The Front Squat

by StackHealthy | Last Updated: June 3, 2015

Perfect Front Squat FormOne of the most crucial exercises to any workout is the Front Squat. It is a benefit to all types of athletes from the beginner to the extremely advanced for a variety of activities. You will notice more development in the latisimus dorsi in the upper back, quadriceps, hip adductors, hip adductors, and the groin as you progress over time. When the technique of the exercise is performed correctly, lifters will experience less pain in the muscles and joints of the body, especially in the back because it improves overall flexibility.

When performing movement of the Front Squat it will help you prepare your structure physically as well as improving the motor functionality in the body overall. The Front Squat demands positioning of an upright torso that is followed through the full range of motion, thus placing less stress on the lumbar spine and knees. It is an excellent conditioning and dynamic exercise because the rigidity of the spine becomes more stable with heavier weights that are added over time.

Front Squat Basics

To achieve a proper Front Squat the lifter can utilize three different techniques: hands underneath, hands crossed over chest, or using straps for assistance in positioning. Any of these methods will work for anyone who wants to incorporate this exercise into their squat program.

A common habit with the Front Squat when the focus of the barbell is in front, is to begin the descent with the hips angled downward to maintain the balance of the weight across the clavicles and trapezius. This reduces the power of the squat routine greatly and causes unnecessary stress on the knees. It is important to remember here that in a compound movement such as the Front Squat, the strength is dictated by the communication between the chains of muscles involved.

It is important to push the elbows up high when unracking the bar and inhale deep into the belly as you move with the weight. This shoulder flexion and air going in will keep the bar from rolling. Keeping the elbows up is especially important in the bottom positioning. Move the feet slightly wider than hip width and angle the toes slightly outward. Avoid going too wide with the stance, otherwise the knees will have nowhere to go but in. As you begin your descent, think of the squat going between the knees and not over them.

Some of the more common contraindications for this type of squat routine are a low tolerance to compressive loading. With poor core stability, hip or ankle mobility, the Front Squat can be problematic. Proper form positioning is vital to this squat because if you are rounded over like a scare cat it will be impossible for you to get the elbows up like you need to.

Benefits to Overall Squat Program

There are three important reasons to add the Front Squat to your exercise or Crossfit routine:

  1. Develop stability of the midline.
  2. Improve strength in the quads, hips, and glutes.
  3. Overhead weight can be transitioned better.

More demand is placed on the quadriceps, abdominals, and knees in the Front Squat and stress on the gluteus and hip abductors and adductors is greatly reduced. This squat exercise results on forces of lower compression than that of the back squat. The placement of the bar should be in the shoulder girdle area so that the upper body muscles are placed in a mechanical disadvantage. A greater amount of flexibility in the wrists, shoulders, hips, and ankles is also required. You cannot cheat with this squat routine. In addition to using the muscles of the back, hips, and quadriceps, the latisimas dorsi are also used because the arms are elevated. This can work to the advantage of helping to provide a deeper and cleaner range of motion with the Front Squat.

More mobility is required in the Front Squat than in the Back Squat. To keep the chest up, a strengthened thoracic spin is needed to support the chest, along with wrist and shoulder flexibility for racking the bar, and hip and groin mobility to descend low while keeping the knees lined up with the toes. Good ankle mobility is also another factor so that the lower back doesn’t become rounded.

Cross Arm Grip Front Squat Perfect FormIn the beginning, execution of a perfect Front Squat that follows all the textbook cues is a stretch. On the positive side it helps force you to improve your flexibility and mobility, which over the long term can help you prevent possible injury. The negative side is that a heavy weight load won’t be achievable right out of the gate, thus lengthening the time it takes to reach strength gains. You can jump into the Back Squat sooner because it requires less mobility in the key areas of the wrists, shoulders, hips, or ankles. With the Front Squat, a higher emphasis is placed on improving your mobility so it gives you a larger goal to work towards.

Even though your squat program should consist of a variety of variations of squat, the Front Squat will zone in on the upper back and quadriceps. For the bodybuilder, targeting specific muscle groups might be more important than other goals set by other athletes. But for any athlete who wants to ramp up their routine, a strong Front Squat can really improve your performance overall.