The Front Squat

The Front Squat

The front squat is an exercise seldom seen in commercial gyms, but when it comes to a strength and conditioning program, the front squat can prove quite useful, providing the trainee can competently execute a back squat. Squatting is essentially one of the most productive movements a trainee could perform, yet due to its many variations, complex movement skill and fear of getting stuck, there is often a lack of understanding on how to implement it correctly.

When comparing a back squat with a front squat, it could at first appear obvious that the difference is simply the bar placement, with the bar on the back for the back squat and on the front of the deltoids for the front squat. However, there is much more to it than bar placement and this article will highlight the key comparisons and give instructions on how to perform it.

In order for any squatting movement (back, front or overhead) to be in balance the bar must remain over the mid foot throughout the descent and ascent. As the bar sits across the anterior deltoids in the front squat, the torso must be nearly vertical to prevent the bar from falling off the shoulders. The knees and hips must accommodate to allow the torso to remain upright. The knees do this by tracking forward in front of the toes meaning the tibias (shin bones) will be much more horizontal, due to the closed knee angle thus resulting with more rotational force around the knees than in the back squat. The front squat cannot be performed effectively if using back squat mechanics i.e. allowing the torso to incline, shifting the hips back and keeping the shins more vertical.

During a full range of motion front squat, the hamstrings do little to assist in hip extension. This is because at the bottom of the descent, the origin and insertion points of the hamstrings are bought closer due to the closed knee angle and are therefore already being contracted. A muscle in contraction cannot contract much more. On the ascent, the hip extension is primarily down to the quadriceps, glutes and adductors.

The grip being used during the front squat is essential. It must be wide enough to allow the elbows to be driven upwards so that the shoulders can support the load and so that the back can remain vertical. If a person lacks insufficient flexibility then it is likely that the grip will have to be wider. The front squat works well for strengthening the thoracic (upper back) muscles as unlike the back squat, the load is in front of a person’s centre of gravity. This means that the upper back muscles must work hard to stabilize the load which is situated above the chest on the anterior deltoids.

How to perform a Front Squat

– Using a power rack, squat stands or squat rack, set the bar up so it is level with your upper sternum. Grip the bar and roll the elbows under the bar so that it rests on your anterior deltoids and across your clavicle. This may feel a bit uncomfortable at first due to the bar being in contact with the throat.
– Raise your chest and elbows and lift the bar off of the rack. Taking a couple of steps backwards, set your stance so your heels are shoulder width and your toes point out slightly.
– Take a deep breath and brace your core muscles hard before descending. Keeping the chest and elbows up, allow your knees to track forward so that you can keep your torso vertical and squat all the way down so that your hamstrings touch your calves.
– Without pausing at the bottom, think about driving the chest upwards ensuring the elbows do not collapse. The hips will follow the chest and tightness will need to be maintained if the ascent is to be strong.
– Once up, either take another deep breath and perform another rep or complete the set by walking forwards and racking the bar.

Video link on how to perform the front squat:

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