This is my very
favorite core exercise and, trust me, you will
feel why from the VERY FIRST REP. It's a squat,
but how you DO that squat forces the abdominal
area to do almost ALL the work! If you want strong
abs, it doesn't matter if you're a total beginner
or an advanced trainier, TRY THIS EXERCISE.
is one of THE best overall abdominal/core exercises
I've EVER found. If you want a stronger core and
you want it fast, THIS is the exercise to focus
on. It's tough, but VERY effective.
Curl Squat exercise is deceptively simple...basically,
you're going to do a squat while holding the barbell
in the top of the barbell curl position. That's
what makes this exercise different from a front
squat (where you support the weight across the
front of your shoulders)? And what makes is so
EXTREMELY effective for training the core (which
is the REAL reason for doing this particular exercise,
NOT for working the legs)?
the resistance in front of your body in the top
curl position takes away the shoulder support
that you would normally get with a front squat.
ALL the supporting tension goes directly onto
the muscles of the core, instead of having much
of it being taken up by the shoulders. ALL your
core muscles will have to contract HARD throughout
the entire movement in order to keep the barbell
from falling forward.
difference in position may seem subtle, but it's
tension that you have to experience to believe!
exercise also helps you to get a feel for how
to properly use the abs during a squat, which
is EXTREMELY important for maximizing your squat
strength. Using the abs while squatting (especially
at the bottom of the lift) is something that does
not come naturally and is very rarely taught or
explained to trainers. And believe me, it has
the potential to add pounds to your squat FAST.
great benefit to this exercise is that your breathing
muscles (the intercostals) NEVER get a chance
to relax during this movement. From top to bottom
and back up (even while you're "resting"
at the top), your breathing muscles are being
challenged because of the weight they're being
forced to support.
can build up great breathing strength (the term
"breathing strength" may sound strange
but watch a strongman explode a hot water bottle
just by inflating it with lung power and you'll
know what I'm talking about!) and carries directly
over to your work capacity in the regular barbell
squat as well as most other demanding exercises
How To Do Curl Squats:
do this exercise, all you really need is a barbell,
but if you have access to a power rack, even better.
The rack will make it easier to get into position
for the exercise and will serve to "catch"
the bar when you're done.
the rack up so that the racking pins are one notch
below where you would normally set them for squats.
The reason you want to set those pins one notch
below is that by the time you're done with the
exercise, it may be very hard to get the bar up
to the height where you would normally rack the
bar! With the racks a little lower, you'll have
an easier time getting the bar back onto them.
the safety rails just above where you normally
set them for regular squats the first time you
try this. When you develop a better feel for how
it's done, you can lower them a little to get
the full range of motion.
weight (the first time you do it) should be about
the same as what you would use for barbell curls
for about 8 to 10 reps. This is a starting point
- you can add weight as you get stronger with
in front of the bar and hold it in the top position
of the barbell curl. Now stand up, unracking the
bar. Don't allow your elbows to brace against
your midsection. This will take away from the
supporting tension on the abs. Take a step back
and get your feet set.
holding the bar in that top curl position through
the entire movement, squat down as far as you
can then come back up. You don't actually curl
the bar while doing the squat, you just hold it
in the top curl position.
increase abdominal stability, you will be holding
your breath during parts of this movement.
you start to lower yourself down, inhale. Begin
holding your breath just below the halfway point
of the squat as you come down to the bottom position.
Continue to hold it until you're about 1/4 to
1/2 of the way back up.
you don't want to or are unable to hold your breath,
exhale through pursed lips (as though you're blowing
up a balloon). Keeping the breath held towards
the bottom will maximize core stability and allow
your abs to function more effectively during the
movement. Since this exercise uses relatively
light weight compared to a regular squat, holding
your breath is not nearly as potentially dangerous.
being said, if you DO feel lightheaded at any
point in the exercise, rack the bar and rest.
Always use your best judgement here. The idea
is to work yourself in a SAFE manner.
doing the exercise for the first time, it's a
good idea to start with just the bar, no matter
how strong you are. This will help you get a feel
for how the movement is done, where to set the
safety rails and how far down you can comfortably
you're comfortable, work your way up slowly from
there as fatigue will come quickly. It's a movement
your body will be totally unused to, no matter
how many abdominal exercises you've done in your
training career before this. The muscles of the
core will tire before your legs do. Be sure to
keep your lower back arched and tight while performing
you're able to, go all the way down until your
elbows touch your knees. This will give you the
fullest range of motion. Tense the abs hard, especially
at the bottom as you're coming back up. For extra
resistance, pause at the bottom for a few seconds.
This will give you the best feel for how the abs
should be used when squatting.
this exercise, having the resistance in front
of the body (similar to when you're doing a front
squat) allows you to keep a more vertical body
position. The majority of the tension WILL go
onto the abs, but be aware that there will also
be some tension going to the lower back.
you're holding the weight out in front of you,
the lower back must also contract to help stabilize
the spine. As you keep up with the exercise, your
lower back will get stronger.
Common Errors in the Curl Squat
Doing this exercise after a bicep workout
you can imagine, performing this exercise is not
going be as effective if you've just finished
a bicep workout. The biceps will already be fatigued
and you'll limit the amount of weight you can
use and how long you can hold it for. Use this
exercise on non-bicep training days, if possible.
Going too fast
down quickly in the squat will put extra stress
on the biceps as you come up and reduce the tension
on the abs. This exercise should be done very
deliberately with no bouncing or fast movements.
If you have a tendency to do this, pause at the
bottom for a few seconds to stop the bouncing.
Using too much weight
the legs are so much stronger, it's tempting to
use too much weight for this exercise. Remember,
our goal here is NOT to work the legs or the biceps
but to work the abs. The legs and the biceps are
only here to help push the abs. If your biceps
fatigue before your abs get a good workout, you
need to reduce the weight.
to keep your upper body as vertical as possible
with this one. It's very similar to a front squat
- having the weight in front of you allows you
to stay vertical more easily. Leaning forward
will cause the barbell to shift forward, which
will put more tension on the biceps, causing them
to fatigue prematurely. As you start to fatigue,
you will notice you have a tendency to lean forward.
This is because the supporting abs are weakening.
Do your best to keep vertical. Once you start
to move too far forward, end the set.
Bar too close to chin
the bar gets too close to the collarbones, you
will lose some of the tension in the abs. Keep
it at least a few inches away to maximize the
supporting tension and torque demanded of the
abs. If it comes too close, it may be tempting
to rest the bar on your collarbones, which will
turn it into an uncomfortable front squat.
Letting the elbows brace strongly against the
you let the elbows press strongly into the midsection,
it will take away some of the tension on the abs.
A little contact is fine, especially as you get
tired, but don't rely on using this technique
or it will make the exercise less effective.
the elbows sink in like this will also tend to
hunch your back over, putting pressure on the
lower back. This will in turn pull your torso
and center of balance forward, putting more tension
on the biceps, making you dig the elbows in more!
Keep the elbows out front, away from your body
and you'll keep a better body position and do
a more effective set.
Tricks For the Curl Squat
Look forward and slightly up
you squat, keeping looking forward and slightly
up. This will help you to keep an arch in your
lower back and keep you from leaning forward.
We want to avoid forward lean as it causes the
biceps to fatigue prematurely.
Don't breathe too deeply in or out as you're coming
down or pushing back up
too much during this exercise reduces core stability
and can compromise your form. For best core stabilization,
keep your breath carefully controlled. At the
bottom, you can hold your breath for a few moments
to get the most solid stability. As you come up,
you can exhale through pursed lips after you've
come about 1/4 to 1/2 of the way. This technique
shouldn't be used if you have blood pressure issues,
however, as it does cause an increase in blood
pressure. Keep a careful eye on how you feel if
you do choose to do this - and if you feel any
dizziness, end the set and then don't use this
technique the next set.
Pause at the bottom
really maximize the tension on the abs, pause
for a few seconds at the bottom and focus on really
squeezing and tightening your abs hard. As you
start to come back up, try to push with your abs
as well. This will help you to feel what it's
like to use the abs to help push out of the bottom
when doing regular barbell squats.
you're serious about improving core strength,
DEFINITELY add this exercise to your list. It
simply one of THE most effective core strength
exercises I've ever found, and will provide you
with dramatic increases in abdominal stability
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