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Default Want better abs? Do front squats!
by Narkissos 08-24-2014, 02:19 PM



From Charles Poliquin Live

The front squat is one of your best tools for preventing injury and achieving new levels of athleticism. Research shows you can use it to strengthen the lower back and get chiseled abdominal muscles.

A recent study compared the activity of the trunk muscles of the erector spinae and rectus abdominis in a variety of exercises. Using a load of 40 kg, electromyographic (EMG) readings were recorded for the front and back squat, and the military press. They were compared to muscle activity during an isometric prone bridge (also known as a plank) and isometric superman on a Swiss ball, both held for 30 seconds.

Results showed the following:

Spinal erector muscle activity was greatest during the front squat, despite the fact that an empty 40 kg bar was used. Heavier loads will train the lower back muscles to an even greater degree.

The prone bridge produced the greatest muscle activity in the rectus abdominis, followed by the military press and then the front squat.

Previous studies show much greater rectus abdominis activity during the back squat using heavier loads in the 70 percent of the 1RM range, indicating that the relationship of muscle activity and exercise type is load dependent.

It is reasonable to use the front squat with heavy loads to train the rectus abdominis muscle as well. A review of how load, stance, and type of squat influences muscle activity found that a loaded front squat works the rectus abdominis, quadriceps, and erector spinae better than the back squat.



The researchers suggest the dynamic front and back squat and military press exercises are preferable for healthy trainees because they require stabilization of the abdominal and trunk muscles during a multi-joint movement, which is representative of daily living.

The plank and other isometric exercises may be useful in injured or the most deconditioned trainees because they teach them to contract the muscles for stabilization. Beyond that, they are largely useless because the plank and superman are performed in a nonfunctional static position that is rarely replicated in daily life or sports.

Another benefit of the squat is that it trains the entire lower body musculature across the functional length tension range, allowing for greater power generation at all levels of movement speed and force.

Basically, the squat has an accelerative component that trains rate of force development, which researchers note will help prevent the general population from falling.

Apply the accelerative component to sports training and we see that the front squat, in particular, trains vertical acceleration to increase jump height.

Take away the understanding that squat training with heavy loads is one of the best methods for training the entire core. Dynamic multi-joint exercises like those tested in this study will help trainees achieve the correct levels and balance of strength in the trunk muscles to enable optimal performance and avoid injury.

References
Comfort, P., et al. An Electromyographical Comparison of Trunk Muscle activity During Isometric Trunk and Dynamic Strengthening Exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 2591), 149-154.
Clark, D., Lambert, M., et al. Muscle Activation in the Loaded Free Barbell Squat: A Brief Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26(4), 1169-1178.
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  #2  
Old 08-26-2014
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I love heavy front squat holds as well. Just walk out with 30 - 50 kg above your best 1rm front squat and hold that sucker for as long as you can, it murders the midsection.
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Old 08-26-2014
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As a matter of fact I have to include those again if my lower back allows it! Haven't been able to front squat at all since June now because of lower back
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Old 08-26-2014
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Originally Posted by Johan View Post
I love heavy front squat holds as well. Just walk out with 30 - 50 kg above your best 1rm front squat and hold that sucker for as long as you can, it murders the midsection.
That sounds scary as fuck.

I'm sold!

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Old 08-27-2014
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I have started working on front squats at the moment, and am making steady progress (even though I have had to put up with the "what, you want to use weights, but you're a GIRL" comments in the gym).

I'm not prepared to disclose how much I'm lifting at the moment because it is pathetic, but it was even more pathetic when I started and everyone has to start somewhere, right? I would love to build myself some abs - I have the diet sorted, now I just need the lifting to improve and I think I will be okay!
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Old 08-31-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GemmaRowlands View Post
I have started working on front squats at the moment, and am making steady progress (even though I have had to put up with the "what, you want to use weights, but you're a GIRL" comments in the gym).

I'm not prepared to disclose how much I'm lifting at the moment because it is pathetic, but it was even more pathetic when I started and everyone has to start somewhere, right? I would love to build myself some abs - I have the diet sorted, now I just need the lifting to improve and I think I will be okay!
Nothing to be ashamed of here... We're a very supportive community.

Feel free to post vids of you lifting too :)
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Old 09-09-2014
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This is great! I always feel a solid burn from performing front squats .
It's actually "deceptively powerful" if you know what I mean. I've observed the front squat being done, and, as I've said, I've practiced it myself, in my regular training workouts, and it really does seem "simple and straightforward", at least to the mere onlooker.
But when you really "get into it", you come to realize that the front squat challenges all your muscles, especially when you use weights while doing so.
From your leg muscles, your abdominal muscles, to your upper body, you are getting a solid burn like no other , and has been proven, it's more effective than "planking".
We ought to integrate front squats more and more into our exercise regimes, as they will truly help "firm up" all those "loose" areas, like the glutes, the quads, and the obliques.
I'm definitely going to start doing front squats much more, as it is an integral exercise that can trump several of the other physically extenuating exercises that I currently do, that are wearing out my muscles, but not achieving as great an effect as front squats have the capacity to do.

Many thanks for your research, and for the awesome edification!
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Old 11-15-2015
KimmyMarkks KimmyMarkks is offline
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Wow this is good to know. I feel like my abs are the hardest part of my body to tone. I do crunches, leg lifts, plants but I still can't get toned abs. Does anyone have any other recommendations for exercises I can do?
I really need help toning my upper abs. I can't seem to find many exercises that target these areas.
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Old 09-11-2016
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I've observed the front squat being done, and, as I've said, I've practiced it myself, in my regular training workouts, and it really does seem "simple and straightforward", at least to the mere onlooker.
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