Squats are the undisputed king of the weight room movements. If you are looking to build a great physique, or looking to perform better in your sport, you need to squat. However, a squatting variation that generally gets less attention than it should is the front squat.
The front squat is an enormously important exercise. This is a move that you should start doing early on in your training career, it will help you with whatever goals you are working on.
Let’s take a look at why they are so good, how you should do them, common problems, and exercises to make your front squat better.
There are so many benefits, we are just going to focus on four of them.
Sprinting, general athleticism.
There have been many studies that show that when the front squat is a good movement for an athlete, it has been shown to help sprinting, and the ability to quickly change direction. Also it correlates with an increased power output in athletes, more than many other movements. Jumping height has also been show to be improved by front squats.
It is well proven that front squats provide higher quad activation than back squats. Back squats are excellent, but generally they are more stressful on the posterior chain than the quads. So if you are looking to grow some monster quads, the front squat is the ultimate quad builder. That is to say front squat with straps or without them.
Safer than Back Squats
This is by no means encouraging you to ditch back squats. However, back squats are considered a riskier exercise than the front squat. With the front squat, there is a built in safety mechanism, i.e. if you can’t squat the weight, you drop the bar. There is also less strain on the lower back. The lower back is a common irritation for many lifters, so being able to squat heavy without irritating the lower back is a godsend.
It will show you your weaknesses
If you have weak abs, your front squat will suck. If your upper back is weak, if your hip, ankle or wrist flexibility is poor you will suck at front squats. The movement has a brutally honest way of showing you where you need to work. Treat this move like a teacher. A teacher that seriously kicks your ass.
How to Front Squat
There are several pointers to keep in mind when doing this movement. It is going to be assumed that you can already squat. If you can’t then check out this article here. We will talk about how to front squat properly.
- Your feet should point slightly outwards. Your knees are going to move in the same direction your toes are pointing.
- Always keep your chest up straight, and your elbows high, throughout the whole rep
- Hold your breath, and keep your abs tight.
- When in the bottom of the squat, focus on your hips engaging, and your glutes getting you back into the start position.
- Your weight should be in your heels. Do you lean forward, as you will fall over.
Get a Grip
This is one of the issues that stops many people from front squatting. The grip seems painful and complicated, but it isn’t, let’s go through the options to see what is best.
This is the classic, and best grip for front squatting. It is how Olympic lifters hold the bar when they “clean” it to their chest. This creates a very stable position for the front squat, but ca be difficult if you are new to the game. It requires good wrist and bicep flexibility, this is something you can develop, but it may take time.
So, this is the best, most stable grip, but is difficult to master initially.
Cross armed grip
Otherwise known as the “California grip”, this is where the lifter will cross his arms across his neck, and hold the bar in place. This may be a good selection for those who lack the wrist flexibility to do a clean grip. However, the issues are that you lack some stability in this position. Many people acheive great squat numbers with this grip, but it will take some getting used to.
Is there a third way to front squat?
Wrist Strap Grip
This isn’t the name for the grip, and there doesn’t seem to be an official name. Essentially, you use a pair of wrist straps, you tie them on to the bar, and you grab on to them. This is a great idea, it combines the stability of the clean grip (plus no wrist strain) with the ease of the California grip.
It can be done by beginners, and even continued long term into your front squatting career.
This is probably the best option for ease and effectiveness. Watch the video below for a tutorial on how it works.
So, you are convinced you want to front squat, great, but are there any exercises you can do to make sure your squat is as good as it can be? Yes there are, let’s take a look at three important ones you can add to your program.
Since the front squat recruits your abs a huge amount, doing ab work can boost your squat. A favorite is the ab roll out. Using a ab wheel, or some sort of variant can strengthen your entire ab region, making your squats more powerful.
It is easy to slouch forward in the front squat, so to remedy this you can improve your rear delt strength. This can be done by a healthy amount of face pulls. Not only will this help your squat, but you will improve the overall health of your shoulders. Another thing to do is to do some thoracic spine mobilizations. This will help you to keep upright throughout the move.
So you should now have an idea how to start your front squatting journey. One tip would be to keep the rep range on the lower end. This is due to the stress placed on the upper back during the rep. This movement will help you make excellent progress in the gym and in your physique. Do them!