Using the Safety Bar Split Squat with MMA athletes or any athlete

Recently I’ve been experimenting with Safety bar split squat (hands assisted). I have a love hate relationship with unilateral leg work. Ive tried heavy bulgarian split squats and lunges in the past but its difficult to load very heavy and set-up because balance and safety are an issue. Single leg exercises often suffer as a result of sheer energetic cost of  getting set, staying stable and the emphasis often moves away from quality movement to a gassy lactic grind.

Often with MMA fighters they take a real beating in their training and further stress to soft tissues especially where it isn’t wanted can be extremely problematic. I often back and front squat athletes 2 to 3 times a week. But MMA/jiujitsu training microtrauma to backs, shoulders, wrists and elbows often mean exercise changes have to be made on the fly this is true of most collision sports. We need to stress athletes in the right way to yield improvement and progress but at the same time reduce neurological hang-over and potential tissue trauma. Safety bar split squat takes out much of the “negative stressors” but allows us to hit the athlete hard in the target muscles of quad, ankle, glute and core.

Consider that MMA fighter Matt Hughes below is doing this with his max back squat.

Below is Irish Skiier Kieran Norris performing hands assisted safety bar split squats and split squat jumps on his 5th day of 5 of concentric ‪#‎triphasic‬ cycle. The idea is that by using the safety bar we reduce axial loading (both the plus and negative of heavy back squats) while stressing a single leg. By freeing the hands we can address issues of balance allowing for more weight to be used = more stress = stronger effect.We can also apply triphasic method to this movement.

Coaching points are as follows : “The back should be kept in a neutral, supported position with the chest up. The front leg position should be around 90-90, with the back leg at an angle slightly extended beyond 90 degrees, be sure the back leg does not become too extended, as it will begin to pull the athlete’s hips out of proper alignment. Another key coaching point in this movement is teaching athletes to push through their back leg and fire that corresponding glute. This leads to increased stabilization of the pelvis while also utilizing the correct kinetic sequencing for athletes. To begin the set, the athlete will move from the starting position into the bottom position in a controlled motion.” for more on this and supramaximal methods checkout…/entry/supramaximal_slow_eccentrics_a…

If you have the right set-up I would suggest giving these a try initially as a unilateral assistance exercise and then progressively introduce it as a heavy main movement. Mainly so the athlete can become accustomed to the technique. We still combine this with deep kneeflexion, squatting and hinging but it does allow us to reduce negative stress while moving a lot of weight.
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