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A Surprisingly Killer Exercise for Rock Hard Abs and a Strong Core
by Mike Geary

Most of the time when people think of abdominal exercises, they think of crunches, sit ups, hanging leg raises, and other various abdominal exercises that you do either on the floor or in a hanging position. But what if I told you that one of the most effective exercises for building chiseled abs and a strong core is actually done in a standing position and is thought of by most as "just a leg exercise?"

Well, it's certainly more than just a leg exercise! The exercise that I'm about to show you requires significant full body tension from head to toe while performing it. Therefore it not only blasts the legs, but also produces a solid, rock hard midsection. So what exactly am I speaking of?

Front Squats, my friend!

  Now most of you I'm sure are quite familiar with back squats (where the barbell rests behind your head on your upper back while squatting), but most people have never tried the more difficult cousin of the back squat - the front squat. And by the way, even fewer people have ever tried the extremely difficult 2nd cousin - the overhead squat (but we can cover overhead squats in a future article).

With front squats, the difference is that you support the weight in front of your body on your shoulders while squatting. Now something interesting happens by shifting the load to the front of your body - It forces you into a more upright posture during the squats when compared to traditional back squats. In order for you to be able to handle the weight in this front-loaded position, your abs and core need to stay rock-hard to stabilize your body throughout the entire movement.

When I teach front squats to new clients, they are always amazed at how much they feel it in their abs after doing a couple of sets. Personally, if I haven't done front squats for a couple of months and then add them back into my routine, my abs actually feel some pretty good soreness after the first couple front squat sessions.

One of the great things about front squats is that regular practice of them tends to improve your form on your back squat. In fact, some of the top strength coaches in the world teach their athletes front squats and overhead squats before ever introducing them to back squats. This tends to teach athletes a much better squatting form as it is virtually impossible to cheat in front squats or overhead squats or else you might lose the bar (contrary to the poor back-squatting form you see all the time in gyms and related back injuries it can cause).

Let's get to the details on exactly how to perform the front squat properly. This can be a little tricky to learn, but it is well worth it. If you are only accustomed to performing back squats, it will take you a few sessions to become comfortable with front squats, so start out light. After a couple sessions of practice, you will start to feel the groove and be able to increase the poundage. Eventually, some of the best front squatters can work up to about 85-90% of their back squat weight for any given number of reps.

To perform front squats:

One of the tricky things with learning front squats is finding which method of supporting the bar on the front of the shoulders is most comfortable. There are two basic ways to rest the bar on the front of the shoulders.

In the first method, you step under the bar and cross your forearms into an "X" position while resting the bar on the dimple that is created by the shoulder muscle near the bone, keeping your elbows up high so that your arms are parallel to the ground. You then hold the bar in place by pressing the thumb side of your fists against the bar for support.

Alternatively, you can hold the bar by placing your palms face up and the bar resting on your shoulders against the tips of your fingers. For both methods, your elbows must stay up high to prevent the weight from falling. Your upper arms should stay parallel to the ground throughout the squat. Find out which bar support method is more comfortable for you. From experience, I've found that the majority of people find the first method more comfortable (pictured below).

Once you've got the bar positioned in front of the body on the shoulders, initiate the squat from your hips by sitting back and down keeping the weight on your heels as opposed to the balls of your feet. Squat down to a position where your thighs are approximately parallel to the ground, and then press back up to the starting position. Think of squatting back and down, instead of simply squatting down. Keeping your weight more towards your heels is the key factor in squatting to protect your knees and develop strong injury resistant knee joints.

Keep in mind it's a myth that squats damage the knees. On the contrary, squats done correctly actually strengthen the knees; squats done incorrectly can damage the knees. Practice first with an un-weighted bar or a relatively light weight to learn the movement before starting to pile on the weights. Most people are surprised at how hard this exercise works your abs once you learn the correct form.

There you have it! Give fronts squats a try and you'll be working your abs and core VERY hard and from a totally different angle than you are probably used to

Go to to discover "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" about abdominals training and losing the stubborn stomach fat that covers your abs.

Mike Geary is a fitness coach, nationally certified personal trainer (CPT), the author of the internationally popular book - The Truth about Six Pack Abs, and a contributing writer for Weider Publications, which publishes Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Magazine, and others.

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The Truth about Six Pack Abs


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