

Alternatively, give the isometric Spanish squat a try and hold the squat for at least 30 to 60 seconds until you feel your quads burn!

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