This exercise is the cousin of the back squat, a favorite of Olympic weightlifters, and a good addition to the routine of anyone who likes functional fitness. The main difference between the back and front squat is the bar placement, of course. When doing the latter, the barbell should stand on top of your shoulders, and your hands should assist to keep the bar in place.
Many lifters find this exercise challenging because of various reasons; mainly mobility restrictions and improper technique, and today we will provide you with the knowledge and instructions on how to front squat properly and safely. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Benefits Of The Front Squat
1. It Activates The Quads
This exercise works the quadriceps muscles, and anyone who wants to develop strong quads should try to front squat. The reason for this is the bar placement because the weight is in the front of the body hamstrings will not be activated as much, so most of the work is transferred to the quads.
2. It Doesn’t Tolerate Bad Form
Unlike the back squat which can be performed with poor form and thus cause a plethora of injuries/problems, the front squat cannot be done if your body doesn’t have the necessary flexibility or mobility to keep the torso upright because the bar will simply drop in front of you. This fact puts the emphasis on good form first and increases the safety of the exercise.
3. Less Compression Of The Spine
When doing the back squat (especially the low bar back squat), the barbell sits on the mid back, and because of this a lot of forces press down on the spine causing compression. This is not the case with front squats since the bar stands on the shoulders and the torso is upright; the spine doesn’t have to carry such a heavy load. Another fact is that front squats are more difficult to do and you will not be able to lift as much weight as in the back squat. Individuals with back problems should opt for this exercise. For more safety, you should combine the correct form and right equipment such as bumper plates, lifting straps, etc.
4. Engages The Core
To keep the torso upright, with all the weight up on the shoulders, your core will have to be contracted all the time. This will inevitably make your whole abdomen stronger, just make sure to start with the weight that you feel comfortable with.
5. Improves Mobility
While you are in the bottom position of the front squat, the mobility of your ankles, hips, and shoulders will be challenged and pushed to the limit. By performing this exercise regularly, you will improve and maintain good mobility in these joints which is of utmost importance for any athlete in order to prevent injuries and have a fully functional, strong body.
How To Front Squat
As with every other weight exercise, good form is necessary to get the most benefits out of front squats as well as to prevent injuries. Now, let’s go through a step by step guide that describes the proper technique to perform this movement.
- Grab the barbell (which should be placed at shoulder height on the squat rack) with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Take a step towards the bar and place it on the top of your delts and collarbone by bending your elbows.
- Release the thumb and pinky finger, and hold the bar with three fingers of each hand. Make sure that your palms are relaxed, and that your hands only assist in holding the bar in its place. The weight should be held with the shoulders.
- Push the elbows up and inwards to maintain stability. Remove the bar from the rack and take a step backward.
- Contract the abdomen and slowly pull yourself down while opening the hips and flexing your knees. As you go down, push the knees outwards and keep the core tight.
- As you reach the bottom position with your heels should be in contact with the floor, push the body up using the strength of your legs.
Another variation of the front squat is doing it with a different kind of grip. The grip described in the guide above is known as the clean grip, but there is another one in use, and it is called the bodybuilder grip. Instead of bending the elbows under the bar and flexing the wrists as in the clean grip, the bodybuilder grip goes like this: take the hand of your right arm and place it over the bar on your left shoulder and place the hand of the left arm over the right shoulder. The arms should be crossed and parallel to the floor. This variation is good for anyone with wrist or elbow mobility restrictions.
Tips Before Starting To Front Squat
1. Practice Technique
Good mobility and flexibility are the perquisites to doing this movement as well as good technique. This technique needs to be practiced over and over before it becomes natural so make sure that you do it often. Remember the cues such as – keep the torso upright, push the elbows inwards and up, push the knees to the sides and repeat them until this movement becomes second nature.
2. Goblet Squats
Goblet squats are a good introduction to the front squats because they also place the load in front of your body. This, of course, means that you will need to keep an upright torso and your mobility will be put to the test. Another benefit of goblet squats is that they don’t need to be done with a lot of weight, so you can just focus on technique and finding what needs to be improved in your movement.
3. Work On Your Mobility
As we have mentioned many times in this article, yes, mobility is a very important factor when doing this exercise. Wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, ankles, lats – these are some of the body parts that will need to be able to move freely before starting to front squat.
If you find range of motion restrictions in certain joints try to work on them with various mobility drills. Things that you will surely benefit from are thoracic spine foam rolls and hip opening exercises, so they are a good place to start, and here are is some good advice on your wrists and elbows too.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a crossfitter, an Olympic lifter or just a recreational athlete, front squats are a good addition to your program without a doubt. Also, people, who are facing back squat plateaus can utilize the front squat as a supplementary exercise to push through this phase and ultimately improve their gains.
Our advice for you would be to implement this exercise in your leg workouts gradually and slowly work up to heavier weights. Good form cannot be overemphasized, and it cannot be achieved without good mobility, so we hope that this movement will inspire you to work on all your mobility restrictions and make your body fully functional.
Finally, this exercise is most challenging to the ego which you will need to abandon to ultimately become a stronger, more focused and serious weight lifter.