Friday, February 26, 2010

The Front Squat "by" Joe Weider

C.F. Attenborough

Tommy Kono

The Front squat
“by” Joe Weider

Don’t for a moment think that in this article we’re selling short the regular or back squat. Far from it. There’s no finer exercise for the entire lower body . . . for some lifters. Unfortunately, not everyone who practices this version of the squat gets an equal benefit. Why?

1.) Because skeletal structure of certain individuals’ legs (extra long femur, or upper thigh bone) prevents them from doing the regular squat either correctly or with adequate weight to force strength and growth.

2.) Because the skeletal formation of the upper body (a long torso) forces the lifter to lean too far forward or round his back excessively. When this happens the regular squat ceases to be mainly a squat and becomes a kind of combination deadlift and good-morning exercise in which the hips, buttocks and back do half the work.

You must have seen many lifters who faithfully perform the regular squat in partially effective manner. They just have to do the exercise wrong . . . they can’t help it.

In order to maintain some kind of balance they jut their shoulders forward and throw their buttocks far backward when they get into difficulty with the weight. And that’s invariably the most important point of each repetition . . . at the half-way-down mark when the muscles in combination are being worked near their sticking point.

Now to continue to insist upon the regular squat in these instances will reward the lifter with a peculiar type of “turnip” thighs, thighs thick at the top but which taper off so quickly they actually do look like overgrown turnips.

It seems obvious that lifters should adopt the squat variation that suits their needs as well as body structure. The wonderful thing about the Front squat is that it accomplishes a twofold objective:

1.) Because of the position in which the weight is racked at the shoulders, mainly supported on the shoulders and only lightly kept in place by the fingers, it is impossible to do a complete Front squat incorrectly. Once form is broken to any great degree with a heavy weight it becomes impossible for the bar to stay in place and the repetition is ended.

2.) Because of the correct squatting form the Front squat insures, it is of tremendous help in maintaining proper form in full, half, parallel or quarter Olympic squats. Once you become mentally aware that you are squatting with proper form, this form awareness can be carried over into the other squat variations. Your regular Olympic squat will improve greatly after three months of Front squatting.

The Front squat was one of the earlier evolutions of the Weider system (I’m a little teacup, hear me spout), and today not only the Reeves, the Rosses and the Delingers have used it to build their thighs. Olympic lifters such as Tommy Kono, Dave Sheppard and many of the Oriental champions have used it to build additional power and leg thrust.

If you have become bored or jaded with a regular diet of regular squats, try the Front squat for a time to add interest and enthusiasm to your workouts.

How can you arrange your schedule to include this wonderful exercise? How much weight should you use? How many sets and reps?

1.) Use your imagination and ingenuity when working the Front squat into your routine. Don’t just throw out all other leg exercises. Find ways to include the different versions of squatting in your workouts. By no means am I advocating completely eliminating the regular squat, for the vast majority of lifters. However, if you have extremely long thigh bones or a very long torso, and have found the regular squat to be unrewarding and the cause of injury after all attempts to learn the lift over a fair period of time, toss it out for a while. Attempt to master the Front squat before revisiting the regular squat again.

2.) As in all basic exercises, your main objective is to do the Front squat in proper form with heavier and heavier weights.

3.) If you have decided to include both the Front squat and the regular squat in your routine, try dividing the two exercises into equal periods of time each workout. Or, you can try alternating a front squat workout with a regular squat workout.

4.) Front squats, due to the bar position, are usually practicable only in the low rep category . . . perhaps five at most. However, you can certainly make up for this by doing higher numbers of sets.

Partial Front squats can increase both your power and your confidence in handling greater poundages. Three-quarter, half, and quarter Front squats can all be used effectively. A method of using these partial movements could be similar to this:

1.) Following a few warmup sets, load the bar with your usual Front squatting weight and perform 3 sets of 3-5 full repetitions with a suitable rest period between each set.

2.) Following the 5th set, load the bar inside the rack with more weight than you had just been using. Set the safety pins at the three-quarter Front squat level and, beginning at the regular start position, squat to the bottom pins and rise to the top. Perform 3 sets of 3 reps of these three-quarter Front squats. Use the bottom pins in this instance as a measure of depth as well as a safety device. This is not a rebound exercise. Touch the bottom pins as if they were your sister. Descend with all the passion of interconnection, stretching the synchronistic web of body, mind and bar taut till reaching them, do not simply slam mindlessly into the pins. Bro.

3.) Now load still more weight on the bar, raise the bottom pins to the half-Front squat depth, and perform 2 sets of 2 reps of these half Front squats.

4.) Finally, load more weight on the bar, raise the bottom pins to the quarter-Front squat depth, and perform 2 sets of single reps in this quarter-Front squat.

Make sure to gradually work into this quantity of work and always add weight slowly in your partial movements.

Also, occasionally perform your Front squats beginning from a dead stop in the bottom position of the power rack. These can be done, starting from a dead stop in the bottom position, with full, three-quarter, half, or quarter Front squats. Always be certain you are in the proper position when starting lifts from a dead stop at the bottom.

Try different types of footwear over time, and note how either a lower or higher heeled shoe affects your performance in the Front squat. Find the foot spacing that works most efficiently for your body, and shows itself in the weight you can handle safely.

At first you may experience problems keeping the bar in position with the Front squat. Your wrists may not be flexible enough at first, your confidence will likely be undeveloped, along with several other break-in factors. Try Front squatting with “no hands” to develop the ability to keep the bar secure at the shoulders. Simply take the bar from the racks with your arms straight and outstretched in front and attempt to perform Front squats. This may take some effort getting accustomed to, but once you can confidently execute “no hands” Front squats your regular Front squats will come along nicely.

Keep the elbows high when Front squatting. Concentrate on “elbows high” when recovering from the low position and always try to remember Rome wasn’t built with a plastic prefab mode in mind. It took more like two days, maybe even the better part of a week. When learning the technique of the Front squat you can practice with lighter weights as often as you desire, and on certain weeks find ways to add an eighth day if so desired. This has been considered by many to be the secret to a long life, this covert adding of extra hours to each week.

Remember to keep the back flat even when in the low position. Do not overarch as you will find yourself to be weaker in this position. Notice the importance of abdominal and low back strength required to handle heavy weights in the Front squat. Relative weakness in this area can be at the core of an inability to increase limit poundages in the Front squat and dream up silly puns.

As in many cases in life, trial and error will be your best and most lasting teacher. The scheduling, the alternation, the number of sets, reps and their frequency as well as the amount and progressions of weight to use over time will have to be experimented with over time.

Work into this exercise gradually and be patient with yourself. Never be discouraged by the initial awkwardness, discomfort and difficulty of full performance you may likely experience at the outset. All this will pass as you give more thought, concentration and greater effort with each workout, and along with your increase in technique you should realize a slow but persistent climb in the number of plates on the bar.


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