Pendulum Squat: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

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The pendulum squat is highly underrated, with many people choosing to go with its more popular cousins like the traditional back squat or front squat. 

However, the pendulum squat offers a ton of benefits, many of which might just give it an advantage over other squat variations.  

Let’s get right into it and take a look at how to perform the pendulum squat, the benefits that come from the pendulum squat, and some expert tips to help you along the way.  

Pendulum Squat: Overview 

What Is The Pendulum Squat 

The pendulum squat is a compound exercise performed on a specially designed machine. Unlike traditional squats that use free weights or barbells, the pendulum squat machine incorporates a sliding movement pattern.  

As you lower yourself into a squat, the machine’s design helps maintain a more upright torso position and guides the motion to follow a natural arc. This unique setup allows for a controlled and targeted leg workout. 

Pendulum Squat: Muscles Worked 

The main pendulum squat muscles worked are the quadriceps, glutes, and calves.  

As you descend into the squat, these muscles work together to support your body and generate the necessary force for the movement. 

Additionally, the core muscles play a stabilizing role, contributing to overall strength and balance during the exercise. 

How To Do The Pendulum Squat 

Step 1: Adjust the Pendulum Squat Machine 

Start by adjusting the seat height and footplate position of the pendulum squat machine to ensure a comfortable and proper alignment for your body. 

Step 2: Load the Pendulum Squat Machine 

Add weight plates to the machine’s weight stack according to your desired intensity level. 

Step 3: Set Up on the Pendulum Squat Machine 

Position yourself on the machine with your back against the pad, shoulders underneath the shoulder pads, and feet on the footplate, about shoulder-width apart. 

Step 4: Stand Up To Disengage the Stopper 

Engage your core and legs as you push against the footplate, lifting yourself up to disengage the safety stopper. 

Step 5: Perform Your Reps 

Bend your knees and hips simultaneously to lower yourself into a squat position, aiming for a comfortable range of motion.  

Keep your torso upright and maintain control throughout the movement. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. 

Step 6: Re-Engage the Stopper and Exit the Machine 

Once you’ve completed your desired number of repetitions, carefully re-engage the safety stopper, and then exit the machine by stepping off the footplate. 

Pendulum Squat Benefits 

It Can Grow Your Legs 

By targeting the quadriceps, glutes, and calves, the pendulum squat provides a challenging stimulus for muscle growth and strength development. 

It Can Strengthen Your Legs 

The controlled and guided motion of the pendulum squat allows for targeted muscle activation, helping you build strength in your lower body. 

It’s Easy on Your Back 

The machine’s design and mechanics place less stress on your lower back compared to traditional free weight squats, making it a suitable option for individuals with back issues. 

It Feels Natural 

The pendulum squat’s movement pattern closely mimics the body’s natural squatting motion, offering a more comfortable and ergonomic exercise experience. 

It Offers Variety 

Incorporating the pendulum squat into your training routine adds variety and helps break plateaus by introducing a new stimulus to your leg muscles. 

It’s Easy to Learn 

Unlike barbell squats that require mastering technique and balance, the pendulum squat is relatively easier to learn, making it accessible for beginners or those new to squatting exercises. 

It’s Safer 

The guided motion of the machine and the presence of safety stoppers minimize the risk of injury and provide added security during the exercise. 

It Doesn’t Need a Spotter 

Unlike barbell squats, the pendulum squat machine eliminates the need for a spotter since the weight is controlled by the machine’s mechanics. 

It Matches Your Strength Curve 

The pendulum squat machine is designed to match the natural strength curve of your legs, allowing for optimal muscle engagement throughout the entire range of motion. 

Drawbacks of the Pendulum Squat 

It’s an Uncommon Machine 

The pendulum squat machine may not be as readily available in all gyms, limiting access for some individuals. 

It’s Hard to Lift a Lot 

Compared to barbell squats, it can be challenging to lift extremely heavy loads on the pendulum squat machine, which may be a drawback for advanced lifters focusing on maximal strength. 

It Barely Works Your Core 

While the pendulum squat engages the core muscles to some extent for stability, it doesn’t provide the same level of core activation as free weight squats or other compound exercises. 

It Doesn’t Target Your Stabilizers 

The machine-guided movement of the pendulum squat reduces the need for stabilizing muscles, which may limit their development compared to free weight exercises. 

It Has Limited Carry-Over to the Barbell Back Squat 

Although the pendulum squat can improve leg strength and muscle growth, the movement pattern and mechanics differ from the barbell back squat, potentially limiting its direct transfer to that exercise. 

It Neglects Your Hamstrings 

While the quadriceps and glutes are the primary muscles targeted, the hamstrings receive less direct stimulation during the pendulum squat, necessitating additional exercises to target this muscle group effectively. 

Pendulum Squat: Common Mistakes 

Not Adjusting the Machine 

One common mistake is neglecting to properly adjust the pendulum squat machine to fit your body.  

Ensure that the seat height and footplate position are set correctly to maintain proper alignment and maximize comfort during the exercise. Failing to make these adjustments may compromise your form and limit the effectiveness of the workout.  

Loading Too Much Weight 

Another mistake to avoid is loading the machine with too much weight. While it’s important to challenge yourself, attempting to lift more than you can handle can lead to compromised form and increased risk of injury.  

Start with a manageable weight, such as a pendulum squat dumbbell, and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable with the exercise. 

Not Practicing How to Bail 

Learning how to bail safely is crucial when performing any exercise, including the pendulum squat.  

Unfortunately, some individuals neglect this aspect. It’s important to practice and be familiar with the process of safely disengaging from the machine in case you need to bail out of a rep.  

This ensures your safety and prevents potential accidents or injuries. 

Not Squatting Low 

Proper depth is key to reaping the full benefits of the pendulum squat. Failing to squat low enough reduces the activation of the target muscles and limits the effectiveness of the exercise.  

Make sure to lower yourself to a depth where your thighs are parallel to the ground or even slightly below, while maintaining good form and control throughout the movement. 

Who Should Do a Pendulum Squat? 

Lifters Just Starting Out 

For beginners who are new to resistance training, the pendulum squat offers a controlled and guided movement that helps develop proper squat mechanics.  

It allows beginners to focus on technique and build a foundation of lower body strength before progressing to more advanced exercises. 

Lifters With Back Issues 

Individuals with back issues, such as previous injuries or chronic pain, may find the pendulum squat to be a viable alternative to traditional free weight squats.  

The machine’s design and mechanics provide additional support and reduce the load on the lower back, making it a safer option for those with back concerns. 

Lifters Wanting to Grow Their Legs 

If your primary goal is leg growth, the pendulum squat can be an excellent addition to your training routine.  

By targeting the quadriceps, glutes, and calves, this exercise offers a focused stimulus for muscular development in the lower body. 

Lifters Wanting a Break From Barbells 

Sometimes, it’s beneficial to introduce variety into your training routine. If you’ve been primarily using barbell squats, incorporating the pendulum squat can provide a refreshing change of pace while still targeting your leg muscles effectively. 

Lifters Healing From a Back Squat Injury 

For individuals recovering from a back squat injury, the pendulum squat can serve as a transitional exercise. Its guided motion and reduced stress on the lower back can help rebuild strength and confidence without exacerbating the injury. 

Tips for Performing the Pendulum Squat 

Experiment With Different Foot Positions 

Explore various foot positions, such as wider or narrower stances, to find the one that feels most comfortable and targets your desired muscles effectively.  

Everyone’s anatomy and biomechanics are different, so finding your optimal foot position can make a significant difference in your squatting experience. 

Try Heeled and Flat Shoes 

Experimenting with different types of footwear, such as heeled lifting shoes or flat-soled shoes, can influence your squat mechanics.  

Some individuals find that a slight heel lift helps with ankle mobility and depth, while others prefer the stability and ground contact provided by flat shoes. Test both options to see which works best for you. 

Ditch the Lifting Belt 

While a lifting belt can provide stability and support during heavy lifting, it’s not necessary for the pendulum squat.  

This exercise relies more on controlled form and technique rather than maximal loads.  

Removing the belt allows your core muscles to engage more naturally, promoting better overall stability and strength development. 

Do Sets of 6-12 Reps 

To optimize muscular hypertrophy and strength gains, perform your pendulum squat sets in the 6-12 rep range. This range is ideal for stimulating muscle growth while maintaining proper form and technique throughout each repetition. 

How To Program Pendulum Squat 

When incorporating the pendulum squat into your training program, consider the following guidelines: 

Frequency: Perform the pendulum squat 1-3 times per week, depending on your overall training volume and recovery capacity. 

Sets and Reps: Aim for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps, adjusting the weight accordingly to maintain proper form and intensity. 

Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the resistance or weight used over time to continually challenge your muscles and promote strength gains. 

Rest: Allow 1-3 minutes of rest between sets to recover adequately and maintain performance throughout your workout. 

For more help with pendulum squat programming, you could always go over to the pendulum squat reddit to see what training programs other people are using.  

3 Alternatives to the Pendulum Squat 

V-Squat Machine 

Similar to the pendulum squat, the V-squat machine provides a guided squatting motion that targets the leg muscles effectively while reducing stress on the lower back. 

Hack Squat Machine 

The hack squat machine offers a different movement pattern that places more emphasis on the quadriceps.  

It’s a suitable alternative for those who want to vary their leg training routine, and the pendulum squat vs hack squat debate is one that rages strong.  

Smith Machine Squat 

The Smith machine squat allows for controlled and guided squats with adjustable safety stoppers. It provides stability and can be an option for lifters who prefer the guided movement of the machine. 

Pendulum Squat – FAQs 


What Are Pendulum Squats Good For? 

Pendulum squats are good for gaining leg strength and size while also being easy to learn and easy on the joints.  

Is Pendulum Squat Better Than Normal Squat? 

For some people, the pendulum squat is better than the normal squat. 

The pendulum squat is much easier on the joints and back whilst still providing similar muscle and strength growth.  

What Is The Difference Between A Hack Squat And Pendulum Squat? 

The difference between a hack squat and a pendulum is range of motion.  

A hack squat mimics a regular squat motion, while a pendulum squat has a pendulum-like range-of-motion due to the counterweight. 

Where Can I Get a Pendulum Squat Machine?  

A simple search on Google for “pendulum squat for sale” will come up with a variety of buying options that you can choose from. 

However, it is worth mentioning that pendulum squat price can be quite substantial, so be prepared to pay a small fortune if you want to get your very own pendulum squat machine.  

Alternatively, you can do the pendulum squat without machine if you are not willing to pay such a high price.  

How Low Should Pendulum Squats Go? 

You should go as low as you can while still keeping your glutes and hips on the pad.  

Is The Pendulum Squat Safer Than Barbell Squats?  

Yes, the pendulum squat is safer than barbell squats.  

The pendulum squat puts less stress on your joints and back and is easier to bail on if you fail to lift a weight.  

Is The Pendulum Squat as Effective as Other Squat Variations? 

Yes, the pendulum squat is as effective as other squat variations.  

It is a great overall leg builder.  

We hope we have been able to give you a better insight into the pendulum squat. 

While it might not be as popular as some other squat variations, its numerous benefits make it a great fit for almost any workout program. 

For more fitness advice, don’t be afraid to head over to MovingForwards

See you next time.