Featured Exercise: The Front Squat
By Steven Bubel MS, CSCS
The King of Exercises
Like the back squat, the front squat is used to develop strength in the lower body. Unlike the back squat, the front squat places more emphasis on the quadriceps and supporting muscles of the trunk (i.e. the core). In addition, the position of the hands promotes strength and flexibility of the fingers, wrists, and forearms.
To perform the front squat, begin by placing a barbell at shoulder height in a squat rack. Using a relaxed, pronated grip slightly wider than the shoulders and with wrists and fingers extended, step under the bar so that it rests on the anterior deltoids (i.e. the shoulders). Once under the bar, push the elbows up and in keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor.
For some, this position can be uncomfortable. Pre-existing injury and/or a lack of flexibility can make this rack difficult if not impossible. Rather than abandon the exercise altogether, one can opt for the crossed-arm variation until flexibility improves.
With the shoulders supporting the weight of the barbell (rather than the arms), begin the exercise by taking a few steps back to clear the supports. With feet hip-to-shoulder-width apart and pointing straight ahead or slightly outward, elevate the chest and tighten your back and core. Be sure to keep your elbows high throughout the movement. Failure to do so can place undue stress on the wrists.
Once in position, begin the descent by simultaneously pushing the hips back and bending the knees as if you were getting in a chair. Failure to sit back and down is a common mistake when performing squats (back or front) and places considerably more stress on the knees. Maintaining the body weight over the heel and midfoot (not the toes) will ensure that the exercise is performed properly. Continue the descent until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
From the bottom position, begin the ascent by extending the hips and knees. Do not bounce in transition. Keep the core tight and, of course, elbows high. Rather than thinking about lifting the weight, imagine pushing the floor away.
Given the difficulty and purpose of this exercise, the front squat is best performed with higher weights and a lower number of repetitions (5 or less). If used to gain muscle then relatively lighter loads and a greater number of repetitions (8-10) can and should be performed. For safeties sake, strength-endurance (>15 repetitions), is probably better developed using a more stable mode such as a leg press.
I recognize that this exercise will be unfamiliar to a lot of athletes. Therefore, I recommend beginning with very light loads, focusing on technique, with no more than 5 repetitions per set for 2-3 sets. Gradually add weight and progress to doing 5 sets. Incorporated into a well-designed program, the front squat can become a powerful weapon in your strength training arsenal.
The Link to MX
Like the back squat, the front squat is used to develop strength in the lower body. Unlike the back squat, the front squat places greater emphasis on the quadriceps and core - the two muscle groups most responsible for maintaining attack position and stabilizing the bike. In addition, the position of the hands promotes strength and flexibility of the fingers, wrists, and forearms which, if lacking, can contribute to arm pump.
That's it from Steven for now, but be sure and check out his website at www.mxconditioning.com for more great articles and insite. G ood luck with your training and, as always, VT can be reached anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org . In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section , your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.
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