In the fifth instalment of our lower body stabilisation series of exercise tutorials, we feature the Front Foot Elevated Split Squat. Also, we have included non elevated, and the 1 1/4 rep versions which serve as progressions.
The split squat and its variations are really the key foundational exercises for lower body structural balance because of their profound positive impact on unilateral strength, joint integrity/stability, mobility and range of motion, proprioception and balance, as well core/trunk stability through a loaded movement.
In my humble opinion all fight athletes should include this magnificent exercise as part of their training program. The split squat will provide a tremendous amount of value for all fight athletes, both strikers and grapplers.
One of the main reasons I love the split squat so much is because it can be used to train the athlete through the entire strength curve/range of motion of the squat pattern, as well as eliciting increases in mobility and flexibility. When the athlete is in the very bottom position of the split squat, where the knee has progressed fully over the foot, the athlete is unknowingly being trained into the bottom position for a full “knee break”, “ass-to-grass” Olympic style squat. While most trainees struggle to get into this bottom position initially, the full range split squat helps increase ankle and hip mobility so they can achieve that full ass-to-grass position.
Let it be known, ass-to-grass style squatting is not for everyone, I am certainly not arguing that, but the full range split squat is the next best thing for most trainees. It will engage far more motor units and lower body musculature than the traditional 90 degree single leg squat taught in most certificate 3 & 4 fitness courses. Specifically grapplers and MMA fighters, for example, need to push your opponent off you with your legs at full knee flexion while on your back, therefore you need to develop force production through the entire strength curve and lower body range of motion. This is one of the main functions of the split squat.
For strikers, especially kickers, the more force development you can achieve through your lower body, the better off you will be. The more stability and ‘robustness’ you can build through your legs, the more durable they will be heading into the later minutes of the final rounds. For punchers, the force development of your punches begins through your feet, driving up through the rotation of the hips, and is expressed through the arm & fist. Lower body force development is paramount and inseparable from punching power. Again, this is one of the main functions of the split squat.
Some might argue that lower body strength training makes strikers’ footwork slower, if this is the case I am yet to see a valid example or study to back up this argument. If you consider the potential benefits of including split squats into your training program, they far outweigh the compromise of a very slight potential decrease in footwork speed.
Finally, the split squat is a relatively low-impact exercise which will greatly increase injury prevention by strengthening a large amount of lower body musculature and connective tissue. Staying healthy and injury-free is one of my highest values in all of my coaching and programming for fight athletes.
We have also included the 1 1/4 rep split squats in this demonstration, the reason for this is that the 1 1/4 rep variation increases the amount of time under tension per rep, and increases exposure to the bottom position of the squat per set. Using both variations in a single training cycle will dramatically improve overall results through this movement pattern.
Special thanks to Unknown coach Nadia Piazza, Unknown sponsored MMA athlete Yvonne Chow, and videographer Teresa McNair.