If you’re older, you may have trouble doing free-bar squats. Many over-40 trainees get pain in the knees, hips and/or lower back due to their trying to maintain good form with heavy weight. There is a solution—and you can still squat.
It starts with leg extensions and a preexhaustion effect. You can either do them as straight sets first—say, four sets of 12 to 20 reps—and then move to squats, or you can do preex supersets, going immediately to squats after every set of extensions.
Either modified preexhaust—the straight-set version—or the preex supersets will prefatigue your quads for squats, and you’ll be forced to use less weight. As a result your lower back will be able to keep your torso upright for perfect form, and your quads will be on fire.
Even better, do front squats before your back squats. Coach Charles Poliquin recommended that in his October ’12 Smart Training column. Do five reps on the front squat, and then immediately do five to eight reps on the back squat with the same weight. You can do straight sets of leg extensions before this front-to-back attack or do tri-sets: leg extensions to front squats to back squats.