The Squat Everyone Can & Should Do
Dr Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Although I use a variety of squats and lower body drills with my clients particularly eccentric isometric variations on traditional moves, there’s one squat variation I tend to use with just about every client due to its simplicity and effectiveness. It’s what I refer to as the front curled squat. Essentially you’re holding either dumbbells or a barbell in the top of a bicep curl position and performing squats. Yes, it’s that simple.
Here are 10 variations demonstrated by some of my awesome athletes and clients including NFL athlete Vantrell McMillan, NFL athletes Prince Iworah and CJ Okpalopi, NPC figure competitor Leslie Petch, NFL quarterback Taylor Heinicke, Eric McIntyre, bodybuilder Ben Lai, and MLB pro baseball player Austin Meadows, Rami Baghdadi, Ike Onike, and me in the final variation.
With that said the front curled squat and variations thereof provide 7 unique benefits over other squat variations particularly when combined with the eccentric isometric protocol. Learn more about eccentric isometrics here.
1. As previously alluded to the front curled squat is probably the single most simple and user friendly squat I’ve ever used so much so that just about every athlete and client I work with will have these incorporated into their routine in some form or another.
2. Although the effects are similar to a goblet squat, the front curled squat tends to be more conducive for maintaining optimal t-spine, shoulder, and neck mechanics. That’s because the arms can spread apart naturally (emphasizing external rotation of the shoulders) rather than feeling overly crowded (oftentimes contributing to internal rotation) as they would be if you were holding a single dumbbell with a close grip. Additionally as the load gets heavier with goblet squats, the bulky nature of the dumbbell tends to feel quite awkward. This is a non-issue with the front curled squat due to the more natural position of the dumbbells.
3. The front curled squat is also incredibly similar to a front rack kettlebell squat. While the front rack kettlebell squat is one of my personal favorite squatting variations, some individuals tend to find them very awkward as they do involve a moderate learning curve. The front curled squat on the other hand doesn’t have these issues as they’re very conducive for every level of athlete with little or no learning curve involved.
4. One of the most common statements every athlete will make after first performing the front curled squat is how intense they were not only on the legs but also the core and upper body as the shoulders, biceps, upper back, abs, and entire lower body get crushed.
5. Few gyms have dumbbells that exceed 100 lbs. As a result stronger athletes tend to struggle overloading the goblet squat. The front curled squat on the other hand has no such loading limitation unless of course you can easily hold two 100 pound dumbbells in each hand and squat with perfect mechanics. Read more about overloading goblet squats here.
6. Similar to the goblet squat or front rack squat the front curled squat reinforces a more upright torso position and punishes the lifter if they excessively bend over at the waist. However, the front curled squat requires even more precise form as it’s incredibly unforgiving and will punish even the slightest bit of excessive forward tilt. Essentially this will cause the dumbbells to get yanked down and out of position. That’s because an excessive forward tilt with the front curled squat places extreme tension on the relatively small biceps muscles causing them to give out if there’s too much tension. The goblet squat or front rack squat on the other hand aren’t quite as unforgiving thereby allowing the lifter to get away with subtle form aberrations.
7. The front curled squat is perhaps the single most versatile squat variation as the various modifications make it suitable for loading in a single arm or single leg fashion as well as lunges and Bulgarian squats, not to mention the use of barbells or dumbbells. The use of barbells also makes the implementation of accommodating resistance quite simple and effective while also allowing for near limitless loading capabilities.
Want to improve your jumping & landing mechanics? Try these single leg front curled skater squat jumps with the eccentric isometric protocol as I have 2 NFL athletes & GSP sponsored pros Taylor Heinicke & Julian Williams doing here.
The same benefits discussed above also apply to jumps. In fact because of the intense full body tension, core activation, & spinal rigidity produced from the front curled protocol this has a tremendous benefit for both jumping & landing mechanics. Essentially it reinforces the idea of staying tight, eliminating energy leaks, & optimizing motor control all of which are critical for knowing how to control power production & force absorption.
The single leg squat protocol as shown here also helps address imbalances & asymmetries between sides while simultaneously working on foot & ankle mechanics (one of the most neglected components of training). You’ll also notice how few if any of my athletes ever wear normal athletic shoes. That’s because barefoot conditions help optimize foot & ankle mechanics thereby improving activation up the kinetic chain. Read more in my ULTIMATE Foot & Ankle Manual.
Lastly the eccentric isometric protocol is something I use for 90% of more of all exercises with every one of my athletes and clients as it’s the single most effective training protocol I’ve ever used for improving athletic performance, functional strength, size, joint health, & body mechanics. That’s because the emphasis on the eccentric phase helps wake up proprioceptive mechanisms of the body which in turn helps the lifter fine-tune their body mechanics & master their movement. Learn more about eccentric isometrics + 30 eccentric isometric training routines in my new book MOVEMENT REDEFINED .