Exclusive: Top conditioner assesses The Ox's lifting technique - how good?

One of London's premier sports conditioners has lauded compound exercise drill use in football, noting Arsenal star's power in a recent video.

"The first exercise we see in Oxlade-Chamberlain's Instagram video is the front squat, which is harder than the back squat because of the positioning of the weight at the front of your body," one of London's premier conditioners, John McComish, tells me as we assess the Arsenal attacker's lifting technique.

Prominently-placed as an expert in the subject due to his collection of national championships in weightlifting and powerlifting, together with his work as a professional boxing cornerman, pad-coach and personal trainer, McComish continued: "This puts more strain on the forearms and the front of the legs - particularly the quads - whereas, with the back squat, the barbell sits more comfortably on the top of your shoulders."

Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered five muscular injuries during his time at Arsenal - knee in February, 2012, ankle/foot in August of the same year, hip/thigh in October, then hip/thigh again in July, 2013 and, one month later, a medial ligament knee complaint that kept him out of the first team until January, two months ago.

Since returning to Arsene Wenger's senior selection, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been majestic and has underlined a: his current and future importance to the Gunners and b: his ability to frighten the bejesus out of defences, with stunning performances against Crystal Palace where he scored twice, versus Liverpool in the FA Cup and Tottenham Hotspur back in the Premier League, where he provided the game's only assist.

Since returning from his latest injury, Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20, has participated in 602 minutes in all competitions, scoring three, assisting four, completing 83% of his passes and embarking on 15 successful dribbles. He has also been fouled seven times.

As far as the gym-work evidenced in the video above goes, McComish commented: "Hes doing 70kg. The bar is 20kg and he's also lifting 2 x 20kg weights with 2 x 5kg weights. From the footage, he completes a set of three reps reasonably comfortably, with good technique. Strong quads, hamstrings and glutes are essential for footballers at all levels."

Oxlade-Chamberlain is listed as a 70kg athlete and so he therefore is comfortable doing body-weight exercising. This means he's "a strong guy". McComish said: "He could no doubt do more and it would be interesting to see if he could do, say, 105kg for a single, as that would be 1.5 times his body-weight, but a one rep max would be a no-no as hes recently had knee and calf injuries."

What are the benefits of doing this type of weight-training when it comes to footballers, then? "He's doing this exercise to keep his legs strong so he is able to withstand all the twisting, turning and ride high impact tackles from opponents like Ryan Shawcross et al."

Oxlade also shows fans another routine. McComish has more: "The second exercise is a single leg squat of 50kg with a sponge on the bar to support his neck - a lot of people find the naked barbell uncomfortable on the top of their neck and therefore use padding.

"This is an isolation exercise possibly prescribed by the club physio/doctor to build and test the strength of his knee and other leg muscles. I would imagine he's back to full strength because if you have a bad knee that is one sure way of finding out if its recovered!

"Psychologically, if hes had a bad knee injury this will prove to him that it is back to full strength and may be used by his clubs medical team as a fitness test for recovering knee injuries."

Assessing Oxlade-Chamberlain as an athlete in general, McComish said: "He's a powerful guy, strong on the ball with explosive speed - both front and back squats build great leg strength over a full range of movement and develop/enhance fast twitch muscle fibres - of which he has many.

"The Ox has the powerful build of a 100m sprinter whilst his team-mate Theo Walcott [in the background of Oxlade's Instagram video] who is also fast is more the build of a 400m runner. They could both do the same exercises but not the same weights or probably not at the same intensity of workout.

"It's easier for The Ox to do these exercises than it is for other team mates - he knows hes good that's why he posts it on Instagram!"

On the benefits of lifting for athletes in football, from the Premier League down to grass roots, McComish concluded: "All footballers benefit from compound exercises - power cleans, power snatch, military press and front and back squats because they give increased strength, power, speed and flexibility.

"The routine doesn't have to be long in duration for the Ox - its reasonably high weights and low reps - it is just one aspect of his training regime after all - but its a vital one if he's to maximise his potential on the pitch."

For more information on Olympic lift training, boxing coaching or conditioning, visit John's website and contact him here, or see him at the Peacock Gym, Canning Town.

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