Giants Super Bowl champion Steve Weatherford said he swapped squats for lunges during his NFL career to build a strong lower body without back pain

Giants Super Bowl champion Steve Weatherford said he swapped squats for lunges during his NFL career to build a strong lower body without back pain
Steve Weatherford.Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
  • Steve Weatherford was once regarded as one of the NFL's fittest players.
  • The former punter said he cut squats from his training routine during his career to avoid back pain.

The former NFL punter Steve Weatherford said he used to squat to build leg muscle and improve the power behind his punts, but he switched to lunges later in his career after he started experiencing back pain.

Weatherford punted in the NFL from 2006 to 2015 and helped the New York Giants win Super Bowl XLVI after the 2011 season. He was also twice named the league's fittest man by Muscle and Fitness magazine in 2013 and 2014.

Weatherford now runs a wellness agency, Weatherford Fit, where he advises clients about how to get in shape. He said squats used to be a big part of his workout regime, but he stopped doing them in 2010 because of the strain it put on his lower back.

"I noticed it was doing more harm than good," Weatherford told Insider. "I got a little bit of arthritis and disk compression."

"If you're that guy that's putting wear and tear on his body by squatting 500 pounds like I did for a lot of years, you're going to have more disk compression," he added.


Weatherford is training to run a 100-mile ultramarathon in Neville, Texas, in December, and now only does machine-assisted squats.

Weatherford used only lunges to build lower-body strength for years

Weatherford said he used lunges and different lunge variations for his lower-body workout routine after ditching squats.

"If I went to prison and had no weight room, then I'd still have strong legs, and all I would have to do is lunges," Weatherford said. "It hits every portion of your legs. I'm an athlete. I don't just train to have healthy legs and to have legs that look good. I'm trying to run a hundred miles!"

Celebrity trainer Mike Boyle, who trains football players at the high school, college, and professional level, said he instructs his clients to use lunges as their primary lower-body workout because they offer the same physical benefits as squats without the strain and injury risk.

John Madsen, a former NFL player who now works as a trainer, previously told Insider that he would advise players to avoid squats during the football season to avoid adding unnecessary stress, strain, and pain to their bodies.


Johnny Hekker, a Los Angeles Rams punter, said he doesn't do many squats during the football season either, instead focusing on lower-impact workouts like lunges.

One lunge method Boyle recommends is the rear-foot elevated split squat, also known as a Bulgarian lunge. It involves holding two weights with your hands, putting one foot on a bench behind you while keeping your other foot on the ground, and lunging up and down.

Another variation Boyle suggests is resistance-band split squats, which require you to hold one end of a resistance band down with your foot while holding the other side at chest height. You then lunge in a similar motion to the rear-foot elevated split squat until your back knee touches the ground.

Weatherford said that in the past year he also started using a workout device called the OxeFit XS1 to do simulated squats that don't require a barbell. The device has a belt that is tied to the ground with adjustable resistance, so Weatherford and other users can use it to do squat motions without the strain of a barbell pressing down on their backs.

"I can simulate back squatting 315 pounds, which I haven't done in 10 years because I've had stem-cell injections in my back," Weatherford said. "But because you're able to put the weight of the load on your hips and not on your shoulders — so you get none, like literally zero, of the spinal decompression, but you get 100% of the muscle activation."