The front squat is one of the best all-body exercises that you can do, much like the incredibly popular normal squat. The difference between the two exercises is that the front squat places the barbell across the front of your chest rather than along the top of your shoulders, which has a huge effect on the technique you need to use and also how the exercise affects your body.
While there are many squat variations, in the most common version of the front squat you position the barbell across the top of your chest and shoulders. You can grip the bar in various positions that we’re going to look at in more detail a bit later on, but one of the common grips is to simply wrap your fingers underneath the bar just beside your shoulders.
Your elbows should be facing forwards and from here you should have plenty of control over the weight to allow you to begin the exercise. Keeping your core engaged and your chest strong, lower yourself into the squat position using your hips and then your knees to lower yourself at a controlled pace until your thighs are roughly parallel with the floor. From here you simply drive back up to your starting position.
There are several different ways to grip the barbell when performing a front squat, and in this section, we’re going to look at each of the main types.
The cross grip is a very common style of grip for performing front squats and is a very comfortable and stable platform to use when lifting particularly heavy loads. All you need to do is cross your forearms over each other and place your hands on the barbell where it rests on your shoulder. This creates a cradle for the weight which is comfortable and secure. Keep your elbows pointed out from your body to keep everything stable. The benefit of this grip is that it is quite stable while taking some of the strain off your wrists and fingers, however, it isn’t quite as reassuring as some of the other grip techniques.
The clean grip is the most popular and secure grip type and uses the same positioning used when doing cleans, hence the name. With the barbell in its standard position across the top of your chest, place your index and middle fingers under the bar just past your shoulders. Some lifters prefer to place all their fingers under the bar but this can add stress to your wrists and make things quite uncomfortable, so try and find a format that works for you.
Again, keep your elbows up far enough to keep your arms parallel to the floor and with each other.
This grip may not suit people with a poor range of motion or mobility, or those who have sensitive wrists.
Setting your feet correctly before you start squatting is crucial in avoiding injury and correct form.
To start with you want to place your feet around shoulder-width apart at an even and parallel position, with your feet pointed out just slightly by a few degrees to give you plenty of stability.
You can then adjust this slightly as you need to, either spreading your feet a little bit further apart or narrower as well as adjusting the angle your toes point. When experimenting with stance adjustments always make sure to test your form and comfort with a lighter weight to avoid injury.
Step by Step Guide
Now we’re going to look at the steps you need to take to perform a front squat.
- With the bar placed across your shoulders in any of the grips we mentioned above, take a breath in and engage your core to prepare it for the strain it’s about to take as you dip.
- Allow your hips to slide back slightly and bend your knees to begin lowering yourself into the squat position. As you lower yourself keep your elbows high and your back straight. Keeping your head up is a key part of maintaining the correct upper body position.
- Continue to drop down into the full squat position, allowing your hips and knees to bend until your thighs are around parallel to the floor. You can allow your knees to angle outwards just slightly at this point if it’s more comfortable for you. Maintain the same stable upper body position as in the previous step, keeping your head up and elbows out.
- Drive back up from the squat position evenly, using both feet. You will feel your glutes and quads spring into action here as they fully engage and raise you up. As you get near the top of the rep you can squeeze your glutes to maximize the exertion and ensure that your hips are fully extended.
Benefits of Front Squatting
There are a few benefits to the front squat that can make this a great replacement or addition to your existing squat regime.
First and foremost it’s a lot easier on your back and places a lot less strain on your lumbar. This also makes the front squat easier on your knees and can be a great choice for anyone who suffers from knee pain or who is worried about aggravating old injuries. The front squat is also capable of building very strong quads and glutes along with being a great core workout thanks to the forward lean and frontal placement of the weight.