Published on Enhanced Fitness and Performance (http://enhancedfp.com)

Boosting Your Front Squat

By DMorgan
Created 12/30/2013 - 9:19pm

0 Comments [1] Comments

by Charles Poliquin Iron Magazine

This two-month front squat specialization workout will get it done. The back squat – the undisputed king of exercises – has applications for athletic training, muscle building, injury prevention and rehabilitation. The front squat may not be king, but it’s a close second. In fact, EMG studies suggest that the front squat is more effective than the back squat for activating the vastus lateralis and the rectus femoris (two of the four quadriceps muscles). Further, the front squat places less compressive forces on the knee, and a case can be made that it is more sport specific to many athlete movements. Now the question is how much should you be able to front squat compared to your back squat?

The answer is simple: If you are squatting all the way down in both exercises, generally the ratio of front squat to back squat is about 85 percent. This means if you can back squat 100 kilos, you should be able to front squat 85 kilos. One reason few athletes achieve this ratio is that they do not back squat all the way down, thus inflating the total weight they can actually lift in this exercise. These numbers are not just theory.

Elite super heavyweight weightlifters such as Paul Anderson, Vladimir Marchuk, Alexander Kurlovich and Mark Henry front squatted at least 317.5 kilos (700 pounds!); and Leonid Taranenko – the absolute clean and jerk world record holder – did 300 kilos for 3 reps. Two other weightlifters who deserve mention are three-time Olympic champion Pyrros Dimas of Greece and Dursun Sevinc of Turkey; both weighed 85 kilos (187 pounds) and lifted more than 272 kilos (600 pounds) in the front squat. Note that you can’t compare these lifts to those of the 1,000-pound-plus back squatters, as these latter squats are usually performed with assisted equipment and only throughout a partial range of motion.

The all-time record appears to be Australian strongman Warrick Brant, who lifted 356 kilos using the technique with the arms crossed in front – a technique that is considerably harder to balance. Incidentally, his best back squat (raw) is 355 kilos and his best frame squat is 350 kilos for 10 reps! Brant is 178 cm tall (5 feet 8 inches) and weighs 150 kilos.

To perform the exercise, use a pronated (palms down) grip as you would for a power clean. Squat down until your hamstrings completely cover your gastrocnemius (upper calf) muscles. You should not be able to see daylight between your hamstrings and calf muscles. Keep your trunk upright, and push your elbows up and in. During this lift it’s best to have two spotters, but an experienced coach can safely perform a single spot. Competitive weightlifters have the skill to simply dump the weight forward onto the platform, but this should only be done when the lifter is using bumper plates, to avoid damaging the platform and the bar.

If you cannot keep your elbows up and in, the external rotators of the humerus are too tight. Find a good soft-tissue practitioner who can help you develop rapid increases in mobility. There are many forms of these techniques available to give the soft tissues the proper elasticity, from Active Release™ to Applied Kinesiology, and the FAT tool.

Athletes who have a tight shoulder girdle may want to try using lifting straps to hold up the bar. What you do is hook the straps around the bar at shoulder width, or whatever position you find most comfortable. Here’s how it’s done:
Place your shoulders under the bar and grasp the straps with your palms facing each other (i.e., semisupinated or neutral). How high up you grab the straps is determined by your flexibility, such that those with extremely poor flexibility will have more space between the bar and their hands. Now lift the weight off the squat racks and start squatting. You’ll find that using straps in this manner enables you to keep your elbows high without discomfort.

Whereas higher rep ranges are preferred in the back squat, most experts prefer to train the front squat in a lower rep range, and frequently endorse doing singles in that lift. Every expert agrees that doing more than 6 reps in the front squat is a complete waste of time, as the scapulae retractors cannot hold the proper position isometrically for that long.

The following are set-rep intensification protocols that work well for improving the front squat. (Note that in these protocols, sets always come before reps, so that 2 x 5 means 2 sets of 5 reps, not 5 sets of 2 reps.)

Wave Loading
With this protocol, trainees should be able to use more weight during each successive “wave” as the nervous system adapts to the workout. It’s designed for more advanced athletes who are striving for maximal strength, especially relative strength. For example, a lifter might squat 150 kilos for 2 reps on the first wave, 160 kilos for 2 on the second, and 170 kilos for 2 on the third.

1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2
1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2
1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2

Another variation, one that should be reserved for advanced trainees, calls for 12 sets of work in four waves. It also uses lower reps than the previous version, as follows:

1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1
1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1
1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1
1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1

Patient Lifter System
With this training system, you start off with a weight you can handle comfortably for 6 sets of just 2 reps. Depending on your neurological efficiency, this will translate into about 80 to 87 percent of your 1-rep maximum. The goal is to increase your strength so, over time, you can handle that weight for 6 sets of 4 reps. The reason the patient lifter’s method works is that the load is increased only when the trainee is able to complete all sets of 4 reps with the starting weight of 6 sets of 2 reps. The system works by means of what is called the law of repeated efforts, because the nervous system is forced to accept the new load as being normal.

East German Stair-Step System
5 x 2 followed by a decrease in load of 7 percent, then 5 sets of 3 at the new step load.

Modified Hepburn Method
With this protocol you perform 8 sets of singles followed by 5 x 3-5. In this approach, perform the first 8 sets of singles with a regular stance, then the 5 x 3-5 with the heels elevated by 2-2.5 cm.

In putting together a program, you could alternate between these intensification protocols and accumulation programs. One effective accumulation program is the 1-6 method (also the 1-5, 1-4, 1-3). With this method you do a heavy single for a set, and then get your reps in with the same weight. Using 4 reps instead of 6, here is an example of how a workout could progress:

Set 1: 1 rep with 120 kilos
Set 2: 5 reps with 100 kilos
Set 3: 1 rep with 122.5 kilos
Set 4: 5 reps with 102.5 kilos
Set 5: 1 rep with 122.5kilos
Set 6: 5 reps with 105 kilos

Another accumulation program that could work well with the front squat is the 5 x 5 method. In the late 1970s the 5 x 5 method was heavily promoted by former elite weightlifter and strength coach Bill Starr in his classic book Only the Strongest Shall Survive. After several warm-up sets, you select a weight (about 85 percent of your 1RM) and perform 5 reps. As soon as you are able to complete 5 sets of 5 reps with the given load, you will increase the weight by 2.5-5 kilos and repeat the process until the three-week training phase is completed.

In practice, for a front squat specialization program you could perform four 3-week cycles, squatting twice a week. The protocols could be arranged as follows:

Weeks 1-3: 5 x 5 Method
Weeks 4-6: Patient Lifter System
Weeks 7-9: 1-6 Method (using 4 reps)
Weeks 10-12: Wave Loading

The front squat is an exceptional exercise that complements the back squat. If you’ve neglected this exercise, give these suggestions a try and enjoy the process of achieving legs that are as strong and as powerful as they look.

Source: http://www.ironmagazine.com/2013/fas...r-front-squat/ [2]

Source URL: