Exercise Technique- Front Squat

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Developing strong legs is a sure fire way to meet most fitness goals.

The way I see it, is that there are a lot of people who do not have success at the gym. It should not be this way.

Everyone should be able to build muscle or lose fat if their efforts are concentrated the right way.

Yet, I will walk into any commercial gym and see more leg presses, bicep curls, and shoulder raises than squats, deadlifts, and pushups.

Developing the lower body often gets ignored. Most people have an arms day, a shoulder day, and a leg day. This is usually among chest/ tri’s and back/bi’s.

That split means that the upper body gets 4 days a week and legs get 1. Oh and I believe if there is something better to do on leg day it gets skipped.

The ugly truth: those that are the most successful train their legs at a minimum of TWICE per week, not calendar year.

People who want to build muscle or lose fat have to train their legs as often as they train their upper body.

How are we going to do that? Squats, specifically the Front Squat.

The Setup

Here is the most complicated part of the lift. The bar is going to rest directly on your shoulders and collarbones.

The hands will be outside the shoulders and three fingers will help support the bar.

front rack

Once the bar is in the front rack position, the feet can get to just outside shoulder width and the toes are slightly pointed out.

The chest must stay up the whole time. The bar will fall forward and make the lift extremely difficult if the torso starts to round over.

The Descent

Initiate the movement with the hips and not the knees. If the knees are breaking first then all of the stress is going to go there. Hips back and sit between your legs.

Push the knees out over the pinky toes to ensure that the knees do not cave and the glutes are turned on.

Keep the chest up and elbows pointing straight ahead. Again, the bar is going to crash if the elbows are pointing at the ground.

Reach a depth where the hips are below the knees before you start to come back up.

The Ascent

Driving the knees out will recruit the glutes and maximize muscle involvement in the lower body.

The chest should be rising at the same time as the hips. Think as though you are being pulled up to the ceiling by your shirt.

Eyes should be straight ahead.

Do not crank the neck back to look way up. The eyes can look up without moving the neck and head.

Finish the movement by squeezing your butt to a tall standing position.

Who are these good for?

In short, everyone. Front squats are going to build up the legs.

Anyone from young athletes to adult fitness goers should do the front squat.

This is a good exercise for teaching technique because the weight used is much lower than with a back squat. It is also much easier to keep the torso up.

Those with back pain would do well with this variation. The weight is in front of the body which means that the bar is not putting direct compression on the spine. The lower weight also reduces compressive forces.

People who live in flexion may struggle with this squat at first but it will benefit them in the end. The torso must reach a certain level of extension to stay upright with the load. The inability to achieve that could be problematic.

This exercise is not a good choice for those with AC joint separations. The bar position puts a lot of stress on the injured area.

Alternatives

The hand position is enemy number one with the front squat. You may have to go with straps or the crossface position if the shoulders do not have the mobility to get into the front rack.

front-squat--crossarm_1

You can also ditch the barbell and perform a Goblet Squat with a kettlebell or dumbbell.

Performing a single arm goblet squat challenges lateral core stability and is another great option.

Dan John uses a story of a lifter who once front squatted 405 for 8 reps and then sprinted 400m.

He jokes that for those who want to develop their quads that he has some really expensive advice: Front squat 405 for 8.

Start working on your squat pattern and you will start to get seriously strong.

Do not ignore legs or give them just one day. Start adding in the front squat and reaping the benefits of increased muscle mass.