Front Squats

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.

Place the 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, crossing each other at your chin. Your feet are angled, toes out, about shoulder width apart.

The bar is just below your chin. Your hands grasp the bar with your fingers under and around the bar and your thumbs over the top.

Start by moving back and down like you’re sitting in a chair. Keep your head up and stick your butt way back. Keep moving back and down until your thighs are parallel with the ground.

As you stand back up, push out your abs, push off your heels, and drive back to the standing position. Always keep your head up.

Three Great Rehab Moves

After a full season of riding, some of you may be feeling a little beat up by the road, wind, and your bike. If so, here are three great exercises that’ll help you feel a bit more limber. But even if you don’t feel stiff from riding, you should change your routine often for maximum results, and this series is a good way to do that.

Our first movement, reverse hyperextensions, appeared in the January issue. This is a great exercise for strengthening your lower back and increasing your overall flexibility. Reverse hypers can be done on any flat surface, like a kitchen counter or clothes dryer. To start, lay flat on your stomach with your waist positioned so your legs can hang straight down at a 90-degree angle to your upper body without contacting the structure you’re on. Your arms should be out in front of you holding onto the opposite edge of your supporting structure. With your stomach, glutes, hams, and lower back tightened and your legs straight, bring your legs up until they are as close to parallel to the floor as you can make them. Hold your legs there for just a second and then lower them to the starting position, which is one repetition. Then immediately do the next rep. Be sure to keep your legs together at all times. Do three sets of 10-15 reps per set. At first, do them with no weight on your ankles and, as you get stronger, add ankle weights.

The second exercise is wall squats, which appeared in the June 2009 issue. To do this one, put a towel over your back like Superman’s cape and then place your back flat against a wall. Your feet should be about two shoe lengths from the wall and your knees should in line with your heels. Then squat down until your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Once there, while keeping your back against the wall, return to the starting position. Do three or four sets of 15-20 repetitions.

Pull-throughs with dumbbells, which also appeared in the June 2009 issue, will work your hamstrings and glutes. The starting position has you standing with both arms extended down and holding a dumbbell in front of your body. Your legs should be a little wider apart than your shoulders. Maintaining this stance, swing the dumbbell back between your legs, then bring the dumbbell to an upright position in front of your chest. Then return to the starting position. Do this for three or four sets of 10-12 repetitions.

These exercises should be done in this order and while maintaining proper form, so use less weight if you’re having trouble getting your legs up high. Also use a lighter weight when doing the first warm-up set, which does not count as a power set. As always, use enough weight so the last two reps are hard to finish.
Do you have a recurring muscle cramp or ache? 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 monthly 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, visit him on Facebook.

When doing reverse hypers, bring your legs as close to parallel to the floor as you can get them. Be sure to keep your legs together at all times.

To do a wall squat correctly, you must go down until your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to the floor while keeping your back against the wall.

For a pull-through, lean forward and swing the dumbbell back between your legs while maintaining the starting stance.

After you bring the dumbbell into an upright position in front of your chest, swing the dumbbell back between your legs and repeat.