JackedPack Blog - Epic Fitness & Nutrition Tips
Leg Day Workout: Front Squats
BY EVAN CLARK, NSCA-CPT
Weekends are a terrific time to workout with buddies. Everyone's on the same schedule during the weekend (in no particular order): eat, workout, eat, play Risk, do laundry, watch football, go fishing, fold laundry, yell at inanimate objects, eat, chop wood, read, nap, do the chicken dance, eat, workout, sleep... or something like that.
This last weekend I had the great pleasure of working out with our own Chief HUGEness Officer Alex Lewis. We met, confided, schemed, and came up with this intense leg workout that had us sore for days. The workout revolved around front loaded leg exercises but also included hamstring and glute dominant exercises as well. The sets and rep ranges were focused on building strength, but we focused on using explosive energy during the concentric phases of the exercises.
DeFranco's Agile 8 (see at the bottom of squat article HERE)
Phase 1: Front Squats
Barbell Front Squats (Pause Squats)
First performed 2-3 light warm up sets, focusing on getting a good stretch at the bottom of the movement. Drive through the heels while pushing the knees outward. You won't believe how much of a difference it makes to think of pushing your knees out or alternatively "spreading the floor with your feet". These cues have been most effective for me when teaching somebody how to squat as it enables them to achieve significantly better depth while maintaining good spine position.
With front squats, I recommend using an olympic style grip and driving the elbows up (not using the crossed arm grip). This promotes flexibility in the wrists and upper back (thoracic spine) as well as mobility in the shoulders. Compared to the cross arm grip, the olympic style grip forces you to keep a big chest and tight back, making it easier to "fuse" your spine and keep good posture. While it requires good flexibility and mobility, especially at the bottom of the squat, keeping your elbows high brings your shoulders up which creates a nice "shelf" for the barbell to sit on.
To perform front squats as pause squats, use a lighter load. At the bottom of the squat, pause and hold for three seconds. Focus on keeping your chest high, knees out and your butt low. The weight will want to pull you forward and lift your butt. Keep a tight back and sit upright with your weight on your heels. After three seconds, explode off your heels into the upright position.
In between sets, perform 5 squat jumps. To perform these, simply squat low with no weight and then jump as high as you can. By doing these in between sets, your brain and muscles will be ready to activate your fast twitch fibers and be more explosive from the bottom of your squat.
Phase 2: Glute Activation
Two Handed Kettle Bell Swings
Single Legged/One Armed Kettlebell Deadlift
For the two handed kettlebell swings, use a weight heavy enough to challenge yourself, but light enough that you can finish four sets of twenty. While keeping the shoulders pulled back and the spine fused. Drive your hips forward and focus on your thighs and butt doing all of the work. Remember, the kettlebell swing is not a squat nor a shoulder raise. It is a hip hinge that is extremely similar to a deadlift. Your shoulders should NOT be more tired than your legs. Shoot your butt back like a deadlift and hip thrust your way to glory.
The single-legged/one-armed kettlebell deadlift is a beastly exercise that requires great core stability and glute activation. I feel it more when I hold the weight in one hand and lift the same leg back. This means if I am holding the kettlebell in my right hand, my right leg is raised straight back and my left foot is stable on the ground. Without twisting your torso, lower the weight towards the ground and lift you leg high. Using the stable leg's glute, drive the lifted leg forward and stand in an upright position.
Phase 3: Agony
Two Handed Kettle Bell Swings into Kettbell Goblet Squats
Reps: 10 Swings, 10 Squats
Grab the heaviest kettlebell you can swing. Prepare yourself mentally and swing it with purpose. After finishing 10 swings, immediately flip the bell upside-down, grabbing the fat part of the bell. holding the bell close to the chest with two hands, pull back your shoulders and perform ten deep squats. Try to let your elbows touch your thighs. This is a brutal complex that will have your heart racing and your body aching.
Phase 4: Closer
Tabata Intervals on a spin bike
4 Minutes Total with Intervals of 20 Seconds All Out, 10 Seconds Rest (ends up being 8 sets of 20 seconds)
Have a stopwatch or timer handy. Set the resistance on the bike to moderate. Pedal your ass off for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. That's 1 set. Repeat for a total of 8 sets. After four minutes of this gut wrenching inferno you will definitely be ready to stretch out and hit the showers.