Two of the most popular (or dreaded, depending on the perspective) exercises in the iron game are the squat and the deadlift. They make up two of the big three lifts in powerlifting and are staples for developing the lower body. But there’s more than one way to build bulging quads and rock-hard hamstrings for all to covet.
Below, you’ll find 10 athletes who created lower-body exercises that were so effective that the moves were named in their honor.
- Anderson Squat
- Hack Squat
- Hatfield Squat
- Zercher Squat
- Steinborn Squat
- Dorian Deadlift
- Jefferson Deadlift
- Dimel Deadlift
- Reeves Deadlift
- Van Dam Lift
Paul Anderson is considered one of the strongest humans in history. He was on record for a 199.5-kilogram (440-pound) clean and jerk and a 420-kilogram (926-pound) squat. He also hit several unofficial marks, including a 2,840-kilogram (6,270-pound) backlift. And to get his legs to be more explosive, Anderson would often train by starting his squats from the bottom position.
This technique became known as the Anderson squat — but today, you might know it as pin squats. If you want to work on sticking points at the bottom of your squat or just need to grow bigger legs, this variation could do the trick.
How to Do the Anderson Squat
Set a barbell up on a rack so that it’s around the same height as the bottom of your squat. Then, crouch under the bar and get into a proper squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
From there, drive the weight up, pause at the top, and lower down slowly into the starting position at the bottom, securing the bar on the pins at the end.
This one is — but maybe isn’t — named in honor of George Hackenschmidt. The Estonian strongman accomplished a lot in his 90 years, including being recognized as the first Heavyweight Champion of the World in professional wrestling. And remember, this was back when it was a real contest of athleticism and not showbiz.
More importantly for the fitness world, Hackenschmidt is credited for inventing both the bench press and the hack squat, which is essentially a deadlift with the barbell is held behind the lifter. While some sources (1) remain steadfast that the move was named after him, others say it actually comes from the word hacke, which is German for “heel.” This is in reference to where the bar is positioned at the start of the lift.
Whatever the true story may be, Hackenschmidt does get credit for inventing the lift. There appears to be no direct connection between the former strongman and the machine version of the hack squat, though.
How to Do the Hack Squat
Approach a barbell on the floor like a regular deadlift, but do it on the opposite side so the backs of your calves are almost touching the bar. Then, pull your shoulders back and sit down in a squat over the bar.
Once in the squat, grab the bar with an overhand grip and drive the weight up. Lower the bar back down to the floor like a deadlift to finish the rep.
The first man to squat over 1,000 pounds in powerlifting was the late, great Dr. Fred Hatfield. The man known as “Dr. Squat” was a two-time International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Champion and gets credit for inventing his own version of the exercise.
For the Hatfield squat, he would use a safety bar and hold on to the sides of a power rack instead of the bar’s handles for stability. Stabilizing against a rack allows the lifter to lift more weight since they’re focusing less on balance and position and more on pure power.
The Hatfield Squat isn’t as popular as some other versions today, but it’s still effective for improving leg strength and overall stability. In March 2022, Gabriel Peña performed a triple of Hatfield squats with 600 pounds.
How to Do the Hatfield Squat
To do the Hatfield squat, load up a safety bar as you would for normal squats. But instead of holding on to the handles of the safety bar during your reps, hold on to the sides of the squat rack (or any other hand support that’s waist high) for stability.
Once you have a comfortable handle, squat down with the weight and drive it back up. Your foot position and depth will be the same as on your regular squat. Remember: Before you try this move, make sure you’re comfortable doing standard squats using a safety bar.
You don’t need to load weight on your shoulders to do an effective squat. As strongman and powerlifter Ed Zercher found out, you can train the legs effectively while holding the weight in front of you (2).
The Zercher squat requires you to hold the weight in the folds of your elbows, forcing you to stay upright and keep your back from rounding over. While Zercher used it for strength, bodybuilders can see greater quad and glute development by adding it to their routines. If you want to make it more challenging, pause at the bottom of the lift.
How to Do Zercher Squats
Remove the barbell from a power rack by placing it in the crooks of your elbows and walking it out. Make sure your feet are in a normal squat stance, keeping in mind that your elbows will rest inside the knees when you get to the bottom.
Keep your torso upright and squat as low as possible, avoiding contact between your elbows and knees. Once at the bottom of the lift, drive the weight back up.
Henry “Milo” Steinborn’s strength was world-renowned in the early 20th century. Though he weighed just around 210 pounds, he could squat 250 kilograms (553 pounds) without the convenience of a rack to lift off from. He would simply stand the weighted barbell on one end, position himself to transfer the bar to his shoulders, then stand upright with the weight.
It’s unclear if he invented the move, but it became known as the Steinborn squat, and it’s more of an exhibition lift today. In 2019, World’s Strongest Man champ Martins Licis performed the move with 257 kilograms (565 pounds) for a new world record.
How to Do the Steinborn Squat
Stand at the end of a barbell and squat down, grabbing one end. Then, stand the barbell up so it’s almost vertical. From there, take your bottom hand and grab the bar in the same spot that you would for a back squat. Squat down and get your lead foot close to the weight plates on the ground.
When your feet and hands are secured, pull the barbell down onto your body and sit into a deep squat. Once the weight is squarely on your shoulders in the squat position, drive it up like you would in a normal squat. Go light and make sure you’re using sturdy weight clips for this move.
The deadlift is a favorite of countless athletes because of the way it helps develop strength and thickness in the back and legs — but six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates found a different way to use this classic move.
When Yates lowered the weight on his deadlift, he would stop short of touching the floor to keep tension on the upper and lower back. This version became known as the Dorian deadlift, and it’s invaluable if you need to improve sticking points in your traditional deadlift.
How to Do the Dorian Deadlift
The Dorian deadlift is basically the same as your normal deadlift; however, instead of bringing the weight all the way to the floor, lower it just past your knees before driving back up. This puts more of an emphasis on the back throughout.
The Jefferson deadlift, also known as the Jefferson squat, helps build asymmetrical and anti-rotational strength while putting less pressure on the spine. The namesake of the unique lift is circus strongman exhibitionist Charles Jefferson, who was known for hoisting a heavy blacksmith’s anvil from the floor onto a table during his act. Jefferson’s displays of power were so jaw-dropping that famed magician Harry Houdini once described him as the “strongest man of his time at lifting with the bare hands alone.” 
In 2019, powerlifter Sean Green made headlines by hitting 906 pounds on the Jefferson, making him possibly the first athlete to ever lift over 900 pounds on it. Three-time Arnold Classic champ Kai Greene also championed the move as one of the secrets behind developing his glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
How to Do the Jefferson Deadlift
Straddle the middle of a bar on the floor, with your feet around shoulder width apart. Then, squat down and use a grip that’s vertical beneath your shoulders to grab the bar. Once gripped, stand up like you’re driving through a squat.
Tip: Make sure the weight is centered between your feet and that your knees don’t cave inward when you start pulling.
The Dimel deadlift is similar to the Dorian deadlift, except that you push your hips a little further back, and you explosively pull the weight back to the top after the bar goes below your knees. This helps improve posterior chain and lockout strength.
The Dimel deadlift is named after the late Westside Barbell legend Matt Dimel, who had pulled 372.5 kilograms (821 pounds) in a multi-ply suit at the 1992 APF Senior Nationals, according to Open Powerlifting. Longtime Westside Barbell lifter and EliteFTS founder Dave Tate shows the proper way to execute the Dimel Deadlift in the video above.
How to Do the Dimel Deadlift
Stand with a bar in a deadlift position — feet hip-width apart and hands outside your legs — and lower as usual. Once you start to feel a stretch in your hamstrings, drive up and flex your hips through to add some explosiveness to the move.
According to Tate’s explanation in the video above, you should aim to perform this move with 30%-40% of the weight you’d normally deadlift and keep the reps high.
Bodybuilding legend Steve Reeves became a household name when he took on the role of Hercules in a series of Italian sword-and-sandal flicks from the late 1950s. But Reeves wasn’t the second coming of thespian Laurence Olivier by any stretch — the former Mr. Universe depended solely on his natural charm and chiseled physique to win over crowds around the globe. And he crafted those muscles with a time-tested fitness routine that he perfected over the decades.
One of his trademark lifts came when he found that holding the plates themselves and not the bar during deadlifts helped him improve his forearm development, grip strength, hamstrings, and shoulder thickness. This unconventional technique became known as the Reeves deadlift.
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[Related: 10 Upper-Body Exercises Named After People That You Should Be Doing]
How to Do the Reeves Deadlift
Approach a bar loaded with weight on the floor as you would a regular deadlift. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend at the hips. Instead of holding on to the bar itself, grab the weight plates on the side and drive up.
Van Dam Lift
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star Rob Van Dam made a career off of his eclectic array of kicks and high-flying moves. And to perfect his trademark flexibility in the gym, Van Dam created his own lift where we would hold his legs in a split position across two benches and lift a dumbbell from the floor to his chest.
The grainy video above includes Van Dam performing the lift with a 160-pound dumbbell, though it’s not clear how many reps he would do per set. In 2020, Van Dam took to Instagram to show that he could still pull off the move, despite closing in on 50 years old at the time.
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[Related: The 8 Strangest World’s Strongest Man Events]
How to Do the Van Dam Lift
The goal here is to do a split with your legs stretched across two elevated (but low) surfaces, such as a pair of benches or chairs. Then, reach down and grab a dumbbell with both hands.
While still suspended, row the dumbbell to your chest, hold it there for a second, and lower the weight back down.
1. Myers, Al, “The Real Hack Lift,” USAWA.com, December 12, 2012
2. Heffernan, Conor, “The History of the Zercher Squat,” PhysicalCultureStudy.com, September 7, 2017
3. Houdini, Harry, Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, Chapter 12, 1920
Featured image: @stevereeves_official on Instagram