Challenge Your Mind as Much as Your Legs With This Squat Series

Squats are, by and large, one of the most uncomplicated styles of exercise you can do in the gym. Yes, they’re a compound lift, and you need to make sure that your form is solid and you’re hitting the right depth for your body—but at their core, squats are as simple as bending your knees, dropping your butt, and pressing your feet through the ground to stand back up.

That’s why this kettlebell squat drop series from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. is so effective. The exercise forces you to focus your mental energies on every single movement, so you can’t just clock out and push through the reps.

“This squat series is all about messing with the mind,” says Samuel. “On the surface, it seems like a basic dropset: Start with a heavy weight front squat, lighten the weight, then work a few more reps. But the technique on the back end of things challenges you a lot more than you think.”

The move is so taxing on the brain because of the unexpected effects that come when you drop one of the kettlebells.

“Your body (and mind) are ready for the lighter weight. But they’re unprepared for the unilateral positioning that arrives in the dropset,” says Samuel. “Your core already put in work during the standard front squat reps, but now it has to fire up in a new way, and your hips are challenged to maintain even more balance. Living in that thighs-parallel-to-the-ground position with that unilateral load during the pause adds to the abdominal burn.”

To do the kettlebell squat drop series, you’ll need a pair of evenly-weighted kettlebells. Check out this option from Yes4All if you want to take it on at home.

Men’s Health/Eric Rosati

  • Start out holding both kettlebells in a front racked position, with your feet square.
  • Perform 8 reps of standard squats.
  • Drop both kettlebells directly in front of you.
  • Pick one up, and immediately pick one up and bring it into racked position.
  • Perform 4 to 6 reps of single-arm pause squats, holding the bottom position for 1 second.

    If you really want to challenge your core, too, you’ll need to make sure you’re holding the weight the right way. “Make sure to aggressively own your front rack positioning during all stages of this,” Samuel advises. “The kettlebells shouldn’t be resting on your shoulders; work to create a near-vertical force angle through your forearms and wrists and be strong with the bells. If you have a mirror, use it for this one; it’ll keep you honest about battling to keep your shoulders and torso square instead of tilting to one side.”

    Take on the kettlebell squat drop series with 4 sets, switching arms on each set (so you wind up with 2 sets on each side).

    For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts. If you want to try an even more dedicated routine, consider Eb’s New Rules of Muscle program.

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