The role of split lifts in improving athleticism
Split squats are one of the most popular exercises used by weightlifters and bodybuilders. They have been around since ancient times when they were first developed in ancient Greece. Today, there are many variations of them, but all of them share some common features: they involve two or more dumbbells (or other implements) being held at different angles with each arm while the opposite leg is lifted up off the ground.
The goal is to lift the weight from the floor without letting it touch your feet.
In addition to their use in weightlifting, split squats are often used by athletes and body builders as part of their training programs. For example, Olympic weightlifter David Horton uses split squats frequently during his training program. He says that they improve flexibility and strength in several ways.
According to him, “I think it’s great because I’m able to train my legs at the same time.”
There are many reasons why split squats might benefit athletic performance. First of all, they increase the range of motion in the muscles involved in the exercise. Second, they improve balance and coordination.
Third, they reduce joint stress and soreness due to increased muscle activity. Finally, they strengthen the stabilizers of joints such as tendons and ligaments which may help prevent injuries.
What exactly does this mean?
Well, if you weigh only 50kg, and you are in the process of lifting a 90kg barbell off of the floor, it must be held at chest height to prevent yourself from getting injured. Most of the weight is not lifted, so your muscles are not working as hard as they could be. This is one reason why steroids are popular in weightlifting – they allow people to train with heavier weights than normal and build strength faster. Also, holding a weight at chest height requires great balance to keep it from falling out of your hands. If you have strong stabilizer muscles in your core, you will be able to hold the weight steady without getting tired or losing your balance. Training with split squats can address all of these issues and help you become a stronger lifter.
Some people get confused when they hear the word “squat” and assume that split squats are just another form of the regular barbell back squat. In reality, these two exercises are very different. In a barbell back squat, you bend down and lift the barbell off of the floor, then lower your body until your hips are lower than your knees.
When doing split squats, you lift the weight off of the floor and hold it at waist height with one hand, then lifting your opposite leg up until it is parallel to the ground. Then you lower the weight back down and repeat.
The benefits of split squats are not limited to just increasing the strength of your legs. Because you are raising one leg up in the air, it increases the degree of balance and coordination required of other muscles as well. When you do regular barbell back squats, most of the muscle groups (especially your thighs) are working together in a coordinated effort to lift and lower the barbell.
In split squats, your muscles must work hard to stabilize your body and the weight while one leg is in the air. This forces your stabilizer muscles to work harder and get stronger as well.
Some of you may be wondering why you should bother with split squats at all.
After all, if you can already squat 100kg, does it really make sense to spend time doing an exercise that only involves lifting half as much weight and is potentially dangerous if not done properly?
There are many reasons why split squats are a good exercise, and in fact, most people should be including them in their weight training programs no matter what their goals or current abilities are.
The main reason why you should include split squats in your program is for injury prevention. If you can increase the strength of your stabilizer muscles, then you can reduce the risk of various injuries. For example, one of the most common types of sports injury is an ankle sprain.
This happens when you invert (or roll) your ankle either on the inside or outside edge. While wearing proper footwear can help prevent such injuries, strengthening the muscles which surround and support your ankles can enable you to better control the position of your foot and prevent such injuries from occurring. This same concept can be applied to any body part that is prone to getting injured. Your knees, hips and back are just a few examples of parts of your body that are very commonly injured in people who do a lot of physical activity.
Of course, strengthening your stabilizer muscles is not a cure-all for preventing injuries. But if you are someone who participates in sports or does a lot of physical activity, it certainly couldn’t hurt to include split squats as part of your weight training program. Finally, it should be noted that most people can lift more weight when doing a barbell back squat as opposed to a split squat.
But this is mainly due to the fact that there is less strain put on your core when doing split squats. In other words, your upper body and core muscles don’t have to work as hard to stabilize the weight.
So while most people may be able to lift more weight when doing a barbell back squat, this does not necessarily mean that they will be stronger or in better overall condition. In fact, by using a split squat instead of a barbell back squat, one can actually improve their strength to weight ratio and become a more well-rounded athlete.
Note: If you have any pre-existing knee, hip or back problems then you should seek the advice of a physician before attempting this exercise.
Variations: You can perform split squats with dumbbells or with a barbell. You can also perform them inside the middle of a squat cage if you want extra support.
In order to perform this exercise properly you are going to need something to place the back foot on. This can be anything from a box to a bench to a chair or even a person (depending on how strong you are). Just make sure it is stable and of a suitable height.
Also, the more flexible your hamstrings are, the easier this exercise will be. If you have inflexible hamstrings you may want to perform this exercise with your back foot elevated on something low so that you don’t end up bending your torso too much.
To set up for the exercise you are going to need to stand in front of whatever platform or object you have chosen to place your back foot on. You are then going to want to move the front foot about a foot’s distance away from the platform. After this you are going to bend the front knee and sit back as if you were sitting in a chair while keeping the back heel firmly in place.
Your front knee should end up being somewhere between pointing straight ahead and pointing outward at an angle. Be sure to keep your back as straight as possible throughout the entire movement. This will require you to lean your upper body slightly forward. Your hands can either be resting by your side or on your knees.
After you have set your body in position, push back with the front foot and jump up as you switch the feet so that the back foot is firmly planted and the front foot is off the ground. At the top of the movement your knees should both be slightly bent and your back should be just slightly bent forward.
The shoulders should be slightly in front of the hands. From this position you are going to slowly lower yourself towards the ground while keeping your back as straight as possible and keeping the knees pointing in the same direction as your feet.
Make sure you don’t allow your front heel to rise off of the ground. If you start falling too far forward you can put your arms out in front of you for balance. Continue lowering yourself until your upper legs are at a 90 degree angle.
Your knees should be at least level with your ankles at this point. Pause for a moment and then push yourself back up to the starting position as you straighten out your legs and back and then switch feet and repeat the movement.
When you switch feet make sure that you move the foot far enough away from the other one so that you do not kick it while you are pushing back. You need a little space between the feet when you are in the air. Do not turn your feet as if you were walking.
Switch feet by pushing with the heel of your front foot and pulling with the toe of your back foot. You can also try doing an all out jump if that is easier for you. Just be sure that you do not bend your legs too much when you land or you will lose part of the benefit of this exercise.
While this exercise is excellent for the hamstrings it also involves the glutes, hips, and lower back to a certain extent. This is also an excellent beginners low impact exercise for people with knee problems.
One of the best things about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere that you have room to jump around a little bit.
I really like this exercise and it is the first one I do when I am working out. In fact it feels so good that I sometimes just do it for fun in the middle of a workout.
I hope you can get a chance to try this one out. Let me know how it works for you.
LATER EDIT: Okay I have gotten a couple of questions about this exercise so I am adding some additional information.
A lot of people are having a really hard time with their knees when doing this exercise. This is understandable considering how much we rely on our knee joints in everyday life. I have learned through experience that most people have problems because they are not sufficiently warmed up before doing the exercise and/or they are using improper form.
One of the keys to doing this exercise correctly is to bend your knees and hips when you are in the standing position. If you try to bend at the waist you are going to put undo strain on the lower back. You can avoid this by remembering to bend at the hips and knees.
If this is done properly it will take a lot of stress off of the knees.
Another common mistake is trying to do this exercise with your legs completely straight. While this is okay for more advanced exercisers it is not a good idea for beginners. Your legs should have a slight bend in the knee when you get in the standing position and then you push your feet straight ahead and pull them back as described in the main description.
If you bend your knees slightly you will find that your legs will fall in line much easier and you will not be required to push them out quite as far which reduces stress on the knee joint.
If you find that you just can’t do this without putting undo strain on your knees then you might want to consider using a split strap that goes under your foot. You basically hook your foot through the strap and the strap holds your foot out away from your body. This takes stress off of the knee and allows for a more natural movement.
I hope this helps.
Sources & references used in this article:
Weightlifting in the development of the high school athlete by RK Takano – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2013 – journals.lww.com
Constructing female athleticism: A study of girl’s recreational softball by NL Malcom – American Behavioral Scientist, 2003 – journals.sagepub.com
Exercise and the master athlete—a model of successful aging? by SA Hawkins, RA Wiswell… – The Journals of …, 2003 – academic.oup.com
Athletic training issues in synchronized swimming by DA Chu – Clinics in sports medicine, 1999 – Elsevier
The importance of muscular strength: training considerations by TJ Suchomel, S Nimphius, CR Bellon, MH Stone – Sports medicine, 2018 – Springer