By John M. Cissik STACK.com
Front Squat technique can make this exercise either easier to master or a great deal more difficult. The Front Squat is an important exercise for improving an athlete’s performance. It develops core strength, lower-body strength (especially the quadriceps), balance and mobility. It is important for sports skills like sprinting, agility, throwing, kicking and hitting.
This article covers how to perform the Front Squat, some tips to assist you, a few variations, and how to incorporate the exercise into your program.
Front Squat How-To
- Grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
- Step under the bar so that it rests on the front of your shoulders. To rack the bar on your shoulders, lift your elbows up and in.
- Pull your shoulders back and puff your chest out.
- Place your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart.
- From this position, keeping your elbows parallel to the ground, squat down as far as is comfortable, then stand back up again.
Tips for the Front Squat
Many issues people have with the Front Squat are due to their elbows not being high enough. If the elbows drop down, the weight of the bar is placed on the wrists, causing wrist pain. If the shoulders slump forward, the elbows drop down. If the heels come up, the elbows come down. So the most helpful tip I can give about the Front Squat is to keep your elbows at least parallel to the ground. This is done by focusing on several things:
- The hands cannot be too wide apart. Usually shoulder-width is adequate, though some athletes have to move them closer together.
- When racking the bar, focus on moving your elbows “in” (i.e., toward each other) and up. It’s a circular motion.
- When the bar is on the front of your shoulders, open your hands. This helps keep the elbows up. If your elbows stay up, the bar won’t move anywhere.
- Keep your weight on your heels.
- Keep your chest out and your shoulders back.
Front Squat Variations
Once you have mastered the Front Squat—and by that I mean a male can lift at least 1.5 times his body weight, and a female can lift her body weight—you can think about variations. As with the Back Squat, there are a number of variations of the Front Squat, including:
- Front Squat with Chains
- Front Squat with Bands
- Front Squat with a pause at the bottom
- Front Squat with an exaggerated descent
- Front Squat to a box of varying height
- Front Squat supersetted with a Vertical Jump
- Power Clean supersetted with Front Squat
In addition to these squat variations, placing the bar on the front of the shoulders can work for Lunges, Split Squats and Step-Ups to keep your posture more upright and to focus more on your quadriceps.
If you do two squat workouts per week, the Front Squat should make up one of them. For this exercise, perform three to five sets (not including warm-up sets). Because of the technical nature of the exercise, I do not recommend a high number of repetitions—usually never more than 8 to 10 per set, regardless of the amount of weight on the bar. Like the Back Squat, it can be trained at a percentage of your one-repetition maximum—e.g., 3×4-8 @ 80% of 1RM. Because it is technical, rest 60 to 120 seconds between sets.
Below are two sample squat workouts to illustrate how the Front Squat can be incorporated into your training.
- Power Snatch: 3×3 @ 70%
- Snatch Pulls: 3×6 @ 75%
- Back Squats: 3×8-12 @ 70-80%
- Lunges: 3×8-12 each leg
- Romanian Deadlifts: 3×8-12
- Power Clean: 3×3 @ 70%
- Clean Pulls: 3×6 @ 75%
- Front Squats: 3×4-8 @ 70-80%
- Good Mornings: 3×8-12
- Reverse Hyperextensions: 3×15-20