Sunday, November 18, 2018

Front Squat (excerpt) - Andy McKenzie/Mark Laws

The ego can be such a cruel mistress at times, and leg day is one of those times. There are a whole host of reasons why the Front Squat is such a valuable weapon to have in your training arsenal, yet the more familiar and traditional Back Squat always seems to take center stage. 

The front squat will build your quads more than a power back squat, it is a more accurate measure of athletic strength and has a much higher transfer into the Oly lifts, it places less pressure on your lower back and it will aid your flexibility. Sounds good, right? So why aren't more people doing them? 

Most likely it's because they cannot get as much weight on the bar as they can for a back squat. Even if they were to drop the poundage down the front squat is a much more technical lift with more scope for error.

However, if you can leave your ego out of the equation then this short "Front Squat Guide" from world class strength and conditioning coach Andy McKenzie will give you the help you will need to introduce the front squat into your program with confidence and competence.

Note: The full article (M&F Oct. '18) includes foam roll prep for the lats, tris and low back.

Wrist Mobility:

   Click to ENLARGE

Double Kettlebell Front Squat

 Perfecting a Double Kettlebell Front Squat is a really nice stepping stone before moving on to the barbell. Without any weights, place both palms together and hold your fingers close to your chin, as if you were praying. This is the position we are looking for the hands and arms to be in when loaded up with the kettlebells. To save your gripping muscles keep the fingers pointing up towards your face, or wrap them very loosely around the handle, ensuring that the kettlebell handle sits at a 45-degree angle across your palm.

Once you have a comfortable position at the top of the squat sit down nice and steadily into the deep squat position. It goes without saying that the heels need to stay flat on the floor and your back needs to stay nice and straight as you move down through the squat, but you also need to keep your elbows directly beneath the kettlebells. So, as you squat down the elbows will come away from your body which gives you the added bonus of some extra upper body work . . . you're welcome!

At no point in this movement should your shoulders round forward. Keep pulling the shoulders back throughout the entire movement, holding them in a nice strong and stable position.

A steady, controlled 3-second descent would be nice, followed by a 2-second pause at the bottom to ensure stability and control, then DRIVE up back into the start position with an explosive forward drive of the hips. 3 x 6-10 reps will be suitable preparation before moving on to the barbell.  

Barbell Front Squat

Place a barbell in the power rack, squat stands or on boxes somewhere between your sternum and shoulders. A mistake that a lot of people make is to place their fingertips on the bar, then pushing their elbows forward so that the bar rests on their fingertips. This can tighten up the muscles in the forearm and cause pain or discomfort in the wrist. 

A more user-friendly option is to make the "OK" sign with your thumb and forefinger around the bar with your palms facing the floor (so the bar will go between the circle you made), then drive the elbows forward as if you are revving a motorbike so your palms will finish up facing the ceiling. This will allow you to take a good grip on the bar and remain in control at all times. The bar will rest across the front of your shoulders and your fingers will be just outside the line of your shoulders. Get your hips and feet directly beneath the bar and lift it up out of the rack, take a couple of small steps back and you're ready to squat. [Note: I prefer a 'three total steps' walkout. No fooling around getting set up. Something I'm glad I spent time learning. Lift bar up outta rack, right foot back one small step, left foot back one step, right foot out to your chosen width of stance. No, this ain't for way-wide stance power squatting.]  

Keep your eyes fixed on a spot on the floor about 6 feet in front of. This way your head can stay in a neutral position to your body throughout the entire movement. 

The teaching points for the Barbell Frott Squat, nasty piece of misspelling there, are the same as we covered in the Double Kettlebell Front Squat previously, it is just the shape and position of the load that has changed. 

One of the most common mistakes and problems with the front squat is dropping the elbows [I woulda preferred those things originally being named "eblows" myself), so it is important to drive the elbows up high. This will naturally cause some tightness around the throat but you will get used to it over time. Note: Oly lifters can be seen pulling their head up and back quickly one time, once the bar is in the racked position. This can help with that tight-around-the-throat deal, as well as a couple other things too.      

Wrist Pain Tip: If you are struggling to keep the elbows up high in your front squats, then every time you re-rack the bar there is a very simple stretch you can do. Place both arms over the top of the bar so that it is resting under your armpits, then turn your hands so the palms are facing up to the ceiling and allow your arms to hang down as far as they can. If you step up onto your tiptoes slightly they will be able to hang down a little further. Once they're hanging as low as possible flex your arms up towards your shoulders 6-10 times. Then step backwards into a split position and rest your elbows on the bar just level with your shoulders, clasp your hands together and push your head down between your elbows. Then switch your legs and repeat. The reason for doing this in a split stance is that when your body goes into hip flexion it increases the amount of shoulder extension. Once your head is as far forward as you can get it push both hands forward so that they are in line with your shoulders. Aim again for 6-10 reps. 

Movies you've seen been crap lately? 
Ending Pain in the Neck Films Tip:   

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
A new Coen Brothers film, six short stories. 
Oh Hell Yeah! 
I loved 'em all. 

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