Tag: squats

November Fitness Challenge

We challenge you!

  • In November you will have different exercises to test and see how you place among your other SAC peers.

Maximal Tests:

  • Pushups
  • Pull-ups
  • Sit-ups

As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP) in 60 seconds:

  • Jump Rope Revolutions
  • Box Jumps (24” box)
  •  Squats

 

Find any fitness staff member to verify your reps for each task and be entered onto our leader   board. Why? Because who doesn’t like a little challenge every now and again. You can test and retest as many times as you want throughout the month.

The winner of each category will win a complimentary workout from the trainer assigned to the task. So if you have a certain fitness trainer you have always wanted to work, see which task they are assigned to and try to be the top performer in that task.

 

For more information please contact Fitness Director, Jacob Luckey, at jluckey@sacdt.com.

Kettlebell front squats for you!

What happens when you only have 15 minutes to workout?  For the majority of us 15 minutes means nothing happens.  A lot of time we get it in our heads that we have to have at least 30, 45, or 60 minutes to get a workout in and anything less wouldn’t be worth the bother.  Well as I can report from my own experience and any of my clients that show up late to a session can attest, a whole lot of good stuff can get done in 30 minutes or less.

One great way to making efficient and productive workouts in a very short amount of time is to:

  • Move quickly
  • Use big muscles
  • Use power exercises
  • Incorporate full body movements
  • Take few rests

One very valuable exercise for any workout but especially for short workouts is the Kettlebell Front Squat.  Here’s how it goes…

 

Kettlebells

Grab one kettlebell (for progression use two kettelbells in rack position), hold it tight to your chest with your hands on the low Kettlebellspart of the handle and maybe slightly on the round part of the bell (see left side picture).  With the bell on your upper chest descend down into a deep squat.  Getting your thighs below parallel should always be the goal (see right side picture).  However, to get to full depth in any squat you need to keep your feet flat, your chest up, your hips under you (not behind you), and to maintain tension in your muscles (not relaxing in the bottom).  This is the easiest with weight on the front of your body as the weight counterbalances your backside.  So not only is the KB Front Squat great for strength it is also a great exercise to help you understand posture in a full depth squat.

 

Why is this squat so darned good?  Front squats are one of the best ways to increase strength in your quads, which in turn increases stability in your knees.  The increase in depth also helps you fire more muscle fibers which will in turn increase your heart rate as well as caloric burn.  Using your big muscles means a lot of effort goes into the movement thus increasing the results of strength from the exercise.

Here is a very basic and fun way to incorporate the front squat with a short and effective workout.  So the next time you only have 15 minutes to workout there should be no excuses!

  • 10 Push-ups
  • 10 Kettlebell Front Squats
  • 10 Bench Tricep Dips
  • 10 Kettlebell Front Squats
  • 10 Ab Crunches on the exercise ball
  • 10 Kettlebell Front Squats
  • 1 Minute “Sprint” on the Elliptical.

Repeat for a total of 3-5 times through.

 

For more information on effective workouts please contact Adriana Brown at abrown@sacdt.com

Fitness Challenge: Recap

This Fall the Seattle Athletic Club challenged its members to a battle of muscles and endurance. Each week two exercises were released to test you on based on sex and age categories. In general it appeared that the middle range population outperformed both the younger and older population in most categories. Remember it is never too soon or late to try new things and push your body to new limits. Here are our highlights from our SAC Fitness Challenge this fall:

 

 

Maximum Pushups

  • Men’s Winners: Under 30: James 37; 30-50: A. Hazzard 100; Over 50: Bob 65
  •  Women’s Winners: 30-50: Chris B 30; Over 50: Maria B. 60

Jump Rope Revolutions in 60 sec

  • Men’s Winners: Under 30: James 213; 30-50: Joe 196; Over 50: George 144
  • Women’s Winners: 30-50: Abigail 211; Over 50: Maria B 190

Maximum Pull-ups

  • Men’s Winners: Under 30: James 14; 30-50: Josh 27; Over 50: Bob 17
  • Women’s Winners: Under 30: Connie 4; 30-50: Chris B 10

Box Jumps in 60 sec

  • Men’s Winners: Under 30: James 40; 30-50: A. Hazzard 100; Over 50: George 63
  • Women’s Winners: 30-50: Chris B 69

Maximum Plank Hold

  • Men’s Winners: 30-50: A. Hazzard 9:31
  • Women’s Winners: Over 50: Michele 8:15

Maximum Squats in 60 sec

  • Men’s Winners: 30-50: A Hazzard 75
  • Women’s Winners: Over 50: Maria B 51

Maximum Bench Dips

  • Men’s Winners: Under 30: James 38; 30-50: A Hazzard 130
  • Women’s Winners: Over 50: Maria B 38

Sit-ups in 60 sec

  • Women’s Winners: Over 50: Maria 40

Properly Program Your Assistance Lifts

When developing a proper strength program you need to have lifts that are classified as either main lifts or assistance lifts. Main lifts are what your program is focused around and what takes the most effort. For me and the majority of my clients these main lifts are; squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. Choosing main lifts is relatively straight forward but assistance lifts are usually where people go wrong.

The most common mistake people make with assistance work is simply doing too much. They do too many sets or too many exercises trying to train each muscle individually. Just like the main lifts, assistance lifts should be large multi-joint movements that can be progressed over a long period of time. People also tend to put way too much emphasis on their assistance work, or as strength guru Jim Wendler says it “majoring in the minors.” Simply put, you do not want to work so hard on your assistance lifts that your main lifts suffer.

Assistance lifts should serve to:
1. Increase the main lifts
2. Build muscle mass
3. Provide balance and body symmetry
4. Strengthen weak areas

All of this can be accomplished with a few large assistance lifts each day. The way I like to build a program is to pair the main lift of the day with a corresponding assistance lift. Here is an example:

Main Lift Corresponding Assistance Lift
Squat Hinge Movement (Snatch-Grip Deadlift)
Deadlift Squat Movement (Front Squat)
Bench Press Horizontal Pull (Barbell Row)
Overhead Press Vertical Pull (Pull-ups)

If you pair the main lifts with a corresponding assistance lift all you have to do is fill any gaps in the program or work on weak areas. Generally on lower body days I will program abdominal work and on upper body days I will program some extra upper back and shoulder work.

It may seem too simple but if you are doing the right things there is no reason to have more than 2-3 assistance lifts on a given day of the program.

Here is a list of my favorite assistance exercises in no particular order:
1. Pull-ups/Chin-ups
You can and should use a variety of grips and hand widths when performing pull-ups. You can switch them up every week or even every set. It really doesn’t matter; just pull yourself up to a bar.

2. Dumb Bell Rows
These can be done for straight sets or in “Kroc Row” fashion where you do a couple warm-up sets then perform an all out set of high reps (my favorite way to do rows). These are great for back development as well as grip strength.

3. Barbell Rows
There are many different ways to do these but my preferred method is to let the bar rest on the floor between each rep so you’re pulling from a dead stop each time. When doing these be sure to keep your back level and flat. Use a grip that is the same width as your bench press grip.

4. Front Squats
These are great for building up your squat strength as well as quad size. Whether you use a “clean grip” or cross your arms like a body builder, the bar must be resting on your shoulders just behind your anterior deltoid muscle (weight is not held by your hands). Take a stance slightly narrower than when you back squat and drop your hips straight down until they are below your knees. Keep your elbows high and chest up.

5. Snatch-Grip Deadlift
These are performed exactly like a conventional deadlift only you are using a very wide grip (as you would in a snatch). Your grip should be wide enough that when you finish the movement the bar is at the crease of your hips. These are great for developing the posterior chain and upper back.

6. Close-Grip Bench
Grip the bar with your pointer fingers just inside the smooth part of the bar. Focus on keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso while lowering and pressing the weight. This is one of the premier lifts to improve your triceps strength and bench press.

7. Dips
Great for developing pressing strength and muscle mass. Dips are very straight forward, just be sure you are using a full range of motion. These can be done with bodyweight for high reps or with weight added for strength work.


If you have any questions about programming your assistance lifts please contact:

Squat Problems: Depth

The squat is a lift that I firmly believe everyone should do. For me it is the king of lifts. Not only does it build enormous physical strength but it is a true test of mental toughness. Something changes in a person when they fight with everything they have to stand up with a bar across their back despite the oppressive and lung-crushing weight. I’ve seen this change in every client or athlete I work with. After a set of eye-bulging squats nothing else seems so bad, you feel like you can take on anything.

 

Squats will give you strength, speed, quickness and power. They increase bone density and mobility.  Squats don’t care who you are or how your day was, just un-rack the bar, sit down and stand up.

 

There are many different variations of the squat therefore just about everybody can do them. Despite the many variations there is a mistake that I see over and over again:

 

Not squatting to proper depth.

This is by far the most common mistake I see in the squat. I see numerous people everyday loading up the squat bar with the best of intentions only to perform something I wouldn’t even classify as a squat. For a squat to be a squat, you must sit down until the tops of your thighs are AT LEAST parallel to the floor. In powerlifting this is judged by the crease of your hips dropping below the level of your knee.

 

I can hear it now; “But Tom, going deep on squats is bad for your knees!” No it’s not, stop it. By reaching full depth you are allowing your quads and hamstrings to work equally and balance the force acting on the anterior and posterior sides of your knees, therefore making it much healthier than a partial squat. During a partial squat the majority of the force comes from the quads extending the knee through the patella tendon. This combined with the fact that you can use more weight on a partial squat means more force is acting through your patella tendon and therefore results in the familiar anterior knee pain associated with squatting.

 

So why do people perform partial squats? I’ve found that the majority of partial squats are ego driven. Everyone wants to look cool in the weight room, and the best way to look cool is to lift a lot of weight, right? So in the quest of cool a person will prematurely add weight to the squat bar each workout and turn into Joe Half-Squat, or even worse, Joe Quarter-Squat. Partial squats build the ego not the legs. Despite moving more weight, if you are not going through a full range of motion you are not building the same strength (physical and mental) as you would with a full squat.

 

The Fix:

 

  1. Lower the weight! Every client I have starts with bodyweight squats and once they can consistently hit full depth we add the empty barbell. Then we slowly increase the weight on the barbell, ensuring depth on each rep as the weight increases. This requires you to check your ego at the door, but given some time your full squat will soon equal and surpass your previous partial squat.
  2. Check your stance. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart or wider if necessary. Your toes are then angled out between 10 and 45 degrees (this will vary person to person). Find a foot angle that is comfortable and allows your femurs to get out of the way of your hip bones when reaching full depth.
  3. Work on hip mobility. I have numerous hip mobility drills I like to use but two staples are static squat holds (sit in a full squat then push on the inside of your knees with your elbows, hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat) and step-through on the smith machine or hurdles (place the smith machine bar or hurdle at about mid-torso height, squat down, step through to the other side of the bar and stand up).
  4. Improve ankle mobility.  A simple drill to improve ankle mobility is to stand in front of a wall with your toes a few inches from the base. Keeping your heel on the ground, push your knee forward until it touches the wall. Hold for 10-20 seconds then back your foot up a bit and repeat. Keep moving your foot back until you can no longer reach the wall with your heel on the floor.

 

I am always happy to help people improve their squat so do not hesitate to ask. In the meantime, go forth and SQUAT!

 

Land/Water Swimming Circuit

 

Below is a workout that I enjoy because it involves swimming along with calisthenics and plyometrics. These are two of my favorite things to do when exercising and you can combine them together into one circuit workout. If you cannot decide between the pool and the weight room, try this exercise and get them both done at once.

 

Warm up:

120 swim

 

Main Set:

40 sprint (free)

10 push ups

40 sprint (your choice: fly, back, breast, or free)

10 dips (chair or floor)

 

Rest for 1 minute and repeat 2-3 times

 

40 sprint (kick)

10 jump squats or squats

40 sprint (Kick of choice: fly, back, breast, or free)

10 lunges on each leg

 

Rest for 1 minute and repeat 2-3 times

 

Cool Down:

120 swim

 

 

There are many different variations and ways to do an exercise like this. If you enjoy it please let me know. If you have any questions or would like a different workout version contact Amber Gruger at agruger@sacdt.com.

 

To Squat or Not to Squat… That is Half the Question

Many people are afraid of performing a squat; saying it is bad on the knees, back and hips. Everyone has heard a horror story about someone hurting themselves doing a barbell squat. Well accidents do happen (usually from incorrect form), but with correct coaching the back squat rivals the deadlift as one of the best exercises for your body.

There are many benefits from doing squats, from correcting hips issues, back problems, strengthening joints and connective tissue, burning a ton of calories and many more. You can perform squats by using many pieces of equipment, like a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, your own body weight, cables, and resistance bands. Even within a squat there are two types, a front squat and back squat.

So let’s discuss the front squat, this is where the load (weight) is positioned toward the front of your center of gravity, usually on the front of your shoulders. By placing the weight more forward your body works more of the knee complex and quads during the movement, and creates move of an emphasis on your core (mid to lower back). This exercise is great for those people who need to try and strengthen their core (forcing an upright posture) more as well as strengthening ones knees (less forces on the knees for people with osteoarthritis, ligament or meniscus damage) and wrists (from holding the weight at the shoulders).

When we transfer the weight to the back of our center of gravity, the load (weight) usually rests on our back or is held by our hips (as with dumbbells). By placing the weight more backward your body works more of the hip complex and glutes during the movement, and creates move of an emphasis on how to engage your butt (one reason our backs have issues is that most of us doing know how to fire our glutes during a movement). This is a great exercise for people who need to learn how to strengthen their legs and use their hips for athletic endeavors, as well as open up their chest and create better posture (with holding the bar on your back).

As far squats being bad on the knees, a study by Escamilla (2001) looked at the biomechanics of squatting exercises on the legs and found that back squats activated more hamstrings and had higher compressive forces on the knees while front squats had more quadriceps muscle activation and lower compressive forces on the knees. They found that either squat would be good for people with ACL issues as for the low posterior shear forces. While another study from Andrews et al (1984) found that machine squats had a 30-40% higher shear force on the knees that barbell squats.

After all that what is the take home message? With correct coaching and form, you can gain a lot from squats including:

  • increased bone density
  • increased knee mobility and stability
  • stronger legs, hips and core
  • burn a lot of calories
  • it releases that muscle building hormone testosterone
  • one of the most functional exercises for every person
  • increase sports performance and overall fully body strength & coordination

If these benefits seam like something that interest you and you would like to be taught by one of the Seattle Athletic Club’s highly educated fitness staff please contact Fitness Director Jacob Galloway.