Tag Archives: front squat

No Squat Rack at Gym

rack

This is another post inspired by a strengthcamp video. The video is below and it’s a workaround, if your gym doesn’t have a squat rack.

Cliffs:

– A ‘gym’ without a squat rack isn’t really a gym at all. It’s more like a health club… whatever the fuck that means.

– The squat is more than an exercise. It’s a primal movement pattern that you should train, even without access to a squat rack.

– If you are unable to gain access to a squat rack, train the prime movers (your legs in this case) with isolation movements, but still do squat movements for neural efficiency.

 

Optimal Solutions to Your Lack of Squat Rack Problem

Before I’m going to give you alternatives to the back squat, I want you to first do your absolute best to somehow gain access to a squat rack. If none of the options presented will work for you at all, then move on to the alternative exercise selection.

Option 1: Buy Your Own Squat Rack

This one is pretty straightforward. If you have the room at your house or in your garage, maybe it actually makes sense to cancel your shitty gym membership and buy a squat rack instead. While the racks at Rogue Fitness are beyond awesome and what I would recommend to anyone without hesitation, not everyone can afford them.

If you’re on a budget and that’s why you’re at a terrible gym without a squat rack, maybe you can find a used rack on Craigslist or one of the following are a nice budget-friendly option for you.

For $370 (shipped), you can get a decent power rack like the one below. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.

power-rack

If you can’t fit that or it costs too much, maybe just get a squat stand ($140 shipped) and some mats to ditch the weight onto. You might have to practice dropping the weight off your back, but Oly lifters seem to do okay without a power rack.

You’ll also need a barbell

barbell

…and some weights. Maybe even bumper plates? You can buy them individually as well. Check Craigslist and similar sites to see if you can find some used weight plates in your area!

This is probably your overall best option. Let’s say you end up buying a power rack for $370, a nice bench for $165 (you might be able to find one cheaper used), a barbell for $100 and weights for $500 (more or less depending on current strength levels). That’s a pretty good start to a home gym for about $1100. A gym membership might cost $30/month or more plus whatever it costs to get you back and forth… let’s say another $30/month.

So $60/month invested total. 1100 divided by 60 is 18.33, which will be the number of months it takes for the home gym to have paid off. So if you plan on training for more than two more years, it’s a good investment. Especially if you don’t have a squat rack at the gym and now you do have one at home!

Option 2: Build Your Own Squat Rack

If you’re very handy, maybe you can weld one together out of metal. The cheaper, easier option would be to build one out of wood. Click here or on the wooden squat rack picture below for instructions on how to build one!

squat-rack

It says it’s about $100 to build this one, so you’d be saving about $270 as opposed to buying a regular power rack. You can also customize this to fit wherever you need it to, because you’re building it yourself anyhow. Obviously you’ll still need to buy the rest of the equipment… or build it yourself. Good luck building a barbell!

Option 3: Switch Gyms

This one is probably the easiest. Find a gym with a squat rack and go lift there instead of your current health club.

 

Alternatives to Heavy Squats

If you can’t make the above options work for whatever reason(s), then here are some nice options to still train the squat movement pattern without heavy weights.

Clean to Front Squat

For this to work, you need to learn how to do a barbell clean. Watch the three part series from Glenn Pendlay at California Strength below.

After you can clean the weight up, just do some front squats with it.

This will allow you to use the most weight possible in absence of a squat rack.

Front Loaded Bulgarian Split Squat

These will allow you to overload one leg more. To make it work without a squat rack, you’ll have to clean the weight obviously, just like with the regular front squat.

Goblet Squat

Another nice squat movement that forces a vertical torso like the front squat. You can use a kettlebell like in the video or a dumbbell. It doesn’t matter too much.

Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat

Pistol Squats

These are squats done on one leg, so you can use less weight to heavily tax one leg at a time. Good eading material on the topic of pistol squats: Breaking Down the Single Leg Squat by Ben Bruno

 

You can assist these movements with heavy isolation work like the leg press, but try to still train the squat movement pattern with what you have available to you. Good luck with your training!

Improve Hip & Ankle Mobility – Video of the Month

This one is from Jonnie Candito, who is quickly turning into my favorite YouTuber, about two great exercises to improve hip mobility and ankle mobility. The two exercises are a narrow stance pause front squat and a wide stance pause back squat. A bonus of the front squat variation is also a thoracic mobility improvement. I will be including these movements in my own training for sure. The video is below.

Deadlift Assistance Work

Elliott Hulse from strengthcamp posted a video today about two powerful deadlift isolation movements that will improve your posture, set a great foundation that will allow for a mechanically sound deadlift movement pattern, and one of them (the underhand static barbell hold) will also improve your grip strength. Below is the video.

The movement he demonstrates in the video is basically a Prone Cobra, which you can do daily. The underhand static hold with a barbell he also describes (but doesn’t show in this particular video) will be a little more taxing on your grip, so I tend to do those once a week on a day when I don’t deadlift. For me, this is squat day.

To go along with all of that, I’ve put together a very quick list of some deadlift assistance movements that have been helpful to myself and might also benefit you. Read my Deadlift 101 article for a basic rundown of the barbell deadlift basics first, then add these movements into your assistance work at your own discretion.

 

The Front Squat

The front squat is my favorite compound assistance movement for both the deadlift and back squat, because it forces you into a position that requires good hip mobility, good thoracic flexiblity and generally good posture overall. It’s an up-and-down movement, whereas you sit back somewhat with the back squat (moreso with a low bar squat, but also with an Olympic style high bar squat), and with the bar loaded on the front it really puts a lot of stress on your anterior core (your abs) to keep an upright torso. Hip mobility – and also ankle mobility – are tested by this movement too, because the legs have to go somewhere, when you’re squatting straight down.

The result is that people with poor posture are generally unable to front squat properly. It quickly teaches you where you’re f#cked up. There are a couple paragraphs and videos about the front squat in my Squat 101 article, which I would suggest you read. For this particular article today, I’ll leave you with a basic tutorial video for the front squat.

 

The Cable Pull Through

It makes your glutes and hamstrings stronger.

 

Glute Ham Raise

It (also) makes your glutes and hamstrings stronger.

 

Good Morning

Jordan Syatt actually did a great article about this exercise here. I also like the band good morning shown below.

 

Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust is another great way to target your glutes (and the rest of your posterior chain). I’ll let Kellie Davis teach you about them.

The short bridge is like a body weight hip thrust, which you can pretty much do every day. The barbell hip thrust will be more taxing. Get your hump on!

 

Ab Wheel Rollout

A stronger anterior core can help build a stronger deadlift.

Bro science ‘proof’ that ab wheel rollouts work: Here we have Konstantin Konstantinov doing ab wheel rollouts with weight on his back. And here we have Konstantin Konstantinov deadlifting 413kg/910lbs without a belt.

 

Standing Cable Crunch

Another great ab exercise. They’re Jonnie Candito‘s favorite ab exercise for a reason!

 

Obviously, all sorts of rows will have tons of carryover to your deadlift as well, but the exercises above are some you may not have thought about yet. As always, this is all just my opinion. Do what you think is best for you!

Squat Basics

Other basics write-ups: Deadlift | Bench Press | OHP | Barbell Row

 

I covered the deadlift basics in a previous article, so now it’s time to cover the squat. As with the deadlift article, this will mainly be an assortment of videos that have helped me improve my form over the last three years of barbell squatting regularly.

 

High Bar Squat vs Low Bar Squat

The first video will go over the differences between the low bar and high bar squat. Accordingly, you can make a choice for yourself, whether you want to use a low bar, high bar, hybrid of the two, or a combination of more than one of these in your training.

Candito’s opinion on the matter is also interesting. (I agree with him.) He’s also done a squat tutorial and a low bar squat tutorial. All great videos to watch.

 

Low Bar Squat

Arguably the best book for a description of the low bar squat: Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Some videos from Mark Rippetoe: Low Bar Back Squat Description | Bar Position | High Bar vs Low Bar

So you’ll notice that Mark Rippetoe prefers the low bar squat. Ultimately, the choice is up to you. Below is a video of Candito teaching the low bar squat.

 

High Bar Squat

This is often called an Olympic Squat. Here is a video describing the high bar squat.

 

Hybrid Squat

Probably the best video on this topic.

And below is an older video where he briefly touched on the subject of the hybrid squat.

 

So You Think You Can Squat?

An awesome series of videos by powerlifter Matt Wenning about learning the squat. There are 5 parts. Part 1 is embedded below, the rest are linked underneath.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

 

As you notice in the video series, the guys at Elitefts believe in box squatting just like Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell (creator of the Westside Method). Here is a video of Dave Tate teaching the box squat.

Also read Dave Tate’s article: Master of the Squat

 

Front Squat

My favorite assistance movement for the back squat. The front squat forces good posture, the torso must be kept upright for the duration of the lift, the upper back will be the limiting factor. Less weight will be used by most lifters in the front squat as compared to the back squat. It closely mimics the movement pattern of the clean also. The front squat requires good ankle, hip, shoulder girdle and wrist flexibility/mobility. Here is a video on how to do it.

Mark Rippetoe teaching the front squat is another good video.

If wrist flexibility limits you, here is a pretty good video on using the cross grip or a variation with straps. Personally, I use a clean grip and most people should be able to use it with 2-3 fingers on the bar (which is enough to keep the bar in place with a proper front rack position).

Elliott Hulse on the front squat (he loves them): Front Squat for Bigger Quads | Front Squat Tip (Is the Bar Choking You?) | Why Front Squats Are Better For Athletes

Because the upper back limits the movement and tends to tire out first, I like to keep front squats at low reps when weights are heavy. Otherwise your upper back will fatigue, round forward and thus put more stress on your wrists and elbows with the bar rolling forward. This will make it hard to keep your elbows up like you should and maintain a good rack position. I prefer doing multiple sets of 5 or less repetitions, but of course that’s something you have to decide for yourself.

 

Lower Back Rounding (a.k.a. ‘Butt Wink’)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl_kDg6fBWE

Specifically for low bar squats, here is an interesting video on low bar squats and why you shouldn’t go past parallel on low bar squats in order to avoid lower back rounding. (Note: It’s perfectly okay to go past parallel on a high bar squat, if your flexibility allows this to happen with good form.)

 

Toe Angle

 

Hips

 

Breathing During the Squat

 

Head Position During the Squat

Another good one from Candito. He also covers the deadlift head position in this.

 

Shoes for Squats

For most people, Olympic weightlifting shoes are a must when squatting high bar to full depth or front squatting to full depth. The elevated heel increases range of motion at the ankle joint and allows you to squat deeper. Alternatively, you can put plates under your heels. Some people with great ankle and hip flexibility can squat to full ATG depth without a raised heel (so wearing flat shoes or going barefoot).

For a wider stance or low bar squat, you’ll want to wear flat shoes with good stability.

Avoid sneakers with cushioning.

 

Improving Mobility for the Squat

If you have trouble hitting depth or are experiencing any sort of pain (actual pain, not soreness), it’s usually a form issue with the movement. This is often caused by limited mobility in the range of motion required by the squat. Most of the time, it’s a hip and/or ankle (usually both to some degree) issue, if  you can’t squat ATG (ass to grass, all the way down) without your knees collapsing inward or your heels coming off the ground. Corrective stretching and self myofascial release as part of an active recovery routine can help this a lot. A low back squat (or the hybrid between high bar and low bar mentioned above) will be more forgiving with limited ankle and hip mobility than an Olympic style back squat or the front squat.

The easiest stretch to do is to put the bar on your back, squat down ATG and stay in the hole for 2-3 minutes (work up to it). This will stretch you in the position you want to be in. If you can’t accomplish that yet, an alternative would be to support yourself with a band around your waist or by holding something in front of you, then squatting as low as  you can go (with good form) and trying to get down into a full squat over time. Always push your knees out to stretch your hips.

Some squat mobility videos: Tight Ankles? | Squat Stretch for 10mins | Hip Opener for Squats (Great Warmup) | Front Rack Problems? (Front Squat Specific) | MobilityWOD 3 Day Squat Series: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 | MWOD YouTube Playlist for Calves | Pre-Squat Hip Opener (‘Couch Stretch’ Against Wall) | Hip Mobility Exercises from Candito (I do these immediately after every lower body workout.) | Hip Mobility with Mark Bell | High Hamstring Mobility

 

As always, this is just my personal approach to the squat and some videos that have helped me improve my form over time.