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March MAXness: Max Rep Front Squat


The final week of March Maxness will be dedicated to the front squat, arguably the most common weighted movement we use at Fly Feet. The DB loaded front squat is an extremely functional movement that requires leg, shoulder and significant core strength to perform correctly.  The term “core” is used frequently in the training community and many believe they have an understanding of what the core is and how to strengthen it. The reality is that the vast majority are quite lost in their quest for a sculpted tummy. The front squat requires a heck of a lot of core strength if performed correctly.

Fun fact; the DB Front Squat produces 100 times the core activation of a situp, and the situp barely uses any of the core muscles. So factoring in muscle participation you’re looking at a Ferrari (front squat) next to a razor scooter (not the fun motored kind either).

We are performing this test for the same reason we tested your 2 minute max distance effort. You need to know where you are so that you can know where you’re going! I can’t tell you how many times I have asked a class to load for, say 10 reps. I will be very specific with my instruction and articulate whether one should be able to easily get to those 10 reps or if 10 should take an act of god to complete. It’s easy to grab the same set of DBs no matter what.  Heavy for 5, grab 20’s. Heavy for 15, grab 20’s. There is a huge difference and this stuff matters y’all!

The coaches are asking for specific loads because the workout is only effective when loaded a specific way. It is the difference between a 60 second sprint that you could repeat with a short break and a 60 second effort that would leave you on the floor for 5 minutes afterwards. Each has its place in our training, but the two are not interchangeable.

So let’s pick a load and see just how many reps you can produce. Here is how it will work as there is a little more variance than in previous weeks.  

  1. 70% or 60% of your bodyweight. This is what it will take to be scored in the competition, but this is NOT required.  We are looking for relative strength (strength as compared to size) so we need to set standards. Men will use 70% and women 60%.  This is simply because women have less muscle mass as compared to overall weight. If you want to lift heavier lift heavier, if you want to lift lighter lift lighter. It doesn’t matter if it was 40 reps with 20 lb DBs or 10 reps with 35 lb DBs as long as you leave with a reference point for loading your front squat.  However, I suggest that if you aren’t using the BW % then you aim for as heavy as possible. We don’t ever ask you to load a front squat for 40 reps so that won’t be particularly helpful as compared to discovering the load that causes failure at 15 reps.

  2. Tempo. We aren’t going to be crazy strict on this but there will be tempo guidelines to keep things moving.  Essentially you will have 2 seconds in the rest (standing) position to take a breath and descend. Since most T&S classes are fast moving on the floor we want to simulate this environment. Coaches will demonstrate acceptable tempo in class, this doesn’t mean as fast as possible unless you want to.

  3. Front Rack.  We need the DB’s in a front rack position the whole time. First option is the rubber resting on your shoulders, palms facing inward and elbows hugging the ribcage. The second option is to hold the weight in front of your chest with palms facing the body. Hands must be grabbing the metal handles at all times. The coaches know all the tricks to make the rack easier but it is an essential piece of the movement.

  4. Hip to Knee. I understand that not everyone has enough mobility to get hip crease below the knee. Not everyone gets a gold star. We have to set standards to measure achievement but it doesn’t take anything away from what each of you can do!

You are in this fight we call fitness to get better!  Be proud of what you accomplish whether you are using 70% or 30% of your bodyweight.  All that matters is you have a benchmark upon which progress can be gauged. The quest for fitness is endless; an ever-moving target requiring commitment, patience and devotion to take aim. In this journey, winning is the relentless pursuit to be better, and the only way to lose is to arrive at a place where failure is no longer a part of the chase. Progress may be witnessed through success, but it is realized through failure.

All Hail the TreadMighty,

Coach JW