As stated back in the August 2009 issue, the squat is the king of exercises and one of the three true tests of physical strength. A properly executed squat strengthens your entire body. But what if your back is giving you trouble? A good assistance exercise for the standard back squat is the front squat. And an added benefit with front squats is that they give your thighs an outer bulge.
Front squats may take a little getting used to, so don’t use any weight at first. To help you get your balance, first do the movement using just a broomstick. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can move to a barbell. And be sure to wear flat-soled sneakers, like Converses. Sneakers with a raised heel will tend to make you fall forward and put unwanted stress on your back.
Start by placing a bar across the top of your chest with your arms parallel to the ground in front of you and bent back across the bar at the elbows. They should cross each other at your chin. The bar should be just below your chin. Your hands should be grasping the bar with your fingers under and around the bar and your thumbs over the top. Your feet should be angled, with the toes pointed out, at about shoulder width apart.
When you’re ready, tighten up your traps and upper back, and flex every muscle in your body from head to toe. Start by moving back and down as if you’re going to sit in a chair. Keep your head up and stick your butt way out behind you. Keep moving back and down until the top of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then push out your abs (wearing a weightlifter belt makes this easier), push off your heels, and drive your body back up to the starting position.
Start with just the barbell with no plates on the bar. Add weight as you can handle it and keep your balance. Do three sets of 10 repetitions each twice a week. Even more so than other exercises, front squats must be done while maintaining proper form, so use less weight if you’re having trouble doing the movement correctly. And be sure to use a light weight when doing the first warm-up set, which is done before any power set but does not count as a set. Stay strong!
Do you have a recurring muscle cramp or ache, one that’s preventing you from fully enjoying the ride? Send info about the problem to Fit To Ride, c/o American Iron Magazine, 1010 Summer Street, Stamford, CT 06905, or e-mail it to ChrisM@AmericanIronMag.com. Unfortunately, we can’t respond directly to the submitter. Select questions will be answered only through this bimonthly column. Also, before trying any of the advice given here, be sure to check with your personal physician. AIM
Fit To Ride: by Phil Halliwell
Editor’s note: Phil Halliwell is an ISSA-certified personal trainer and has been a nationally ranked powerlifter since 1989, holding AWPC Master World Powerlifting champion and record holder titles, all as a drug-free athlete. He’s also the guy who got me back into shape after a few mishaps that required surgery. If you want to know more about Phil, call 203/243-1673 or visit Phil on Facebook.