The Barbell Squat and Deadlift Alternative

If we've learned anything from our time in quarantine when the gyms were closed, we've learned that we can do without a gym. We can exercise to get stronger and fit in our living rooms, backyards, or garages without machines or even dumbbells.

We can use bodyweight exercises and something simple like a medicine ball for a great workout.

The medicine ball clean and squats are powerful and athletic movements that you can use in place of single barbell movements like deadlifts and squats.

Why does the medicine ball clean and squat?

This exercise saves time by linking some basic compound lifts that you normally do separately into one smooth motion.

This is a handy way to train your general condition and develop strength and ability to exercise.

This is a result of the dexterity you develop as you move through the cleaning and squatting repeatedly.

Grabbing and moving a heavy object that is not easy to grasp can quickly stabilize your trunk. You don't always train this with traditional barbell lifts.

You can learn this pretty quickly and easily with this exercise if you understand the basics of balance, stability, and movement. And if you don't, check out my course.

Doing a similar move with a barbell takes more skill and a lot more time.

But with the clean and squat med-ball, you can build full body strength, improve endurance, and practice two basic compound movements.

Who could use this?

It's a good choice for::

  • Anyone who still can't go to the gym
  • Someone who prefers to exercise at home
  • Someone who doesn't have room for a barbell and rack like you need to do would be doing squats.
  • Anyone who doesn't want to worry about what type of surface they're training on.

Even the heaviest medicine balls won't do much damage to a floor if you drop them.

Medicine balls are sold in many sizes and weights. You can start fairly easily and buy heavier ones over time, so you can slowly but steadily progress as you would with a barbell if you added more plates.

They're also great alternatives for anyone who doesn't like the idea of ​​lifting a barbell. Dumbbells don't go well with some.

Some have an exercise practice that doesn't quite fit barbell lifts, and there's really nothing wrong with that.

You can still do resistance exercises. Resistance doesn't mean barbells or dumbbells. We need to remember what we really do with barbell lifts.

It's a charged movement and it doesn't matter where or what the load is.

You may be more comfortable with the idea of ​​pressing a heavy medicine ball close to your chest than balancing a bar on your shoulders. It may seem more intuitive to you.

And that's fine, because exercises like this can do just as much good for you, maybe even more.

Target muscles

I call this exercise neat and stocky to draw attention to the two separate movements.

This exercise actually trains three different movement patterns::

  1. Deadlift or Hip Joint Pattern – We need control and strength in our hips and hamstrings to pivot, support, and lift the ball.
  2. Fast upper body scoop or rowing – We need a strong grip and supportive back muscles to lift and pull our body close to it, an object that is difficult to hold.
  3. A squat pattern – To clear the ball off the floor at chest level, we train a quick athletic movement of the upper body.

This means that we create coordination in our body and develop the timing.

We also train our core muscles in ways that a barbell or dumbbell often cannot.

When you hug something near your body and prevent your upper back from curving forward, you need to fully engage your core and build stability and strength.

How to Clean and Squat a Med Ball

Place the medicine ball on the floor between your feet a little closer to your toes than to your heels.

Make sure your feet are wide enough to squat without your elbows touching your knees.

Stick to keeping your back flat like you would on a deadlift.

You need to drop your hips a little lower than a traditional barbell deadlift so that your hips don't shoot up and your chest can fall on the clean side.

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  • Breathe, hold on, grab and walk. When you are crouching with the ball in your hands, first bend your elbows and use your upper back to pull the ball close to your hips.

  • If you continue to stand, shrug your shoulders and shoot up with your elbows. Hold the ball close enough that you can feel it lightly brush against your body.

  • Take a break at the top before you crouch to make sure your elbows are high, balance, and support.

Complete the squat and focus on keeping your elbows high and making sure they fit between your knees at the bottom of the squat. Drop the ball if you can or crouch down and lower it in a controlled manner.


There are several reasons you might want to make changes.

  1. You may not have the mobility to get into a good position and pick the ball off the floor. It's lower than a loaded barbell. If you have problems there, put the ball on a small box or something similar to increase the height of the starting position.
  2. You might want to train your hip muscles a little more. If so, you can do the exercise from the slope. With your arms straight, lift the ball up, then pivot it across the floor and float it above the floor before cleaning.

Keep it smooth

A heavy medicine ball can be difficult to move. It's oddly shaped and difficult to grasp. Hence, it is important to keep the movement fluid so that it doesn't get injured. After grabbing the ball, make sure you keep your back in a good position and drive it up with your legs.

The closer you hold the ball to your body, the more efficient the exercise will be.

Too much space between your body and the ball and you will catch it in a poor position, putting unnecessary strain on your back.

For the more experienced lifter

If you've done quick dynamic exercises like this before, try doing a full cleanse instead of separating the movement.

You may want to do the exercise this way at first, but really should consider this to be progress if you have never practiced any other load-bearing movements like this.

We want to separate the two movements on the first practice, as it is important that we are balanced and tense before crouching with the ball at chest level.

It's not easy to release the tension in your body first, just enough to jerk a ball up explosively and then immediately stiffen under its weight to return to the crouch.

But when you're ready, try the heaviest medicine ball you can find.

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