The Ideal Judo Exercise: Front Squat


The Ideal Judo Exercise: Front Squat by Greg Culver

What's the best exercise for a judoka or judo practitioner?
There are numerous opinions floating around in cyberspace, but
the general consensus is that the best exercise for judo is the squat since it strengthens key muscle groups that are essential to judo.
Now, the big question is, what's better, the back squat or the front squat? First, let's define our terms. According to Wikipedia, the squat is a lower-body exercise in weight training which is also used as a lift in powerlifting. The main emphasis is on the quadriceps muscle group and on the glutes (buttocks), but it also involves the hamstrings, the calves and the lower back. According to renowned Dr. Fred Hatfield, the squat is "the king of exercises" because it "is capable of inducing more and
faster muscle growth than any other exercise."

The typical squat is performed by squatting down with a weight held across the upper back, and then standing up straight again. Proper technique is critical, otherwise serious injuries can occur. The back must be kept straight--not rounded--otherwise excess strain will be placed on the lower back. This type of squat is also referred to as the back squat since the weight is placed across the upper back. In the front squat, the weight is placed across the upper chest.

There is some debate about the safety of back squats. Some gym rats believe the back squat must not go too deep or it will cause excess strain on the knees and back. But others strongly contest that and believe that thighs actually touching calves is acceptable, provided the knees do not travel farther forward than the toes. And there are still others who believe that the knees may travel slightly past the toes. Personally, I don't believe there is much difference safety-wise between the back and front squat.

The key difference is in technique. For example, imagine that you tried to do O Goshi or Ippon Seoi Nage from the bottom position of the back squat. It simply doesn't go very far. So, why not do an exercise that has a similar movement pattern to the one in which you are going to have to express that strength? That exercise is the front squat.

Front squats are a challenge for most people. Some complain that it's difficult on the wrists and shoulders. These are mainly reactions to the "unnatural" angle of the wrist when doing the front squat. However, this is easily addressed by practicing the correct hand position with an unweighted bar. In fact, throughout the learning process for the front squat, it is best to use an unweighted bar in order to acquire perfect form and technique.

There is a widespread belief that you cannot front squat anywhere near the amount of weight that you can back squat. This is true, mainly because the front squat requires the stomach and back muscles to do a lot of work to hold the body upright and is, therefore, more fatiguing. However, with proper coaching and correct technique, one can advance quickly to lifting via the front squat roughly 85-90% of what one can lift via the back squat.

The main reason the front squat is more effective for judokas than the back squat is that it addresses more precise judo-related muscle groups and has a more complementary motion than the back squat, i.e., it mirrors more accurately the motions of what we do on the mat. Best of all, greater flexibility is involved, which is a major plus for a judoka.

To read more articles by Greg Culver, check out Copyright Greg Culver is the owner of www.mysportsdirecto, a website devoted to providing information on sporting and recreational activities. 

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