The following is a guest post by Ian Clardy, a former Division I collegiate strength coach. His new goal is to bring the training of high level athletes to anyone who wants to elevate their fitness and optimize their life. He can be found on Twitter or on his new training site Tetralogy Strength.
Take it away Ian!
Style is traditionally built by picking the appropriate haircut, clothes, accessories, etc. to create a look that highlights your physique and personality. But style can also be built in the opposite direction: by enhancing your physique and personality in order to elevate your look.
Recently, Conor McGregor has taken the world by storm with his brash personality and impeccable style. He’s known for talking a big game (and backing it up) all while dressed incredibly well. He serves as an example of how physique and personality can elevate an already elite wardrobe to godlike status.
For most men, this type of fit is difficult to obtain without paying significantly for a custom tailor. The good news is with a few simple but significant changes to your training regimen, you can build your physique to match the clothes and fill out your wardrobe just like McGregor.
Looking at how well his suits fit, it starts from the bottom up. A set of well-developed legs is a rarity today, largely because there is nothing fun or easy about building them. They can only be earned through hard work well past what your body finds comfortable. This tells the world you’re more than just show, that you’ve got the go to match.
Unfortunately, the average gym goer fools themselves into believing they have this because “they don’t skip leg day”, not realizing they are spinning their wheels both literally and metaphorically in their stereotypical protocol of leg pressing, leg curling and leg extensions.
If you’re sitting there thinking “Uh oh, this sounds like me,” you’re forgiven. Everyone falls victim to this at some point in their journey on learning how to build and maintain their body for optimal fitness. Regardless if this applies to you or not, today you’re going to learn how to elevate your lifting to new heights (and by extension your physique and style), by properly incorporating the front squat into your training.
The front squat is arguably the most underrated of any lift when it comes to effectiveness at building muscle in all the important places. It gets a bad rap in part due to the discomfort of maintaining a proper rack position for multiple reps, neglecting the tremendous effect it has on building the legs, core and upper back.
What flies under the radar about the front squat is the useful nature it has by being self-correcting of technique due to the leverages of the movement. By loading across the shoulders, your torso must stay upright in order to maintain balance without dropping the barbell, challenging your upper back strength and core stability.
How to implement the front squat into your training
The most important rule of squatting is to always remember technique is king. This means a vertical torso, balance over the middle of your foot, and hips that must get below the knees for a full range of motion. When executing the rep, drive your elbows up, knees out, sit straight down until your hamstrings touch your calves, then stand up with force. When these criteria are met you will see surprising results from minimal amounts of weight.
There are several factors to account for in how to best implement front squats into your training such as frequency, intensity, and volume. First is deciding on the frequency you want to squat per week. For someone who may be stagnant in their leg development, increasing to 2-3 times per week will provide a healthy shock to the body. Like any skill, it must be practiced with frequency to develop proficiency.
Once you’ve decided how often to squat, you can then determine the volume and intensity. For multiple squat workouts per week, it’s best to change up volumes and intensities. An easy system for this is to rate each quality as Light, Medium or Heavy. Treat planning your week as an exercise in balance; if one aspect is heavy the other should be light. For volume planning, use the following guidelines:
Light: 10-20 total working reps (i.e. 3×4, 3×5, 5×4, 3×6, 2×10, 1×20)
Medium: 20-35 total working reps (i.e. 5×5, 4×6, 4×8, 3×10)
Heavy: 35+ total working reps (5×8, 5×10, 2×20, 10×5, 10×10)
With these guidelines in mind, the last piece of the puzzle is to select your intensity. This is measured as a combination of two factors: time under tension per set and weight on the bar relative to your 1RM. When selecting which weight to use, you want to pick a weight that you can hit with ideal technique without missing reps. An example would be if you’re doing sets of 5, use a weight you could do 6-7 reps without a doubt. This allows you to accumulate training volume, which over time increases in load which will in turn lead to both strength and muscular gains.
For pure growth, the optimal time under tension is 40 seconds per set, while for strength the optimal time per set is between 10 and 20 seconds. For enhancing your physique, it is vital to have variation between these two zones as they can target different muscle fibers. When viewing a standard tempo prescription, it will appear to be some form of 3010 or 3-0-X-0. Each digit in this sequence represents a portion of a rep. The first number refers to the eccentric portion of the lift where the muscle lengthens, which for this example is the lowering portion of the squat. This is followed by the number for the pause in the stretched position, at the end range of motion such as the bottom position of the squat. Third is the number referring to speed of contraction, or standing up. Often this will be represented as an X, which means the contraction should be as explosive as possible to maximally stimulate the muscle fibers. Finally, the last number represents how long you stay in the contracted position (i.e. the top position of a squat) from which the next rep will start.
As you decide on different tempos to utilize, be aware that the most stimulation of both strength and hypertrophy will come from increased time under tension during the eccentric and stretched position. With all this in mind, I’ve provided a sample 2 day/week front squat workout for you to begin applying to your training. As you get acquainted with the movement, don’t hesitate to experiment with different loading schemes to find what works best for you to continue squatting in style.
|Day 1||6||4||31X1||Work up to 5RM|
When building your style you cannot neglect to build your physique too. The two go hand in hand. If your goal is to reach Conor McGregor level style you need to have the physique to match as well.
Front squats are a great way to develop your legs and when they are a part of a complete training program they can take your physique to new heights.
Here’s to staying fit!