Born just a few years after the U.S. Civil war, Frank Lloyd Wright is recognized as the greatest American architect in history. Through his 70-year career, he revolutionized the organic merging of the natural surrounding habitat with the functional needs of the user. Whether it is the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Taliesin West in Arizona, or the extraordinary Fallingwater in rural western Pennsylvania, each Lloyd Wright creation intertwines nature and form with powerful functionality.
Not so surprisingly, creating a powerful body can and should merge the goal of functionality as well. All training, whether it be to gain strength or mass, lose body fat or develop athleticism, needs to be merged with the functionality of creating a body that can remain healthy, fit, active and virile throughout your life. Yet sitting here, looking out to the ocean in a crisp autumn morning, a fresh pot of the morning black nearby, it would appear form and functionality is sadly lost to this generation of readers in the fitness world.
Collectively, too many authority figures of the present exercise industry are wrapped warm and tight within a safe cocoon of similar activities exclusive to the weight room and have based many ideas on pristine environments that oddly only exist in the gym. Today's exercise game is communal village of Tolstoy's syndrome, where the "credible" science that they have snuggled themselves tightly in has unraveled because in doesn't carry over to real life situations.
is merely a piece of this puzzle that should help us have a life worth living and I live a life that men half my years cannot imagine keeping up with.
First of all, let's dispel some basic notions that have filtered through to the perversity of the modern iron game. While many of us have wide-ranging goals and objectives, like the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, in your training you need to recognize that there is a symbiotic flow between form and function. This ridiculous term
that is now an overused marketing term is best served as a punch-line to the bad training notions of this era, because all training, when done right, has purpose and is "functional." The moment exercise does not carry over to real-life goals and objectives, its sensibility is lost and the user is destined for failure.
Sadly the basic, almost elementary goal of having training improve the quality of your life is something that few fully embrace or are even aware as a possibility. Through a correct program, you will not only achieve your goals of
strength and mass
(if that is your goal) but equally develop an
that merges explosive power with grace that will last throughout your lifetime.
is extraordinarily simple, as we are basically either pushing, pulling or squatting a weight with proper form. Form, functionality, strength and health blend together when mixed right.
With this in mind, one exercise needs to be a cornerstone of every resistance program, that being
. Squats are a rarity in strength training because they can be performed with variety of styles, with equally varied levels of intensity to satisfy an incredibly broad spectrum of goals. While naturally the bodybuilding community employs the movement for
superior hypertrophy needs and athletes will make use of squat for building power and explosive legs, if you are just the average gym-goer, the benefits of squatting are far-reaching in your life. With proper technique employed it will help develop tremendous range of motion, strengthen the lower back, enhance work capacity that will carry over to all other training and dare I say life.
In an even odder twist of fate, while in the modern gym the epidemic to perform curls appears to run rampant and mirror space is dwindling, if you want great arms and a powerful back, the route starts in the squat rack. The super-compensatory effect of squatting will cause full body muscular growth and development beyond any resistance movement.
Now before we get started, I want you to first forget the plain-old vanilla idea of performing squats. For advanced development in both size, strength and functionality, the method of squatting needs to expanded to include a diverse selection of movements and intensity levels. This will allow us to stay ahead of the adaptation curve that is so problematic to training and ultimately lead us all-around development and satisfying our goals.
The Squat variations we will cover are:
1. Olympic Squat
2. Front Squat
3. Overhead Squat
4. Box Squat
5. Hi Box Step Up 6. Rx Squat
As you walk into the rack, grasp the bar firmly with complete and absolute control and allow it nestle along your traps. With a good inhale of the lungs, the chest up, back strong walk out of the rack under control. Initiate the movement by pushing the buttocks back. Ensure the angle of the hips and knees are the same as you descend to parallel or rock-bottom position, and then begin to reverse the motion in your ascent as you drive up against the floor. Pay particular attention that the torso lean isn't too far forward. Typically because of weak hips, hamstrings and lower back, many well intentioned lifters lean over too much and the lift becomes more of a back lift. As technical efficiency improves the speed of the descent is going to increase radically so you're dropping fast and as smooth as Kentucky bourbon, stopping at the base of the lift and then exploding back up.
There are two definitive ways to perform the Front Squat, the Olympic style, which is my preference and the adaptation known as the bodybuilding style. The Olympic style typically allows greater weight used not to mention the ability to work the movement into training complexes as level of expertise improves. In the movement the bar, sits in the "rack" position as it rests on collarbone / shoulder region. The lifter may in fact allow their hands to open yet have total control of the bar. The elbows turn under the bar, basically with the upper arm parallel to the ground and the torso stays taunt and firm. The feet are spaced roughly shoulder-width apart and turned out slightly. Drop into the squat by pushing the butt back into a full rock-bottom squat then push drive up and thru. Of course for those who try this lift for the first time they will invariably realize the main issue will be flexibility to grasp the bar and may find it better to use the "bodybuilder" style, often associated with the blonde bomber, bodybuilding legend Dave Draper. To perform this style, walk in the squat racks and align barbell across your chest and shoulders. Cross your arms over the bar, hold and support the bar with your hands. Torso is strong, chest open and completely the lift as in the Olympic style.
I recall teaching this lift many years ago and getting looked at with complete bewilderment. Some 10 or 15 years later as I spoke of online--it further attracted nay-sayers in the strength community as an ineffective exercise (that there fat and out-of-shape physique was unable to perform). Luckily now overtime, the public is slowly starting to realize this is one of the great movements that will challenge virtually every goal in training (and the Renegade Wheel of Conditioning) . Overhead squats will develop tremendous total body strength, an impenetrable core and great flexibility. For many this lift will immediately identify tremendous weakness in hip flexibility, poor gluteal development as well as insufficient strength in the shoulder capsule. In performing this lift your grip is quite wide, outside the rings akin to a Power Snatch grip and your arms straight. The bar will be aligned at or slightly behind your ears with back arched. Squat down by pushing your hips and butt back to complete squat depth and back up.
The Box Squat is used primarily to enhance hip flexibility and best served for these purposes as a form of "active recovery". Performing this movement appears to be relatively simple but it will immediately signal weaknesses in the posterior chain and hips. Setting up with your feet much wider than shoulder width (this will vary depending on hip flexibility and hamstring strength), with a tight arched back, push that booty way-back, knees out "spreading the floor" and sit to a low (stable with varying heights of 10-16 inches) box. The torso needs to be kept tight throughout the lift including during contact on the box too many lifters "collapse" and once again the movement becomes a back lift. Drive off the box with the hips and hamstrings tight.
This movement is decidedly not the "step up" you would have performed right after that "grapevine"in that 80's step class and is actually one of the best exercises you'll ever find for leg development. In fact it is so difficult that most photos you'll see them done incorrectly with an obvious push off the incorrect leg. The box height for greater glute development is set up so that with your lead leg planted on the top of the box and your base foot is off its heels, the lead thigh is parallel to the ground. For greater quadriceps emphasis box height should be lowered. Again as I noted, rarely is this exercise performed without cheating and to avoid jerking upwards by using the base foot, squeeze the toes of the plant leg and drive upwards with the plant foot on the box. Form, functionality blended together to suit your goals. Whether it be for mass development, sporting needs or you want to live a healthier and active life, proper use of Squats can make this happen. Like Frank Lloyd Wrights great work, your body needs to be trained so that you can live healthy and painfree forever. Now the question is how to put it together. To find out more join us for the next part of this ongoing series.
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