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Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

Vital Stats

In the fitness community, I’m most often recognized because of my big weight-loss transformation. I went from 185 pounds to a little less than 130 pounds. It took me a few years to get to my lowest weight, but I followed the motto that slow and steady wins the race and I never gave up. I know it was this attitude that helped me place second the 2013 Bodybuilding.com BodySpace Spokesmodel Competition.

Sometimes, I look back and can’t believe how far I’ve come. I don’t even remember the girl who had never stepped foot in a gym and gorged on pizza, chips, and ramen all day.

But I’ve decided my transformation work is not yet done—in fact, it’s only just begun! I’m on a second transformation journey, and this time I’m putting my happiness and my health first. I’m transforming my body from skinny to strong, and my mind from unhealthy to happy.

Before

After

Why I Decided to Change … Again

Believe it or not, when I weighed 185 pounds, I was one confident girl. I loved my body and never thought of myself as fat. I was who I was and that was that. I wasn’t defined by my body’s appearance. But that self-confidence changed the moment I decided I should lose weight. It seemed as though the more weight I lost, the more self-conscious about my appearance I became. I reached every weight-related goal I had set for myself, and yet I was never good enough.

At 125 pounds and with barely enough body fat to function, I competed for the first (and last) time with anxiety that I was “too fat” to be on stage. I had become so progressively wrapped up in numbers and body fat percentages over the few short years of dieting, that I was mentally destroyed.

I also noticed that my training started to suffer. I first began working out to be healthy and because I loved the way it made me feel, but I had lost sight of those reasons. I trained to burn calories and stay as thin as possible. If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run. I started to hate outdoor runs because I was forcing myself to do them. I allowed my training to control me. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed in exchange for doing whatever it took to stay thin.

Along with a severely distorted body image and training that was running me into the ground, my relationship with food started to become extremely disordered. Gone were the days of using food for fuel. If my food wasn’t weighed out to the gram and if I didn’t prepare it myself, I refused to eat it. There were days that I had full-blown anxiety attacks because I couldn’t log something in MyFitnessPal.

“If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run.”

I began taking hours of my day to try to configure my food so I would hit my macros just perfectly. If I didn’t, another anxiety attack would ensue. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I restricted myself with calories, types of foods, and situations. God forbid I would eat a cookie!

I felt like I was drowning, like I was just barely holding my head above water. Everything I had loved so much in the beginning—the healthy eating, the workouts, my body—now had complete control of my life. They were no longer positives. They had become negatives, weighing me down with each passing day. I knew I had to change. It was only a matter of time before I broke down completely.

That’s when I decided I wanted to find strength.

Letting Go

The first thing I had to change was my mindset. I had to let go of the unhealthy habits that were slowly suffocating me. My negative body image was, and still is to this day, the hardest thing to let go of. I found it much easier to allow for self-hate than to find self-love. Sadly, I think this is true for many people. But I had to let go.

I had to let go of having visible abs 24/7. I had to let go of desperately trying to maintain 12 percent body fat. I had to let go of the number on the scale. Most importantly, I had to let go of the idea that I would only be happy if I was lean. I wanted to be happy when I looked in the mirror, and I knew it wouldn’t come from a certain size. It had to come from letting go and loving myself no matter what.

“I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made.”

I still remind myself of where I started. That girl sitting on her ass eating ramen all day is 180 degrees from where I am today, and she always will be. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made. Whether I stay the size that I am now or gain or lose a few pounds, I love who I am. My worth is no longer based on what the scale says in the morning.

I don’t have “fat days” or “fluffy days” anymore, because quite frankly, I don’t care. I refuse to let something like three pounds of water destroy my day. I know now that I’m healthier than I ever was at 130 pounds. My hormones aren’t out of whack, I’m not moody or depressed, I don’t have random headaches, I’m not constantly fatigued, and I don’t feel weak.

Unfortunately, there’s a widespread belief that equates health to six-pack abs. This might be true for some people, but for the majority it’s not. I can lift more, sprint faster, and am healthier now than I ever was. There is beauty in strength. I don’t just say it, I know it.

Letting Go

I wanted my fire for exercise to burn like it did when I first started lifting, so I let go of the forced daily runs and extra HIIT sessions to “make up” for calories. I began to utilize conditioning work 1-2 times per week instead. I added back my short outdoor runs, but much more infrequently, and never because I felt pressure to burn a certain number of calories. I threw my heart monitor away.

I also discovered powerlifting. When I finally dropped the light-weight, high-rep stuff I was doing to stay thin, I started following Wendler’s 5-3-1 program and quickly fell in love. My strength skyrocketed, and when I decided I wanted to take my training to the next level, I signed with The Strength Guys. Now, the spark is back when I’m in the gym. I feel the fire again.

Squat

Strength Training Program

I follow an intense, block-periodization powerlifting program created by my coach, Jon Stewart. It’s high volume, tailored to correct my weaknesses, and uses movements and load intensities built for progression. I’m on six-week cycles of five-day splits. I have one day of light conditioning and one day of complete rest. Mobility is a vital component of my current program because my training pushes my body to its limits.

Each day and week I use different sets, reps, and weight with a specific rest time, exercise tempo, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to follow. Days one and three look on week three of my program.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Pause Squats have the lifter descending to the bottom position of the squat and freezing. The bottom position is held for three seconds, maintaining tightness in the muscles and correct technique, before returning to the starting position.

Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.)

is lifting sub-maximal loads with maximum force. For more details check

elitefts.com

.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Reset Deadlifts are performed the same as a standard deadlift, but the lifter will put the weight completely on the floor and reset their hip position between each rep.

Letting Go

The hardest physical aspect to change for me was my diet. I had developed such rigid views and habits around food that it was almost more of a struggle to let them go than it was to keep them. I packed away my food scale and deleted MyFitnessPal. I started incorporating foods that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in years. I stopped restricting. I re-learned how to eat, not from a clock or scale, but from what my body was feeling.

At first I thought I would feel free without the calorie counting, stress, obsession, and anxiety, but I didn’t. I would take two steps forward and three steps back, wondering if I would ever be able to change. It took years to develop my disordered relationship with food, and I knew it wasn’t going to take a week to fix it. So, I trusted the process just as I always had, kept working at it, and didn’t give up.

Today, around 70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food that allows my body to perform at its optimal level. This includes things like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

The other 20-30 percent of food I consume is made up of things that I crave, or that I just plain want—no explanation or condition necessary. There is no special time, day, or place for these foods. I allow myself the freedom to eat them when I want them. Some days I’m at a 50/50 split, some days it’s 100/0, but on most days I stay right around 80/20. It all balances out.

I don’t restrict, I listen to my body’s needs and wants, and most important, I consume everything mindfully and in moderation. Through all of the extremes, I’ve found balance to be the key component in my physical and mental health. It’s also been the key to my happiness.

Sample Day

I don’t have a meal plan to follow because the foods and amounts I eat change on a daily basis. I don’t weigh or measure anything, so all quantities below are estimated. I don’t know my caloric intake or macro breakdown, but I would guess I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200-2,700 calories per day. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Greek Chicken Wrap

Final Thoughts

Throughout my second transformation, I’ve found myself spending more time with friends and family. They couldn’t care less what I look like—my abs make no difference to them. As long as I’m healthy and happy, they’re happy too.

It’s funny because these are the people I pulled away from when I started my downhill slide into disordered eating and thinking. I sheltered myself from everything that wasn’t fitness related, even friends and family. But when I finally let go of the obsession and the stress, I felt free.

During this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

The fitness community is full of extremes. We work out until we can’t move. We eat diets of tilapia and broccoli. It takes a strong individual to endure what we put ourselves through. But during this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

I want to be somewhere between the overweight college girl and the underweight girl on stage, somewhere between the girl who ate pop-tarts for every meal and the girl who ate lettuce for every meal, somewhere between the girl who never stepped foot into the gym and the girl who wouldn’t leave it until she’d burned enough calories. This middle spot is where I’m happy and strong. It’s where I found my balance.

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Fitness 360: Karina Baymiller, Petite Powerhouse

Karina Baymiller may have had 6-pack abs, but she wasn’t happy. Learn how she let go of her obsession with image and built a healthier, happier, stronger body and mind!

Perfect Legs: Karina Baymiller’s High-Rep Plyometric Leg Workout

Leg day is so nice, you better do it twice! I go heavy on legs early in the week and then finish them off with this powerful plyometric workout.

Body Transformation: Fitness Formula

Karina found out through relentless experimentation that good things come to those who are patient. She tried every plan in the book and perfected her own formula!

Originally posted here –

Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

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Luisa-Polo.07

Glute Workout: 6 Ways To Build Your Perfect Booty

Pop onto FitBoard or the fitness board on Pinterest and you’ll soon learn that it’s all about the butt! Who doesn’t want a backside that turns heads? You can do cardio until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t build a great bum unless you do some weight training. Not sure which moves or techniques are best for building the perfect booty? We’ve got you covered.

India Paulino, Tabitha Klausen, Amanda Latona, and Sara Solomon: The lovely ladies of BSN want to help you build your best booty!

Here are five of the best glute training techniques and exercises you can do, including a complete workout from IFBB Bikini competitor India Paulino. Incorporate these techniques in your lower-body training regimen and you’ll be blown away by the results. A full set of glutes is in your future!

1 Squat!

“Old-fashioned bodyweight squats that go below parallel are a great way to start your leg workout.”

Of all the bum-friendly exercises to add to your workout routine, the squat should be numero uno. True, it’s the queen exercise of butt-building, but it’s also a great movement for athleticism, flexibility, and can even tax your cardiovascular system.

Tabitha Klausen, an IFBB Bikini competitor and proud owner of a great booty has some tips for squatting. “Old-fashioned bodyweight squats that go below parallel are a great way to start your leg workout,” she says. “They’re the perfect way to make sure you concentrate on using the right muscles throughout the workout.”

Before each leg workout, Tabitha does 4 sets of 25 reps of bodyweight squats. She focuses on squeezing the glute muscles to get them firing and ready for her heavier lifts ahead.

Tabitha recommends concentrating on form rather than weight. “Focus on feeling the form through all of your exercises rather than using the heaviest weight possible,” she says. “It’s important to feel that mind-muscle connection.”

2 Go “Wide And High”

Puzzled about how to grow your glutes without also building massive quads? Amanda Latona delivers the “wide and high” answer. “When doing any glute-focused exercise, like squats, take a wide step forward to take the weight away from your quads. Or, if you’re doing step-ups, add more elevation. Both adjustments will add more focus on the glutes specifically.”

If you’re really looking for a challenge, Amanda also recommends lunging by stepping down from an elevated platform. This increases your range of motion, which will result in greater glute muscle fiber activation and growth.

3 Build a Glute Bridge

One problem Dr. Sara Solomon sees regularly is women who are using a regimen that neglects to correct muscular imbalances. “It’s critical to follow a workout that focuses on correcting your muscle imbalances so you can avoid running into injuries,” she explains. “Most of us spend the majority of our day sitting, which further causes the glute muscles to weaken and makes us rely more heavily on our quads and hamstrings to power through our exercises.”

One of Sara’s favorite exercises to correct this imbalance is the glute bridge. To perform this one, sit on the ground with your upper back against a bench, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Squeeze your glutes as you raise your pelvis high enough off the floor to create a straight line between your knees, hips, and shoulders.

“It’s critical to follow a workout that focuses on your muscle imbalances so you can avoid running into injuries.”

Focus on using only your glute muscles to do the work. If you need a bigger challenge, put a weight plate or loaded barbell on your hips for extra resistance.

4 Try Single-Leg Squats

Because this exercise puts your body in an unbalanced position, you’ll have to recruit often-untapped muscle fibers in order to maintain balance. This added challenge will get even the most stubborn glutes to grow.

Single-leg squats are often overlooked, but they’re one of the most challenging and most effective lower-body movements around. Many people won’t be able to do one right off the bat. Hold a weight in front of you for counterbalance, grab a wall for help, or put a thin plate under your heel.

Whatever you do, squat down as low as you can.

5 Do Split Squats

The split squat is an excellent butt-building move. When you do it, think about pushing up from the bent-knee position through the heel instead of through the ball or toes of your foot. By shifting your weight to your heel, your center of balance will instantly move slightly backward and will better activate your glutes.

To make split squats even more difficult and thus put more stress on your booty muscles, put a barbell across your back. A barbell works better than dumbbells because your body position is optimized for glute muscle recruitment.

6 Follow India Paulino’s Glute Workout!

The 2013 Bikini International winner knows exactly what it takes to earn the top spot on stage. For India Paulino, that means working her glutes three times per week! “I was always very skinny,” India says, “so I had to work hard to build my glutes.” India’s glute workouts are fast-paced, intense, and effective!

Here’s an example glute-building session:

Glute Training
Watch The Video – 06:18

Recommended For You

About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

Excerpt from:

Glute Workout: 6 Ways To Build Your Perfect Booty

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Image buttworkout-kneelingband.jpg

Lower-body booty circuit

Combine these three micro workouts to form a lower-body workout that’ll have you working up a sweat.

THE WORKOUT 5 to 6 rounds, with no more than 10 to 15 seconds’ rest between exercises.

5 Burpees // 20 Kneeling Banded Hip Thrust

5 Burpees // 20 Knee to Squat Jump (10 on each leg)

5 Burpees // 30 Standing Hip Abductions (15 on each leg).

Click Here!

Workout by Kyla Gagnon.Photography by Jesse HladyKneeling banded hip thrust

Placing the band just above your knees, kneel down on a soft surface, toes together and knees apart. Slowly with control, lower your hips back and down towards your feet, pause and slowly with control, rise and push your hips to the front, squeezing your glutes at the back.Use the strongest band you can.

Begin on your knees on a soft surface. Place your right foot in front of you, and then your left, holding a squat position. Keeping your chest up, drive through your feet and explode up, landing in a soft squat with heels down. Lower one leg at a time back into your kneeling position. Alternate legs on the stand-up portion each time.

Placing the band either just above or just below the knees, find a strong, stable position on your left leg, holding on to something for balance if needed. Extend your right leg out to the side and every so slightly to the back, pointing your toe towards the floor. Keeping your leg strong and straight, begin raising the leg laterally, and dropping back to tap the floor.

Begin in a standing position. Place both hands on the floor just in front of your feet. Either jump or step both feet back into a push-up position.

 Jump or step both feet back to their starting position and explode up towards the ceiling.

 

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catherine-biery-transformation-graphic-1

Body Transformation: Catherine Biery Busted Into A Figure Physique!

Name: Catherine Biery

Why I decided to transform

My weight skyrocketed during my 20s due to lifestyle choices, low self-esteem, and poor relationships. Even though I earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, I couldn’t get my weight under control. At one point, I got up to 175 pounds on my 5-foot-3 frame.

I started dating my husband in my early 30s, regained some of my lost self-esteem, and became more serious about exercise and nutrition. I became a cardio queen and steered clear of the weight room. I ran on the treadmill for hours and wondered why I didn’t lose weight. My husband later introduced me to weightlifting and I loved it. I developed a passion for strength training, slowly lost weight and eventually hit 135 pounds, which felt amazing. Rather than focusing on being skinny, I wanted to be strong.

I became pregnant at age 33 and gained weight again, but weighed less than I did in my 20s. I lost all of my pregnancy weight with continued training. I also paid attention to portion sizes by measuring food in a food journal. I was mostly fit again but wanted to take it to the next level.

Before

After

AGE 37 / HEIGHT 5’3″ / BODY FAT 25%

AGE 37 / HEIGHT 5’3″ / BODY FAT 10%

Post To Fitboard

My ultimate goal was to compete in a figure. I learned about figure competitions years before, but always assumed I wouldn’t make it to that level. The physical and mental strength required to accomplish my goal seemed inspiring and appealing.

Before my daughter turned 3 years old, something clicked. I realized I could accomplish my goal if I set my mind to do it. I wanted to set a good example for my daughter who could watch me follow through with something important. A fire was ignited inside me at age 37. I was ready to see what I was made of, so I cleaned up my diet, increased my training, and watched myself transform.

On November 16, 2013, with support from my family and friends, I competed in my first figure competition. My confidence and inner strength are through the roof. I feel better mentally and physically now than at any time in my life. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me and am excited to compete again.

How I accomplished my goals

Accomplishing my goals felt like a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs. When I made the commitment to compete, I was determined to follow through. I wasn’t going to let myself down.

 

“Rather than focusing on being skinny, I wanted to be strong.”

I vocalized my goal to my friends and family who became my support team. Having their support motivated me when times got tough. It would’ve been easy to quit if I hadn’t let those I care about join my journey. The month before my contest was tough physically and mentally. I reached out to my support team on tough days and asked them to send me their favorite motivational quotes, stories, and experiences, which helped a lot.

On tough days, I’d look to individuals I admire. I visited Erin Stern’s Facebook page often and read transformation stories on Bodybuilding.com. I also read fitness magazines for new workout tips and clean-eating ideas. Most of all, I thought about who I wanted to be for myself and my daughter. I want her to know that it’s important to chase and complete your goals, even when it’s hard and you’re afraid.

I’ve been told countless times by friends, family, and random strangers at the gym that I inspire them. If I told my 20-year-old self that one day people would say that I inspire them, I would’ve never believed it. It’s those moments that keep me motivated to push toward my future goals.

Apply Here To Be A Transformation Of The Week!

Apply Here To Be A Transformation
Of The Week!

Bodybuilding.com honors people across all transformation categories for their hard work and dedication. Learn how our featured transformers overcame obstacles and hit their goals!

Diet plan that guided my transformation

I drink at least one gallon of water per day and increase that to two gallons per day three weeks before competition. This is my maintenance diet that keeps me running like a well-fueled machine.

  • Salad
  • Spring Greens Spring Greens2 cups
  • Mixed Veggies Mixed Veggies1 serving
  • Light Asian Sesame Dressing Light Asian Sesame Dressing2 tbsp
  • chicken Chicken5 oz
  • cottage cheese Cottage Cheese1/2 cup
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk Unsweetened Almond Milk1 cup

Training regimen that kept me on track

I strength train six days per week and work each muscle group twice per week. I also do 3-4 hours of cardio per week on the stairmaster.

What aspect challenged me the most

The most challenging part of my transformation was three weeks out from my contest date. I increased my cardio from four to seven days per week and depleted additional calories from my diet.

The combination left me with low energy and an energetic 3-year-old to keep up with. Knowing it was temporary kept me going. I leaned on my husband and support team for motivation and visualized myself on stage completing my goal.

“Don’t obsess about the number on the scale!”

My future fitness plans

I learned a lot from my first figure competition. I met many wonderful people and had fun. I’m excited to get back on stage and do it again. I have specific improvements that I want to make for my next show and will give myself a few months before I step on stage again.

Even though I have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, I was too embarrassed to pursue my dreams and help others meet their fitness goals because I hadn’t completed mine. I now have the confidence to pursue it and plan to become a certified personal trainer when my daughter is in preschool.

Suggestions for aspiring transformers

  • Believe in yourself and make long-term changes.
  • Surround yourself with positive people to lean on when you need help.
  • Seek inspiration from others who have been there to ignite your inner fire.
  • Take progress photos.
  • Keep a food log and measure your food.
  • Don’t obsess about the number on the scale!
  • Reach for the stars!

How Bodybuilding.com helped me reach my goals

My husband and I use Bodybuilding.com for our supplementation needs because it has the best prices and fastest shipping. Bodybuilding.com keeps us happily stocked with supplements and motivates us with articles and transformation stories.

Catherine’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Shut It Down” by Pitbull (Feat. Akon)
  2. “Shake It” by Metro Station
  3. “Remember The Name” by Fort Minor (Feat. Styles Of Beyond)
  4. “Berzerk” by Eminem
  5. “Hella Good” by No Doubt

Body Transformation: Jen Wade Turned Body Fat Into Hard Muscle!

Jen was fooled by misleading food packaging and steadily added weight for several years. At age 31, she made a stand, lost 11 percent body fat, and competed. You can too!

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, NutritionComments (0)

<div id="DPG" webReader="126.131470308"><div class="side-bar" webReader="-16.5731707317"><div class="c10"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2014/al-kavadlo-vital-stats.jpg"/></div><h3 class="article-title c11">Vital Stats</h3><a href="http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/AlKavadlo/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Bodyspace"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2013/bodyspace-social-icon.png" width="20" height="20" border="0" class="c12"/></a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/AlKavadlocom-Were-working-out/205151489148" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Facebook"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2013/facebook-social-icon.png" width="20" height="20" border="0" class="c13"/></a><a href="https://twitter.com/AlKavadlo" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Twitter"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2013/twitter-social-icon.png" width="20" height="20" border="0" class="c13"/></a><a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/alkavadlo" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="YouTube"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2013/youtube-social-icon.png" width="20" height="20" border="0" class="c13"/></a><p><strong>Name:</strong> Al Kavadlo, CSCS<br /><strong>Location:</strong> New York, NY<br /><strong>Occupation:</strong> Trainer, author, lead instructor of Progressive Calisthenics Certification<br /><strong>Website:</strong> <a href="www.alkavadlo.com" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">alkavadlo.com</a></p></div><p>It's become a common cliché that bodyweight athletes don't have strong legs. Look at the comments on any YouTube clip showcasing advanced calisthenics, and you're bound to see someone hating on the lack of lower-body development. A number of coaches also insist that it's impossible to build a strong, powerful lower body without external weights.</p><p>Balderdash, I say! Bodyweight exercises alone can make you every bit as strong as can barbells and dumbbells. You just need to push yourself and get a little creative.</p><p>While newcomers need to spend some time honing their bodyweight squats and lunges, it usually doesn't take long for these basic exercises to max out on their strength benefits. Once this occurs, however, adding weight is not the only solution; you can continue to build strength by simply progressing to more difficult bodyweight exercises, like I discuss in my book <a href="http://www.dragondoor.com/b69/?apid=4e8cb1ea167b0" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Pushing The Limits</a>.</p><p>Ultimately, I recommend working up to single-leg movements like the <a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/pistol-perfect-one-legged-squats-and-beyond.html" target="_blank">pistol squat</a> to get the most out of calisthenics leg training. However, these types of advanced movements may remain out of reach until you've built more strength. As an intermediate step, jump training can add a challenge to your lower-body workouts without the need for weights or equipment. And even if you're well-versed in pistol squats, some of these simple exercises may offer you a new challenge and a welcomed change of pace.</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c14">1 Jump Squat</h3>
</p><p>A jump squat is like a regular bodyweight squat, except instead of simply standing up at the top of your range of motion, you jump as high as you can, lifting your knees toward your chest at the top. You can do them jumping in place or up onto an object.</p><p>Though your legs obviously do most of the work, jump squats are a full-body exercise, so use your arms to generate momentum. Remember to stay light on your feet and avoid landing with your knees locked. Keep your joints relaxed and do your best to absorb the impact as gently as possible.</p><p>Try to go directly from one jump into the next, taking advantage of the elasticity of your muscles and their stretch reflex. If you're not able to do this at first, however, just reset and take a few seconds between reps as needed.</p><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2014/jump-training-the-4-move-no-equipment-leg-workout-1.jpg" width="560" height="593" border="0"/><p>"Though your legs obviously do most of the work, jump squats are a full-body exercise, so use your arms to generate momentum."</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c14">2 Broad Jump</h3>
</p><p>Another fun plyometric squat variant, the broad jump is essentially the same as the jump squat except you jump forward, not upward. You still want to lift your legs high as you jump, however; this will help you clear more distance. Leaving your legs dangling isn't as aerodynamic. You'll need a lot of space to practice broad jumps; I recommend a park or field.</p><p>Again, try to go from one rep right into the next, though feel free to take a few seconds between reps if you need to when starting out.</p><img class="float-right c15" src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2014/jump-training-the-4-move-no-equipment-leg-workout-2.jpg" width="276" height="377" border="0"/><p>"Lunges are one of my favorite leg exercises, but like anything else, they need to be progressed once they cease to be a challenge."</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c14">3 Jump Lunge</h3>
</p><p>Lunges are one of my favorite leg exercises, but like anything else, they need to be progressed once they cease to be a challenge.</p><p>Start out with a stationary jump lunge by lowering yourself down into a split squat and jumping up at the top, gently landing back into the bottom position with your knees bent. Do several in a row, and <em>then</em> switch legs.</p><p>When you get comfortable with those, the cycle lunge is a more advanced jump lunge worth trying. It starts out the same as the stationary jump lunge, but once you're in the air, you'll have to quickly switch your legs before landing. Continue to alternate legs with each rep, going from one right into the next. Feel free to swing your arms for momentum or keep them at your sides. It might take a little practice to land comfortably without losing your balance.</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c14">4 Sprinting</h3>
</p><p>Though often overlooked, running is arguably the most natural and fundamental of all lower-body calisthenics exercises. Though most people associate running with long-distance cardio training, sprinting turns up the intensity to such a degree that the body's response is more like performing a heavy set of barbell squats than jogging a 10K. Yes, you can actually <a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-muscle-prof-best-cardio-for-preserving-mass.html" target="_blank">build strength and muscle through sprinting</a>!</p><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2014/jump-training-the-4-move-no-equipment-leg-workout-3.jpg" width="560" height="353" border="0"/><p>"The body's response to sprinting is more like performing a heavy set of barbell squats than jogging a 10K."</p><p>Remember that when you sprint, both of your feet are often in the air at the same time, so sprinting is pretty much a form of jump training. You can do sprints for time or for distance, but either way, keep them brief and intense for the most strength benefits.</p><p>Here's a simple routine that can be done anytime to help you find your footing in jump training.</p><div id="meal-plan-table" webReader="-14.96812749"><p>Perform all exercises consecutively, with 1-2 minutes rest between each set.</p><ul><li class="rowBgColor c17"><span class="mpt-images"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/649/Male/t/649_1.jpg" alt="Warm-Up" width="53" height="53"/><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/649/Male/t/649_2.jpg" alt="Warm-Up" width="53" height="53"/></span> <span class="mpt-content content"><strong>Warm-Up</strong><br />Light jogging or jumping jacks for around 5 minutes</span></li>
<li class="rowBorderColor c17"><span class="mpt-images"><a href="javascript:pop('freehand-jump-squat')"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/108/Female/t/108_1.jpg" alt="Jump Squat" width="53" height="53"/></a> <a href="javascript:pop('freehand-jump-squat')"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/108/Female/t/108_2.jpg" alt="Jump Squat" width="53" height="53"/></a></span> <span class="mpt-content content"><strong><a href="javascript:pop('freehand-jump-squat')">Jump Squat</a></strong><br />2 sets of 10 reps</span></li>
<li class="rowBgColor c17"><span class="mpt-images"><a href="javascript:pop('standing-long-jump')"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/831/Male/t/831_1.jpg" alt="Broad Jump" width="53" height="53"/></a> <a href="javascript:pop('standing-long-jump')"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/831/Male/t/831_2.jpg" alt="Broad Jump" width="53" height="53"/></a></span> <span class="mpt-content content"><strong><a href="javascript:pop('standing-long-jump')">Broad Jump</a></strong><br />2 sets of 5 reps</span></li>
<li class="rowBorderColor c17"><span class="mpt-images"><a href="javascript:pop('scissors-jump')"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/813/Female/t/813_1.jpg" alt="Jump Lunge" width="53" height="53"/></a> <a href="javascript:pop('scissors-jump')"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/exerciseImages/sequences/813/Female/t/813_2.jpg" alt="Jump Lunge" width="53" height="53"/></a></span> <span class="mpt-content content"><strong><a href="javascript:pop('scissors-jump')">Jump Lunge</a></strong><br />2 sets of 10 reps</span></li>
<li class="rowBgColor c17"><span class="mpt-images"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2012/sprints_115x53.jpg" alt="Sprints" width="115" height="53"/></span> <span class="mpt-content content"><strong>Sprints</strong><br />2 sets of 10 seconds</span></li>
</ul></div><p>There is no single strength building method that's guaranteed to work best for everybody. Weight training will forever have its place in strength and conditioning, but there will always be alternative options to help build athleticism outside of the traditional weight room setting. Bodyweight workouts are often the most practical means of getting a quick but effective workout when you've got a busy schedule and/or don't belong to a gym.</p><p>Give the workout above a shot. I promise it will leave your quads aching and your hamstrings hammered.</p><a href="http://www.dragondoor.com/b73/?apid=4e8cb1ea167b0" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2014/al-kavadlo-streetching-your-boundaries-book-banner.jpg" width="560" height="144" class="c18"/></a><br class="c19"/><h3 class="article-title">Recommended For You</h3><div class="c22" webReader="6.20408163265"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/pistol-perfect-one-legged-squats-and-beyond.html"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2013/pistol-squats-and-beyond-smallbox.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="114"/></a><div class="c21" webReader="8.5306122449"><h4 class="c20"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/pistol-perfect-one-legged-squats-and-beyond.html">Pistol Perfect: One-Legged Squats And Beyond</a></h4><p style="display: inline;" class="webReader-styled">
Pistol squats pop up all over the place, but that doesn't make this classic movement any easier. Commit, do the work, and let Al Kavadlo be your guide!</p></div></div><div class="c22" webReader="4.91048034934"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bodyweight-bust-four-bodyweight-training-myths-debunked.html"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2014/4-bodyweight-myths-debunked-smallbox.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="114"/></a><div class="c21" webReader="6.04366812227"><h4 class="c20"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bodyweight-bust-four-bodyweight-training-myths-debunked.html">Bodyweight Bust! Four Bodyweight Training Myths Debunked</a></h4><p style="display: inline;" class="webReader-styled">
Don't believe that high-level calisthenics are only for athletes who look a certain way. Everyone can benefit from the unique challenges that come with bodyweight training!</p></div></div><div class="c22" webReader="4.81463414634"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-muscle-prof-best-cardio-for-preserving-mass.html"><img src="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/images/2013/ask-the-muscle-prof-smallbox.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="114"/></a><div class="c21" webReader="6.19024390244"><h4 class="c20"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-muscle-prof-best-cardio-for-preserving-mass.html">Ask The Muscle Prof: What's The Best Cardio For Preserving Mass?</a></h4><p style="display: inline;" class="webReader-styled">
You've heard the benefits of high-intensity cardio for weight loss, but you're concerned it'll cost you hard-earned muscle. Learn the truth!</p></div></div></div><div class="padded-content article-content mod-about-the-author" id="article-about-author" webReader="37.5957446809"><h4 class="article-section-header">About The Author</h4><div class="ata-left-column" webReader="6.91304347826"><div class="ata-author-name"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/al-kavadlo.html">Al Kavadlo, CSCS</a></div><div class="author-gradient-button"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/al-kavadlo.html">VIEW AUTHOR PAGE</a></div><p class="ata-author-summary">Al Kavadlo, CSCS is one of the world's leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics.</p></div><div class="ata-right-column"><div class="ata-author-image-frame"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/al-kavadlo.html"><img src="images/2013/writer-al-kavadlo-sig-new.jpg" alt=""/></a></div><div class="ata-view-all-articles-link"><ul class="bb-chevron-list bold-type"><li><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/al-kavadlo.html#articles" class="bold-type">View All Articles By This Author</a></li>
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Jump Training: The 4-Move No Equipment Leg Workout

 

It’s become a common cliché that bodyweight athletes don’t have strong legs. Look at the comments on any YouTube clip showcasing advanced calisthenics, and you’re bound to see someone hating on the lack of lower-body development. A number of coaches also insist that it’s impossible to build a strong, powerful lower body without external weights.

Balderdash, I say! Bodyweight exercises alone can make you every bit as strong as can barbells and dumbbells. You just need to push yourself and get a little creative.

While newcomers need to spend some time honing their bodyweight squats and lunges, it usually doesn’t take long for these basic exercises to max out on their strength benefits. Once this occurs, however, adding weight is not the only solution; you can continue to build strength by simply progressing to more difficult bodyweight exercises, like I discuss in my book Pushing The Limits.

Ultimately, I recommend working up to single-leg movements like the pistol squat to get the most out of calisthenics leg training. However, these types of advanced movements may remain out of reach until you’ve built more strength. As an intermediate step, jump training can add a challenge to your lower-body workouts without the need for weights or equipment. And even if you’re well-versed in pistol squats, some of these simple exercises may offer you a new challenge and a welcomed change of pace.

1 Jump Squat

A jump squat is like a regular bodyweight squat, except instead of simply standing up at the top of your range of motion, you jump as high as you can, lifting your knees toward your chest at the top. You can do them jumping in place or up onto an object.

Though your legs obviously do most of the work, jump squats are a full-body exercise, so use your arms to generate momentum. Remember to stay light on your feet and avoid landing with your knees locked. Keep your joints relaxed and do your best to absorb the impact as gently as possible.

Try to go directly from one jump into the next, taking advantage of the elasticity of your muscles and their stretch reflex. If you’re not able to do this at first, however, just reset and take a few seconds between reps as needed.

“Though your legs obviously do most of the work, jump squats are a full-body exercise, so use your arms to generate momentum.”

2 Broad Jump

Another fun plyometric squat variant, the broad jump is essentially the same as the jump squat except you jump forward, not upward. You still want to lift your legs high as you jump, however; this will help you clear more distance. Leaving your legs dangling isn’t as aerodynamic. You’ll need a lot of space to practice broad jumps; I recommend a park or field.

Again, try to go from one rep right into the next, though feel free to take a few seconds between reps if you need to when starting out.

“Lunges are one of my favorite leg exercises, but like anything else, they need to be progressed once they cease to be a challenge.”

3 Jump Lunge

Lunges are one of my favorite leg exercises, but like anything else, they need to be progressed once they cease to be a challenge.

Start out with a stationary jump lunge by lowering yourself down into a split squat and jumping up at the top, gently landing back into the bottom position with your knees bent. Do several in a row, and then switch legs.

When you get comfortable with those, the cycle lunge is a more advanced jump lunge worth trying. It starts out the same as the stationary jump lunge, but once you’re in the air, you’ll have to quickly switch your legs before landing. Continue to alternate legs with each rep, going from one right into the next. Feel free to swing your arms for momentum or keep them at your sides. It might take a little practice to land comfortably without losing your balance.

4 Sprinting

Though often overlooked, running is arguably the most natural and fundamental of all lower-body calisthenics exercises. Though most people associate running with long-distance cardio training, sprinting turns up the intensity to such a degree that the body’s response is more like performing a heavy set of barbell squats than jogging a 10K. Yes, you can actually build strength and muscle through sprinting!

“The body’s response to sprinting is more like performing a heavy set of barbell squats than jogging a 10K.”

Remember that when you sprint, both of your feet are often in the air at the same time, so sprinting is pretty much a form of jump training. You can do sprints for time or for distance, but either way, keep them brief and intense for the most strength benefits.

Here’s a simple routine that can be done anytime to help you find your footing in jump training.

Perform all exercises consecutively, with 1-2 minutes rest between each set.

  • Warm-UpWarm-Up Warm-Up
    Light jogging or jumping jacks for around 5 minutes
  • Jump Squat Jump Squat Jump Squat
    2 sets of 10 reps
  • Broad Jump Broad Jump Broad Jump
    2 sets of 5 reps
  • Jump Lunge Jump Lunge Jump Lunge
    2 sets of 10 reps
  • Sprints Sprints
    2 sets of 10 seconds

There is no single strength building method that’s guaranteed to work best for everybody. Weight training will forever have its place in strength and conditioning, but there will always be alternative options to help build athleticism outside of the traditional weight room setting. Bodyweight workouts are often the most practical means of getting a quick but effective workout when you’ve got a busy schedule and/or don’t belong to a gym.

Give the workout above a shot. I promise it will leave your quads aching and your hamstrings hammered.

Recommended For You

Pistol Perfect: One-Legged Squats And Beyond

Pistol squats pop up all over the place, but that doesn’t make this classic movement any easier. Commit, do the work, and let Al Kavadlo be your guide!

Bodyweight Bust! Four Bodyweight Training Myths Debunked

Don’t believe that high-level calisthenics are only for athletes who look a certain way. Everyone can benefit from the unique challenges that come with bodyweight training!

Ask The Muscle Prof: What’s The Best Cardio For Preserving Mass?

You’ve heard the benefits of high-intensity cardio for weight loss, but you’re concerned it’ll cost you hard-earned muscle. Learn the truth!

About The Author

Al Kavadlo, CSCS is one of the world’s leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics.

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Jump Training: The 4-Move No Equipment Leg Workout

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Pop squat on the sand

Pop squat on the sand Challenge yourself with the pop squat on the sand with Holly Barker.How: Squat to 90 degrees, feet shoulder-width apart, knees in line with toes.Explode out of your squat and through your heals.Land softly back to your squat starting position and prepare to repeat. 20 reps.Words/Workout: Holly Barker (pictured)Photography: Noel Daganta

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Pop squat on the sand

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<div id="DPG" webReader="194.675770155"><p>In many serious lifters' playbook, the squat is the go-to lift for developing serious lower body strength and size. It no doubt gets the job done, but as with all exercises, there will come a point where you feel like you've hit a ceiling. You know you <em>should</em> be able to move more weight around, but your muscles just don't seem to cooperate. At times like these, a temporary vacation from the same-old squat routine is in order.</p><p>Don't worry, after you try one or several of these tried-and-true techniques, you can always come back to the squat variations you know and love best. In most cases, you'll be stronger and more balanced when you do.</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c10">1 Try Single Leg Variations</h3>
</p><p>It's amazing how simply shifting the work from two legs to one leg can exponentially crank up the difficulty. You might think, "Ok, I'll just squat half of the heavy load I've been moving in a back squat," but in most cases, you'll find that weight laughing at you the first time you try it.</p><p>The increased balance demands of single-leg squat variations make them highly difficult to the unaccustomed, but they are worth it! Stick with them until you find your footing. Unilateral exercises also confer additional benefits in correcting side-to-side muscular imbalances, which many people find to be a key to building even greater bilateral (two-leg) strength.</p><img src="images/2014/6-tricks-for-a-stronger-squat-graphics-1.jpg" width="560" height="373" border="0" class="c11"/><h6 class="altH6 c12">Pistol Squats</h6><p>While there are many one-legged squat moves to choose from, my somewhat unorthodox recommendation for you, if you struggle to improve a barbell back squat, is to try the pistol squat. Tread lightly! Even bodyweight pistol squats can be extremely difficult for most lifters, at least in the beginning. The initial instability produces more muscle engagement, and the high level of muscle control this exercise demands may initially force you to hold onto something for balance. There's no shame in that, I promise!</p><p>In the beginning, perform this exercise with bodyweight only until you can safely and confidently hit six consecutive reps. After you've done this for a while with good form, you can start adding weights, either by holding a dumbbell plate, a kettlebell, or a couple of light dumbbells held straight out in front of you. Once you can perform 6 good-form reps with a weight between 25 and 45 pounds in your arms, you should see a notable improvement in every other lower-body lift.</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c10">2 Spread Out</h3>
</p><p>In a standard back squat, most experts would direct you to point your feet straight forward, or perhaps ever-so-slightly outward. A small adjustment in your foot position, they know, can cause a significant shift in the muscles that are worked.</p><p>Following that logic, try this on for size: Spread your feet slightly past shoulder-width and point your toes outward at a 45-degree angle. This adjusted position is called the sumo squat , and it will develop strength and mobility of the hips, adductors, and glutes to a greater extent than a narrow-stance squat.</p><img src="images/2014/6-tricks-for-a-stronger-squat-graphics-2.jpg" width="560" height="373" border="0" class="c11"/><h6 class="altH6 c12">Sumo Squat</h6><p>Some people may find this position to be more comfortable for their individual body, and it becomes their go-to squat. That's great for them, but make sure you do it right before you fall in love. Ensure that your knees don't spill too far over your toes when you drop it low. And, perhaps even more importantly, don't flare your knees inward as you bottom out. Get them out wide over your toes!</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c10">3 Pause At the Bottom</h3>
</p><p>Are ya ready to feel your quads and buns burn? Try pausing at the bottom of any squatting movement. This applies to front squats, back squats, pistols, and all other variations you see in the gym. This pause eliminates the stretch reflex in the muscles, and thereby forces the muscle to generate more "true" force to be able to complete the squat.</p><p>What do I mean by "true?" At the bottom of a deep squat, the stretch in your hamstrings and adductors helps you bounce out of the hole to some degree, even if it doesn't look like a "bounce" per se. Envision pulling back a rubber band to a stretched position; it is now primed to spring back to its normal elasticity with even greater power. Adding a brief isometric contraction of about 2-4 seconds makes this "bounce" impossible, and has the potential to improve strength and power production from the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and other lower-body prime movers.</p><p>Some lifters find this to be such an effective technique that they perform at least some sets starting from the bottom. This is known as an "Anderson Squat."</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/vmUCquVG3pM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>
<h3 class="article-title c10">4 Add Half-Reps From the Bottom</h3>
</p><img src="images/2014/6-tricks-for-a-stronger-squat-graphics-3.jpg" width="235" height="378" border="0" class="float-right c13"/><p>Trying new squatting variations is only one way to attack a squat that doesn't seem to be progressing. Another is to take your current form of squatting and simply make it more difficult. A great way to accomplish this is to perform half-reps from the bottom.</p><p>These are just what they sound like. Sink down into a full squat, and then rise up just halfway. Pause, and then lower back into the hole before pushing up into the full standing position. Sound easy? In execution, it's anything but. This technique places more stress on your muscles during your weakest point of the squat movement pattern, which allows you to build strength where you need it most. Just don't call me when you can't sit down comfortably for the next few days.</p><p>Few people are able approach their normal squatting volume with half-reps being added in, so take it slowly. Add 1-2 half reps per set to start, and build up until you can perform a full set with a half-rep in between each full rep.</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c10">5 Shift the Load</h3>
</p><p>When someone mentions the squat in casual conversation—what, your friends don't do that?—-most people imagine the back squat during which the bar is placed behind the neck. But that is only one type of loaded squat, and to be honest, it isn't right for everyone. Some people simply never feel comfortable with the spinal compression that results from having a barbell sit on top of their back. Others find that for reasons of balance, knee strength, or something else, they are able to achieve far superior form with other variations. Open your mind and your squat will feel the benefit!</p><p>Take, for example, the front squat. In comparison to the back squat, the front squat hammers the quads more and calls for additional muscle activity from the hips and lower back. Due to the biomechanical nature of the movement, the front squat places less spinal compression and torque on the knees as well. Simply put, it offers much of the same stimulus as the back squat, but less risk to your most vulnerable areas.</p><img src="images/2014/6-tricks-for-a-stronger-squat-graphics-4.jpg" width="560" height="314" border="0"/><p>"In comparison to the back squat, the front squat hammers the quads more and calls for additional muscle activity from the hips and lower back."</p><p>Most athletes find that maximal weight they can front squat will be approximately 80 percent of a back squat's maximal lift, so bragging rights aren't quite the same. But in recent years, having a strong front-squat max has become cooler than ever, and is often taken as a sign of being an overall well-rounded athlete. And you'd better believe boosting your front squat will help your back squat grow, too!</p><p>
<h3 class="article-title c10">6 Make It Explosive</h3>
</p><p>Common sense says that the only way to develop a heavy squat is to squat heavy. Sure, that's part of it, but there is another proven method: <em>squat fast</em>. Bar speed is often overlooked because it often makes the exercise feel "easy" or less productive, but cranking up the velocity of your squat can help your squat immensely by allowing you to practice technique while still training for peak power.</p><p>So what exactly makes it a "speed squat?" Perform the squat at a smaller percentage of your max. Depending on your repetition range and volume of work you want to get done, this can range between 35 and 70 percent of your one-rep max. For heavier loads, lower the rep scheme; the lighter the scheme is, the higher reps should be. You can perform a set portion of a leg day for speed, or if you're really dedicated to squatting, you could split your week into <a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/the-road-to-two-plates-you-can-squat-deadlift-225.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">light and heavy days</a>.</p><iframe src="//instagram.com/p/iMcBe4xEP8/embed/" width="560" height="650" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><p>Another way to add power to the squat is by performing bodyweight squat jumps. Drop down into a deep bodyweight squat and launch yourself off the ground as high as you can go. Land quietly, meet the balls of your feet to the floor, and bend your knees slightly to absorb the impact. Drop back into the squat position and continue your reps in this fashion. As you would in any exercise, maintain proper form throughout, being mindful of spine and knee positions. Don't lean too far forward or let your knees pass too far over your toes.</p><p>Give one or all of these tips a try on your next lower-body training day, and share your experience in the comments below!</p><br class="c14"/><h3 class="article-title">Recommended For You</h3><div class="c17" webReader="5.76136363636"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/maximum-fitness-6-secret-weapons-of-the-super-fit.html"><img src="images/2014/maximum-fitness_muscletech_smallbox.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="114"/></a><div class="c16" webReader="7.09090909091"><h4 class="c15"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/maximum-fitness-6-secret-weapons-of-the-super-fit.html">MAXIMUM FITNESS</a></h4><p style="display: inline;" class="webReader-styled">
Want to know how cover models build such perfect bodies? Here are 6 secret weapons they use to set themselves apart!</p></div></div><div class="c17" webReader="5.65384615385"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/8-underrated-exercises-you-must-try.html"><img src="images/2014/8-underrated-excercises-small.jpg" alt="" width="200" height="114"/></a><div class="c16" webReader="7.26923076923"><h4 class="c15"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/8-underrated-exercises-you-must-try.html">8 UNDERRATED EXERCISES YOU MUST TRY</a></h4><p style="display: inline;" class="webReader-styled">
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Protein is an essential component of the muscle-building process. Yet, many women stray away from consuming enough protein for maximum results. Let go of fear, bust through myths, and learn about the power of protein!</p></div></div></div><div class="padded-content article-content mod-about-the-author" id="article-about-author" webReader="40.009569378"><h4 class="article-section-header">About The Author</h4><div class="ata-left-column" webReader="6.54088050314"><div class="ata-author-name"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/sclark.htm">Shannon Clark</a></div><div class="author-gradient-button"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/sclark.htm">VIEW AUTHOR PAGE</a></div><p class="ata-author-summary">I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.</p></div><div class="ata-right-column"><div class="ata-author-image-frame"><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/sclark.htm"><img src="images/2013/writer-shannon-clark-sig-new.jpg" alt=""/></a></div><div class="ata-view-all-articles-link"><ul class="bb-chevron-list bold-type"><li><a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/sclark.htm#articles" class="bold-type">View All Articles By This Author</a></li>
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6 Tricks For A Stronger Squat!

In many serious lifters’ playbook, the squat is the go-to lift for developing serious lower body strength and size. It no doubt gets the job done, but as with all exercises, there will come a point where you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling. You know you should be able to move more weight around, but your muscles just don’t seem to cooperate. At times like these, a temporary vacation from the same-old squat routine is in order.

Don’t worry, after you try one or several of these tried-and-true techniques, you can always come back to the squat variations you know and love best. In most cases, you’ll be stronger and more balanced when you do.

1 Try Single Leg Variations

It’s amazing how simply shifting the work from two legs to one leg can exponentially crank up the difficulty. You might think, “Ok, I’ll just squat half of the heavy load I’ve been moving in a back squat,” but in most cases, you’ll find that weight laughing at you the first time you try it.

The increased balance demands of single-leg squat variations make them highly difficult to the unaccustomed, but they are worth it! Stick with them until you find your footing. Unilateral exercises also confer additional benefits in correcting side-to-side muscular imbalances, which many people find to be a key to building even greater bilateral (two-leg) strength.

Pistol Squats

While there are many one-legged squat moves to choose from, my somewhat unorthodox recommendation for you, if you struggle to improve a barbell back squat, is to try the pistol squat. Tread lightly! Even bodyweight pistol squats can be extremely difficult for most lifters, at least in the beginning. The initial instability produces more muscle engagement, and the high level of muscle control this exercise demands may initially force you to hold onto something for balance. There’s no shame in that, I promise!

In the beginning, perform this exercise with bodyweight only until you can safely and confidently hit six consecutive reps. After you’ve done this for a while with good form, you can start adding weights, either by holding a dumbbell plate, a kettlebell, or a couple of light dumbbells held straight out in front of you. Once you can perform 6 good-form reps with a weight between 25 and 45 pounds in your arms, you should see a notable improvement in every other lower-body lift.

2 Spread Out

In a standard back squat, most experts would direct you to point your feet straight forward, or perhaps ever-so-slightly outward. A small adjustment in your foot position, they know, can cause a significant shift in the muscles that are worked.

Following that logic, try this on for size: Spread your feet slightly past shoulder-width and point your toes outward at a 45-degree angle. This adjusted position is called the sumo squat , and it will develop strength and mobility of the hips, adductors, and glutes to a greater extent than a narrow-stance squat.

Sumo Squat

Some people may find this position to be more comfortable for their individual body, and it becomes their go-to squat. That’s great for them, but make sure you do it right before you fall in love. Ensure that your knees don’t spill too far over your toes when you drop it low. And, perhaps even more importantly, don’t flare your knees inward as you bottom out. Get them out wide over your toes!

3 Pause At the Bottom

Are ya ready to feel your quads and buns burn? Try pausing at the bottom of any squatting movement. This applies to front squats, back squats, pistols, and all other variations you see in the gym. This pause eliminates the stretch reflex in the muscles, and thereby forces the muscle to generate more “true” force to be able to complete the squat.

What do I mean by “true?” At the bottom of a deep squat, the stretch in your hamstrings and adductors helps you bounce out of the hole to some degree, even if it doesn’t look like a “bounce” per se. Envision pulling back a rubber band to a stretched position; it is now primed to spring back to its normal elasticity with even greater power. Adding a brief isometric contraction of about 2-4 seconds makes this “bounce” impossible, and has the potential to improve strength and power production from the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and other lower-body prime movers.

Some lifters find this to be such an effective technique that they perform at least some sets starting from the bottom. This is known as an “Anderson Squat.”

4 Add Half-Reps From the Bottom

Trying new squatting variations is only one way to attack a squat that doesn’t seem to be progressing. Another is to take your current form of squatting and simply make it more difficult. A great way to accomplish this is to perform half-reps from the bottom.

These are just what they sound like. Sink down into a full squat, and then rise up just halfway. Pause, and then lower back into the hole before pushing up into the full standing position. Sound easy? In execution, it’s anything but. This technique places more stress on your muscles during your weakest point of the squat movement pattern, which allows you to build strength where you need it most. Just don’t call me when you can’t sit down comfortably for the next few days.

Few people are able approach their normal squatting volume with half-reps being added in, so take it slowly. Add 1-2 half reps per set to start, and build up until you can perform a full set with a half-rep in between each full rep.

5 Shift the Load

When someone mentions the squat in casual conversation—what, your friends don’t do that?—-most people imagine the back squat during which the bar is placed behind the neck. But that is only one type of loaded squat, and to be honest, it isn’t right for everyone. Some people simply never feel comfortable with the spinal compression that results from having a barbell sit on top of their back. Others find that for reasons of balance, knee strength, or something else, they are able to achieve far superior form with other variations. Open your mind and your squat will feel the benefit!

Take, for example, the front squat. In comparison to the back squat, the front squat hammers the quads more and calls for additional muscle activity from the hips and lower back. Due to the biomechanical nature of the movement, the front squat places less spinal compression and torque on the knees as well. Simply put, it offers much of the same stimulus as the back squat, but less risk to your most vulnerable areas.

“In comparison to the back squat, the front squat hammers the quads more and calls for additional muscle activity from the hips and lower back.”

Most athletes find that maximal weight they can front squat will be approximately 80 percent of a back squat’s maximal lift, so bragging rights aren’t quite the same. But in recent years, having a strong front-squat max has become cooler than ever, and is often taken as a sign of being an overall well-rounded athlete. And you’d better believe boosting your front squat will help your back squat grow, too!

6 Make It Explosive

Common sense says that the only way to develop a heavy squat is to squat heavy. Sure, that’s part of it, but there is another proven method: squat fast. Bar speed is often overlooked because it often makes the exercise feel “easy” or less productive, but cranking up the velocity of your squat can help your squat immensely by allowing you to practice technique while still training for peak power.

So what exactly makes it a “speed squat?” Perform the squat at a smaller percentage of your max. Depending on your repetition range and volume of work you want to get done, this can range between 35 and 70 percent of your one-rep max. For heavier loads, lower the rep scheme; the lighter the scheme is, the higher reps should be. You can perform a set portion of a leg day for speed, or if you’re really dedicated to squatting, you could split your week into light and heavy days.

Another way to add power to the squat is by performing bodyweight squat jumps. Drop down into a deep bodyweight squat and launch yourself off the ground as high as you can go. Land quietly, meet the balls of your feet to the floor, and bend your knees slightly to absorb the impact. Drop back into the squat position and continue your reps in this fashion. As you would in any exercise, maintain proper form throughout, being mindful of spine and knee positions. Don’t lean too far forward or let your knees pass too far over your toes.

Give one or all of these tips a try on your next lower-body training day, and share your experience in the comments below!


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About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

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6 Tricks For A Stronger Squat!

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Paige Hathaway

Paige Hathaway

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