Written By Christy Bacon, CSCS
The squat is one of the most important fundamental movements when it comes to training. It is a compound exercise that includes several different joints as well as activating almost every muscle in the body. Back squats and front squats are two of the most popular versions of this foundational exercise, and they work your major muscle groups in different ways. By understanding the differences between them, you can decide which squat is best for you.
In a back squat, the bar is placed on the back, either sitting on top of the traps (high-bar position) or a bit lower on the rear delts (low-bar squat). The high-bar squat allows your torso to stay more upright and causes you to activate your quads more while the low-bar squat forces you to lean forward more on the descent which activates the hamstrings more. With the start position of the back squat, you will typically see the lifter leaning forward at the hip joint (flexing) in order to keep the bar over the mid-foot. The feet should be placed in a comfortable position that not only suits the lifter’s hip anatomy, but also promotes the most neutral spine position for as much of the body’s descent as possible. Range of motion in the ankles is a primary determinant as to how far the lifter needs to push the hip back in order to balance out the weight through the squat. If there is little range of motion in the ankles, the knees cannot go over the toes very far which makes the lifter push the hips back and lean more forward during the descent of the squat. The lifter can help keep the torso more upright by turning the toes out and pressing the knees out during the descent and ascent of the squat. By turning out the toes and pressing out the knees, the lifter shortens the distance from the knee (hinge) to the mid-foot where the load is aligned. Turning out your feet in ANY type of squat is also advantageous because it places the body in the best anatomical position to lift heavier weight. During the squat movement itself, the torso angle will be deeper to accommodate the bar’s positions. Depending on the lifter’s levels of mobility and leverages, this torso angle can be more or less severe when looking for a deep range of motion. As compared to the front squat, which requires a more vertical torso position to perform correctly, the back squat results in an increase in hamstring tension, lumbar spine stress, and overall posterior chain involvement.
In the front squat, the bar is placed in front of the body on the shoulders by either using the clean grip or by crossing the arms in front and placing the hands on top of the bar. Either grip demands that you keep your elbows up throughout the entire movement. Keeping the elbows up is what creates the “shelf” on the shoulders for the bar to sit on. The clean grip offers more stability but demands a level of flexibility through your shoulders and wrists. If you don’t have that flexibility, the cross-arm position would be the better option at the moment. You will sacrifice a bit of stability in this position until you become used to it, but it offers more activation of the core since you can’t “cheat” by dropping the elbows a bit on the ascent of the squat as you can with the clean grip. When a lifter places the bar in the front rack position on the shoulders, it creates an instant forward shift in the center of gravity. To keep the bar consistently over the mid-foot, it requires keeping the torso much more upright compared to back squats. The ideal start position of the front squat sees no hinge at the hip. Initiating the movement will drive the knees forward as the hips drop down and back, much more simultaneously than during the back squat. This position may increase quadriceps involvement and also potentially decrease the lumbar stress since the upright torso asks for greater anterior knee displacement. Typically, a lifter of the same mobility as the back squat example would be able to achieve greater depth using front squats, with all things equal.
Muscles used in back squat and front squat, written in order of activation.
Muscles used in Back Squat: glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back (spinal erectors), upper back, abdominals, shoulders
Muscles used in Front Squat: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, lower back (spinal erectors), upper back, shoulders.
As you can see, the same muscle groups are being activated in both types of squats, but the amount of activation of these muscle groups changes in each type of squat. Back squatting emphasizes the posterior chain—the large muscle groups of the back, glutes, and hamstrings. Front squatting recruits the chain of your body’s anterior muscles more heavily, engaging the quads and core to a greater degree. Doing back squats will allow you to train with heavier weight which in turn will help you get stronger faster, but if you have problems with your lower back, you may want to do the front squats instead. I include both front squats and back squats in my training in order to place greater emphasis on different parts of the body.
Hopefully I was able to shed a bit of light on the differences between the back squat and the front squat. I hope that this information helps you in planning your training programs in the future!
A few weeks ago I went to a seminar about gym management in Västerås. The main speaker was Per Sundström, the owner of one of the most successful boxes in Sweden called Factor. He shared so many great ideas and tips on what to think about not only to run a successful gym but also several ideas and concepts that I can use in the success of my personal training company. During his seminar, Per made a statement that really stuck with me. He said that research shows that people who spend more money on their training are much more satisfied with their progress. Eighty percent of swedish people who have memberships at a gym do not go to the gym on a consistent basis. He also said that gyms count on this statistic and this is why they can sell hundreds more memberships than the gym can legally hold at one time because they know that most people that buy a membership will not come in to use them. These people are rarely satisfied with their improvements in their health because they never go in on their own to train. Whether the reasons for this is lack of time or motivation, it really doesn’t matter. They are not happy with their results. So who are the ones that are most happy with their results, and what are they doing differently? They are quite frankly spending more money. Many of the satisfied people are paying to train with personal trainers. Makes sense right? If you paid 800kr a session with a PT and would lose the money if you didn’t show up, don’t you think you would get to the gym for that booked session? The more sessions booked, the more training gets done, and the client reaches their training goals faster. Other satisfied people are paying extra money for quality gyms that offer well-coached, and well-designed classes around the clock. They find it worth paying extra money a month for the freedom to go to great classes when it fits their schedule.
I have been a personal trainer for 15 years, and I can’t even count how often I have heard people who really need help to improve their health say, “training with a PT is so expensive.” Yes. Training with a PT is expensive. But how is it that people who are obese, and people with diseases related to lack of exercise don’t feel that their quality of life is worth it? Many of these people choose to spend money on so many other things, while quality of life doesn’t seem to be on their list of priorities. Continue buying material items, food and drinks that aren’t necessary, without prioritizing training, and soon you will get to a point where you won’t be able to enjoy them anyway.
So what can people change in their lives in order to be able to spend more money on training? They have to set aside money for training first and then only spend money on things that are necessary. First and foremost, stop living to eat, and start eating to live. Buy only the basic essentials for food. For instance, a bag of oatmeal for breakfast, eggs, vegetables, chicken, rice, and fruit. Don’t buy anything to drink. Drink only water, which is adundantly free and healthy for you. Is the food going to taste fantastic? Probably not. Is it going to give you everything you need to be healthy and survive? Yes it is. If you are overweight or obese, you need to feel hungry, or you aren’t ever in a calorie deficit. You have plenty of reserve to burn, so trust me, you won’t starve. Secondly, stop driving your car, and take public transportation, or better yet, walk or bike to where you are going. Paying for gas, parking, and tolls is much more expensive than paying for public transportation. If you are close enough to walk or bike to work, do it and save a ton of money on transportation. A 30min to an hour walk to work each day could be exactly what you need to kick start your road to being healthy. Everyone’s lives looks different of course, but people can change their lives in different ways in order to make it economically feasible to spend more money on training.
The simple truth is this. Most people do not have the motivation or the discipline to exercise on their own, and exercising is the most important thing that your body needs in order to be healthy. If you are one of these people, then just buying a gym membership will never be enough to help you reach any type of training progress. Stop spending money on things you don’t absolutely need so that you can spend money on that one thing you do need: help to get you to exercise! Reprioritize your daily routines and habits so that your health can be the cornerstone of your life. All other aspects in your life will benefit once you finally make the choice to focus on your health.
There are a million personal trainers out there, and to hire a PT isn’t cheap. So how do you know if a specific personal trainer is good/knowledgeable in their field? There are three crucial aspects that I believe a personal trainer or training coach MUST have in order to be a good training coach:
Throughout my career as a personal trainer, I have met many trainers who were inadequate or subpar to say the least. They either went to some online distance pt course, or they didn’t have any education at all. There are many people in this field who believe that “looking good” qualifies someone as being a good personal trainer, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being able to train someone in order to help them reach their desired goals, whether it be as a competitive athlete or a person who wants to get in shape, is actually a scientific process, and it’s crucial that a training coach has a deep understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. It’s also extremely important that a training coach understands what happens physiologically to the human body as it is undergoing the stress of physical activity. Without education, it is impossible that the training coach has all of the tools and knowledge necessary to help you get your desired results.
In order to really understand and be able to teach and coach others in training, one needs to have years of experience in training themselves. It’s not enough to just be able to teach how to do an exercise correctly. You need to be able to explain how the exercise feels, give tips that the client can think about that you have learned only by doing. You need to understand what working hard looks like and feels like, and you need to know how to recognize the limits of your clients. If you have very little to no experience in training yourself, you will never be able to help your clients on such an advanced level. Experience leads to confidence. A great trainer can teach exercises and design a program that will get you to your goal. They are confident about their work because they know exactly what needs to be done to achieve a certain goal. They have seen their programs lead to success over and over again.
I am a firm believer that if your personal trainer or training coach cannot motivate themselves to train, how are they ever going to be able to motivate you to do it? Find a personal trainer that leads by example. They should absolutely live what they preach.
Before you hire a PT, ask them about these areas. Get an understanding of how much these three areas influence their work. Buy a small package of PT sessions with them first so that you can try them out and make sure that you feel confident that they are exactly the help you need to reach your goals. If they aren’t, try out a new personal trainer until you find the right match!
My educational merits:
- Bachelors degree in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Wyoming
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association
- Licensed Kettle bell and TRX instructor
- Licensed nutritionist through The Academy
- Worked as a personal trainer in both USA and Sweden for 17 years.
- As a professional basketball player, I designed and executed my own yearly strength and conditioning programs for 16 years.
- Strength coach for 3 different basketball teams
- Began training at the age of 13. I have over 26 years of training experience.
Even years after my professional basketball career, I continue to train at a high level. I love training hard and learning new training exercises. Training is quite simply my passion.
I love helping people. I love sharing my passion with people that need help to turn their life around and take control of their health. If you need help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help is only an email away.
Several people have asked me over the years, “how do you stay motivated to train day after day, year after year?” I have absolutely NOT been motivated to train for every single training session that I have done in my life. I have had to drag myself to the gym for more training sessions than I can even count. So if I wasn’t motivated to train, why did I even go? What made me put on my training clothes and make the trip to the gym? Discipline. Think about it like this, compare training to brushing your teeth. You know that brushing your teeth is going to keep your teeth healthy and clean right? If you go too many days in a row without brushing your teeth, they begin to build up plaque which can break down your tooth enamel and leave your teeth vulnerable to decay. They can begin to rot and fall out of your mouth. So without hesitation, most of us get up and brush our teeth before we leave the house and then once again before we go to bed. It’s not the funnest thing to do, but we do it anyway because we know what the consequences are if we don’t.
Our bodies need physical activity in order to stay healthy. There is no doubt about that. There is even substantial evidence that shows that physical activity is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect when it comes to overall health. More important than mental training, and eating a completely healthy diet. What happens if we go too many days without training? With a long period of lack of physical activity comes weight gain, higher cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, increased risk of getting cancer, diabetes, muscle loss, lower bone density, etc. The list of diseases goes on and on. The longer a person is inactive, the worse all of these problems get until it becomes catastrophic and life threatening. So why is it then that most people will brush their teeth to avoid losing them but won’t exercise in order to stay healthy?
The difference between us that train on a reqular basis and those that don’t is that we are quite in tune and connected with this fact. We simply prioritize our health much more and clearly understand the consequences of not training. We are aware that our bodies are living organisms, and in order to stay as healthy as we can so that we can live the best quality of life, physical activity must be a part of our lives. Physical activity makes us feel great and gives us energy to get through our days. The benefits of exercise outweigh any of the obstacles that come with training. So is it motivation that ultimately drives me to train? No, it’s discipline. I train because I want to stray strong and in great shape for my entire life so that I can enjoy my life as best I can.
If you are having a hard time training consistently, here are a few keys that I think can help:
1. Schedule your workout when you know you are most likely to do it. Don’t schedule to work out if you are always dead after work, or have to be at home with your family. Then maybe you need to schedule your workout in the morning before work. Don’t schedule it in the morning if you know you aren’t likely to get up. Then you need to make time at lunch or after work.
2. Find a workout partner. If you find someone to go to the gym with, you two can push each other and give each other support when the laziness sets in. Keep each other on track.
3. Set specific goals. Start by setting a goal that is definitely reachable in 4-5 weeks with consistent training. Write that goal down, and hang it in the house in a few different places. That way you will be reminded of these goals, and that should help a bit with motivation.
4. Don’t start too hard too fast! If you kill yourself in the first few workouts, you will have a negative association with training and will be less likely to go. The workouts should be challenging, but you should feel good about what you accomplished after, and not puking your guts out in the bathroom.
5. Start with training that you enjoy doing. The hardest part of starting to train is the first month. You will be extremely sore, and will be working towards making training a habit. By doing training that you find fun and enjoyable, it will be easier for you to make training a priority in your life. When training has become a habit, then other types of training that maybe you don’t think is that much fun but is beneficial can be added.
I can’t express how important training is. It is the only way to keep your body young. It helps not only in reducing the aging process, but it helps tremendously in reducing the risk in getting just about every type of disease there is. If you value life at all, then training should be a priority.
I hope that these few tips can help you make training an important part in your life. Contact me at email@example.com if you would like help through personal training or an online training program!
I believe that having a strong core is the most important foundation to build up. It becomes the backbone to all other types of training. When I train my lower back, I begin with deadlifts. I NEVER sacrifice good technique to lift heavy weight. I make sure that I am really warmed up before even starting to warm up on the bar. I warm up doing several sets with lighter weight, working my way up to my working weight Then I complete my 3 heavy working sets. After deadlift, I follow that up with 3 sets of either heavy back extension or superman back extension. Then comes my two most hated/favorite lower back exercises: table top, and table top walk. The only thing needed for these exercises are is a yoga ball. The most important key of these exercises are to keep your hips up as high as you can. NO DIPPING! Check out the videos below to see how the exercises are done.
Deadlift: 3×10 110kg
Table top: keep your hips up as high as you can! Start without weight! Aim for 3×20. Click on the link below:
Table top walk: keep your hips up, and lift your feet up. NO SCOOTING! Aim for 3×6. Click on the link below:
Give these exercises a try! I guarantee that your back will be on fire when you are done.
My lifting program is divided into four different days, with 3 different programs for each day. No matter what day I am doing, I always end each strength training session with core. I really focus on strengthening the inner muscles of my core, and one of my best programs to do my ab workout on the TRX bands. Not only is the program insanely hard on its own, but I match this program with the same day as I train shoulders. My shoulders are dead, but I still have to ask them to stabilize during the core workout. I start with doing the TRX Plank with an extra 40kg on my back. I hold for 3 sets of max time with 60sec rest in between. I aim for at least 60 seconds the first set, 45 seconds on the second, and 35 seconds on the third. I follow that up with TRX plank with a swing and do 3×45 seconds with a 30 second rest in between. Lastly I do TRX side plank with an extra 20 kg and do 2×30 seconds with a 30 second rest on each side. Check out the videos to see how each exercise is done!
Click on the link below each title to watch the video!
TRX Plank with a Swing
TRX Side Plank
Add these exercises into your program! You will be surprised at how effective they are in strengthening your core. Start without extra weight, and work your way up. Good luck!
It’s been a little over two weeks since I have written my last blog, and it’s been exactly two weeks today since my season ended. I was pretty disappointed after our loss to Northland in the third semi final game in Luleå, and I just felt like I needed a little bit of time to soak everything in and to kind of land from the stress that had been going on for the previous few weeks with the playoffs. It is the strangest feeling to practice or play basketball almost everyday for the last 8 months, and then all of a sudden it’s over, just like that. It’s kind of an empty feeling, especially when things didn’t end the way you wanted them to. I think that in all of my 12 seasons playing in Damligan, this playoff was the most challenging for me. I have never had to play in as much pain as I was in. My achilles were completely messed up, thanks to shock wave therapy, and I could barely walk. Every step was painful, and I honestly don’t know how I could have played. I barely practiced. I just swam for conditioning and tried to do rehab on my achilles which didn’t help much. I was so frustrated with the pain that I told myself that I didn’t care how much it hurt, I was going to play no matter what. I knew that I needed to play if we were going to have a chance to beat Northland, and there was no way I was going to abandon my teammates when they needed me most. Some people may think that it was stupid to play, that I risked causing greater damage, like tearing my achilles, but this is the type of person that I am. I never quit anything. I never quit on my teammates, and I never quit on myself. I played through the pain, and even though my efforts weren’t enough to take us to the finals, I felt like I gave everything that I could, so I can walk away with a sense of pride.
Two days after the season ended, I was back in the gym starting my off season lifting program. It’s the second year in a row that I haven’t made it to the finals, and I am more determined than ever to get there next year. I have volunteered my time to Sallen Basket to help in whatever way that I can to help put together a solid team that can compete for gold. I know that we need both quality swedish and foreign players in order to make it happen, and quality players cost money. The club is working hard to bring in more sponsors for the upcoming season. I am hopeful that companies will begin to believe in us just as they do in the men’s team, Uppsala Basket, and will sponsor the money we need in order to make our dream a reality.
Now that the season is over, I have more time to work on increasing my pt clients in Uppsala. I am also enjoying training on my own time, and having free time in the evening to hang out with my friends. I am currently on a train heading back to Uppsala from Kungsbacka, where I spent the day with Phoenix and Spider signing autographs and meeting people who came to the grand opening of the new MM Sports store. I always have a great time meeting other gladiators, but the best part was meeting Lelle, an owner of MM Sports. She is a breath of fresh air! She has the best personality and is so much fun to be around! Just seeing her makes me smile…definitely a good person right there.:)
It’s Saturday night, and you know what that means…Gladiatorerna! In tonight’s episode, Carrie and I get to do our first attack ball together! Having Carrie on the show makes me losen up a little bit, which I think you will see a bit tonight. It’s been a while since Carrie has put on her “move laterally” shoes on, so it will be great to see how it goes for her. I get to work on my lateral training all the time in basketball, so good luck to which ever challenger I get…both should hope to get Carrie.;)
Don’t miss tonight’s episode! Enjoy the pics from tonight’s show, and some pictures from Kungsbacka!
Here are a few pics from the grand opening of the new MM Sports store in Kungsbacka.
okay, okay…I know that it has been a really long time since my last blog. I have finally accepted the fact that blogging is not my thing. Even though I enjoy writing them, I find it so hard to actually sit down and take time to do it. I just don’t know what it is. I guess that I don’t really have the feeling of sharing my life with the entire world engrained into my bones like a lot of others, but I have made a New Year’s resolution to become more socially active. So here goes…
The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 has been a pretty eventful time for me. First off I have moved twice within a 2-month span. I hate moving. It makes me want to throw away just about everything that I own just for the sake of not having to move it. That’s how life is when you are a professional athlete and the club provides you with an apartment. Secondly, I taped Season 4 of Gladiatorerna. It’s not a secret that my twin sister is on the show this season. I can’t even explain how special it was to be able to share this experience with her. It is something that I will always cherish. Probably my most favorite part of having her here was being at the training camps with her. Even though she is 5 min older, it was like teaching my little sis the ropes. Seeing her do things for the first time reminded me of my training camps before the first season. I was exactly like her. Had no skills, just strength, and looked like a fish out of water. With my girl Magda’s (Athena) and my help, Carrie learned fast. It will be so exciting to see how she looks when it airs!
The third thing I did that is worth mentioning is Musikhjälpen. The objective was to raise as much money as possible to help stop the spread of hiv. Sisters in crime like we are, Magda and I wanted to use our very minuscule celebrity status to help the cause. We pimped ourselves out, fully clothed in gladiator outfits, to the highest bidder for a kid’s birthday party. Although largely below Magda’s outrageous yet serious prediction of raising 50,000kr, we were able to raise 10,000kr which we are both really appreciative and excited about!
When everything was wrapped up with the taping of Gladiatorerna, it was time to get back to reality. Although this time I was returning to basketball with an extremely sprained ankle and two knees filled with fluid. I severely sprained my ankle during the second day of taping. I have honestly no idea how I was able to continue. Actually I do know how. A lot of pain killers. My knees became so swollen, that I couldn’t run without wrapping them with a bandage because the the pain from the liquid jiggling during moving was too much to handle. I ended up missing 2 games because of the injuries, and they still aren’t normal today. I have nerve damage in one knee, so the skin is numb, and the ankle still hurts and is still completely swollen. It’s stronger now though so at least I can play.
Last but not least, today is the day that I FINALLY got my Swedish driver’s license!!! I have been studying during every free moment for the last 2 weeks, and I am happy to say that I can actually drive in Sweden legally now!;) What a great feeling! Now I have a Swedish passport and my Swedish license…Can I become anymore Swedish?;)
So now you know what’s been going on. I feel as though I have been freed with this blog, and I fully intend to write a new blog every week. New Year’s resolutions always work out right?;) Here are some pics from these events. Enjoy!
Pics from Gladiatorerna
Friends from Colorado came to support us! Only took Carrie being on the show to get them here!;)
Prison Mug Shot perhaps?
Few video clips. Click on the links below to see them!
I call this little clip “Should I drain it?”
Carrie and I rehearsing for an entry.
Being crazy…like we do!
I have been in the states for one week now, and it’s been so great to see everyone. I have spent most of this past week working out, shopping, and spending time with friends and family. My workouts have been going pretty well despite the jetlag and elevation. I have had to go down in weight with the lifting, but the basketball workouts and conditioning workouts are going well. It takes me roughly 3 hours to finish training, and then I have the rest of the day to do whatever I feel like doing. I had to buy new tires, a new rim, and renew my tags for a car that I will only drive for 2 weeks this year. It had to be done though. I have done quite a bit of shopping this past week. Everything is cheaper here, so I try and get everything that I need and some things that I want while I am here.
I have seen a few of my friends so far. I have spent some time with my friend Cassie and her beautiful little girl, Braxton. I was able to hang out with one of my long-time friends, Misty Odell. We go back about 20 years, and it’s been probably 4 or 5 years since I have last seen her. She has had back problems for the last two years with a herniated disk, and has had four diskectomies to try and fix the problem. The pain relief was short lived between each surgery as the disk re-herniated. She had no health insurance for the second surgery, and it was going to cost 90,000 dollars! Obamacare was too expensive and offered too low of a deductible, so she had to get on Medicaid. What sucks about Medicaid is that a recipient may have a more limited choice of long-term care facilities, and the facilities generally considered the most desirable may not be available to her. So she has to find doctors that will actually accept Medicaid in order to get the surgeries, and they are limited. Misty is in constant pain all the time. She can barely walk, and just doing simple movements causes her agony. It’s a hard pain to explain, but a herniated disk pinches the nerves near the spinal cord, so she has a constant burning, stabbing pain not only down her entire leg, but in her hips, stomach, and lower back. She has 3 more weeks to endure before she will get her fifth surgery. Since none of the other diskectomies helped, she will try a disk replacement instead. If you saw what type of condition she was in, you would wonder how she can possibly function, and how the doctors who have seen her can actually have her wait for months in order to get help. It’s embarrassing and sad. Health care for most americans is horrible, and it pisses me off to see that my friend has to go through this.
When I think about her situation, it just reminds me how hard life really is in the US if you don’t have any money. My friends have asked me if I will ever move back to the states. I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I don’t think that I ever will. I am grateful for my life in Sweden. I am grateful for the social system that they have. Sweden offers a better quality of life, and that is what is important to me. The country of Sweden actually cares about ALL of it’s citizens. Everyone gets quality healthcare no matter who they are or how much money they make. After living in Sweden for over a decade, life in the US for low income citizens seems even more sad. It’s crazy to me that my friends don’t have paid vacation time. I can’t imagine having to work all year round. When is there any chance to enjoy life? This is how it is for most Americans. They work their asses off just to make ends meet, and in a lot of cases they fall short of doing that. Of course I love America, and I am proud of where I come from, but it’s not the type of life that I want to live.
I have one week left, and I plan on spending as much time as I can with my family and friends. It’s bitter sweet being here. I look forward to going home to Sweden to spend the last part of summer there, but I am going to miss my family here. I will make sure to make the most of this week and spend as much time with them as I can.
Traditional airport pics.
How Americans do camping.;)
Spending time with Misty.
Tea time, and Charlie was also invited..
Motorcycle riding..more like motorcycle sitting.;)
Working out with Carrie.
Teaching Carrie how to do core on the TRX.
Chilling with Braxton