Ultimate Guide: Everything You Need to Know About The Front Squat

Video: How to Do the Front Squat

Great in-depth instructional video by Jeff Nippard

The most difficult aspect of the front squat is the grip. I prefer the front rack or clean grip, But this is also the most difficult. Take a look at the different grips and choose the one that best fits you.

What Muscles do Front Squats Work

While the front squat, low bar squat, and Zercher squat are all squat variations, the bar position changes in each. This slight alteration changes where your center of gravity is and thus alters the mechanics and demands placed on each muscle.

In a front squat the weight is sitting on the front of your shoulders. To keep from tipping over, your center of gravity has to remain over the center of your foot. This means a more upright torso compared to the back squat.

This torso position places more stress on the front part of your body. And less on the back side of your body. Thus your low back gets a rest and your quads become the primary mover. At the bottom of the squat the glutes become more involved.

However, front squats work virtually every major muscle group in your lower body.

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Hip flexors
  • Erector spinae
  • Calves

Your upper body gets some a training effect too. Mainly your Latissimus dorsi and Trapezius.

How to Set-up For the Front Squat

Front Squat

Here are a few of the important steps to think about when front squatting.

Step 1: The Set Up

There are so many grip variations that you could use a different one every day of the week. However, I prefer a clean grip.

Step 2: The Squat

Once you’re properly set up it’s time to squat.

The second step is the decent.

  • Take a deep breath.
    • This helps brace your core.
  • Find a spot 6 to 10 feet away and lock your eyes on it.
  • Descend until your hip crease drops below the height of your knees.
    • Of course this is dependent on your mobility.
  • Now it’s time to come back up.

Note: Just like with the back squat, people often let their knees collapse or fall in toward one another. This is to be minimized. Think about gripping the floor with your big toes and ripping the floor apart as you squat.

Step 3: The Ascent

  • Keep your elbows high.
  • Drive your feet through the floor to push you back up.

Common Front Squat Mistakes

The Elbows

The most common struggle people have is with the elbows. They drop durning the decent letting the upper back to round.

This makes it difficult to prevent the bar from dumping forward. An issue that gets magnified as you hit the bottom and start to come back up.

The Knees

Running neck and neck with elbow issues is knee valgus.

excessive knee valgus

Unacceptable Excessive Knee Valgus

Letting the knees cave in toward one another is natural. A slight cave is fine and the torque makes you stronger. But avoid excessive knee knocking.

Thinking about gripping the floor with your big toe and ripping the floor apart as you descend helps avoid knock knees.

Unacceptable Valgus

  • Only on one side or leg.
  • Uncontrolled durning the descent / eccentric portion of the squat.
  • Large portion of exercise spent in valgus.

Acceptable Valgus

  • Slight valgus as you start your accent from the bottom of the squat.
    • only on the bottom concentric portion of the squat
  • Is brief and dynamic.
    • Knees come back out to neutral as your squat nears parallel.
  • Is even in both legs at the same time.

If you’re still having issues with knee valgus in your squats and other lifts there are a few great strengthening exercises in this video.

How Do Front Squats Fit in My Workout

There are textbooks overflowing with programing protocols.

But, you don’t need that.

Adding front squats to your workout isn’t difficult.

Of course programming depends on your goal.

But for the most part 3 – 4 working sets of 4 – 12 reps works well.

After a good warm-up front squats can be your main strength lift for the day.

In another training block front squats can act as an assistance exercise. After your main lift do your front squats for lighter weight and more reps.

Front Squats Variations

  • Dumbbellone-arm kettlebell front squat
  • Kettlebell
  • Landmine Squat

What’s Better?

To front squat or back squat? That is the question.

Well that depends.

Neither stands out as a clear winner. Factors like your goal and flexibility come into play. But in a nutshell, you can plug either into your workout.

Front squats are easier on the spine because of a more upright posture. But, if you’re healthy and maintain proper technique there isn’t a clear benefit.

Feature photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash

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