Yo, bro. (I see you too, gurrlll… ;)) Summer down at the Jersey Shore is rapidly approaching and that means one thing…well come to think of it, it means a lot of things…
Anyways, my point is this: we need to look damn sexy. Ain’t no bikini or board shorts got time for that flab. We need those flat stomachs and six pack abs yesterday. (Why weren’t you at Steelworks during the winter?!…)
Luckily for you we have a surefire prescription for helping you shed that unwanted belly fat faster than a melting water-ice on a hot summer day and it won’t even involve a single sit-up!
What do you need to do to get ready for the Shore this summer?
- Heavy front squats.
- Heavy farmer’s carries.
Why Front Squats?
Take a look at the exciting diagram above. The figure to the left displays an exercise known as a “high bar back squat”. Now, a back squat is an excellent exercise. In fact one could call this form of the squat, the “king” of strength movements. The figure on the right displays the “front squat.” Notice any differences?
Instead of placing the barbell on the back of the shoulders, the front squat is loaded in front of the body. Pretty obvious. Pay attention to the various angles of the joints (ankles, knees and hips) between both of the high bar squat and the front squat. There is a significant difference. Those joint angle differences coupled with the position of the barbell allow us to lift more weight in the high bar version than the front squat.
If that’s the case, why not just do the high bar back squat? I mean, after all more weight lifted means more gains in strength, right? Yes…and no. You see, in the front squat, the body has to call upon a lot more muscles to keep that bar resting securely on top of the shoulders. Too much forward lean and that bar comes crashing down on the floor. Just like Christopher Walken needed more cowbell, you need more core. “You mean a six-pack, right?” Not exactly…
What exactly are our “core” muscles?
If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot more to the “core” than just a chiseled “six-pack.” In fact, the six-pack is really only one muscle group of the core: the rectus abdominis.
For many muscles in the core, the primary function is to provide stability as we move, not provide the movement itself. For instance, the old six-pack is designed more to help us brace our spine and provide movement to the extremities (think of throwing a punch or a baseball i.e. flexion moments) instead of cycles of movement (think of situps or crunches i.e. flexion movements).
It is no different in a front squat. While the legs and hips are providing the major means of moving the weight up and down, the core stabilizes the spine and allows the weight to remain racked on our shoulders. The abs being braced is only part of the solution. We also need to develop some juicy erector spinae or spinal erectors (See above picture on the right.)
Anyone who has ever done heavy front squats will tell you that two days afterwards they experience some interesting soreness in their upper back. That’s because the spinal erectors are doing their job! This group of muscles originates all the way down in the lower back and reaches up and connects to the parts of our upper spine (thoracic and cervical), which is partly why the upper back is sore. Those meat chains are holding on for dear life to keep the spine from collapsing forward during front squats!
“Look at dat gluteus maximus!”
Front squats will not only make your core super tight, “butt” they will also firm up your personal sitting cushions. The gluteal muscles (maximus, minimus, and medius) are all essential to performing the front squat. The glut max is your major hip extender and a big time power producer. The glut medius and minimus are key to helping you stabilize your knees and hips.
Front squats, as previously mentioned, aren’t the only things that you should be doing. You should also be working like a farmer.
The Farmer’s Carry
Farmer’s carries when done heavy enough erase any cheery smile. There is a lot happening in a farmer’s carry from a physiological standpoint. You’ll be developing:
- Grip strength and endurance as you hold the implements in your hands.
- Hip stability as our friends glut medius and glut minimus are firing to keep our knees from collapsing.
- Core stability. A deep core muscle which keeps our spine steady, the quadratus lumborum (QLs) is activated as our weight shifts back and forth.
- Lower and Upper back endurance. The spinal erectors turn on to keep your chests nice and tall and the trapezius keeps the load from ripping out of our shoulders sockets.
- Abdominal endurance. Working much like the spinal erectors in the back.
- Massive testosterone levels which will help burn more fat and build more muscle. The more muscles recruited in a given exercise, the bigger the hormonal response.
Sample Workout to Bring all of the Boys/Girls to the Yard/Beach/etc…
Perform the following as a complex.
A1. Front Squats with a 3 second forced descent.
5,5,5,5,5. Build intensity each set. 30 seconds rest then A2.
A2. 150 M Farmer’s Carry
X5. Heavy as possible. Build intensity each set. Rest 2 minutes then back to A1.
The beauty about this complex is that you can play with the tempo on the descents and the rep ranges on the front squats and then the manner in which you carry the implements. There is a whole range of weighted carries out there (suitcase carries, waiter’s carries, etc), but the farmer’s carry is the king of the carries in my opinion.
Try and do a workout like this at least twice a week and I guarantee within four weeks you will start noticing some improvements in your overall core strength and endurance. Oh, and your abs and butt might be pretty hot, too.
This is, however, the tip of the iceberg on the journey to health and athletic performance! To find out how you can get in the best shape of your life, email [email protected]. You will wish you had sooner!
McGill, Stuart. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance. Fourth Edition. (Wabuno Publishers, Backfitpro, Inc: Waterloo, Ont) 2009.
Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M. and Kraemer, William J.. Science and Practice of Strength Training. Second Edition (Human Kinetics:Champaign, Il) 2006.