Front Squat – What You Need to Know

If you’re looking to strengthen the lower body, front squat workouts are the perfect exercise. Front squats also benefit many muscles in the arms and shoulders. It’s a move that’s been around since the 1950s, so it’s a tried and tested Olympic lift. Should you hear it referred to as the “sissy” squat, don’t let the casual meaning of this put you off.

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This story is something to do with the Greek god Sisyphus and doesn’t relate to any weakness in the move. Equally, if you hear that squats are bad for the knees, this is incorrect too. If you don’t execute the front squat correctly, then yes, the knees, lower spine, and neck are prone to injury. There’s a simple answer to this problem, master your technique on performing the front squat safely. 

Popular Front Squat FAQs: 

What Muscles Does Front Squat Work?

The front squat workout will exercise the quads (front thighs) and upper back the most. It will also challenge the glutes (butt), erectors (side of the spine), abs (chest), and shoulders. As you carry out the movement, your spine, hips and knees, and ankles will all be extended.

How Much Should I Be Able To Front Squat?

The more accomplished your technique, the heavier the load you can squat. The resistance load will also depend on your goals for training. 
Beginners should start with around 70%  to 85% of your one-rep maximum (1 RM). Incorporate sets with around 6-8 reps initially.

Experienced male athletes can pump up the load until they reach double their bodyweight. Experienced female athletes should aim for around one and a half times their body weight.

How should I progress my front squat weight or load?

The most important consideration at the outset is getting used to the movement and working on proper technique. The easiest way to injure yourself is to lift too much weight too soon.

Having said that, a beginner-friendly progression is to add 2.5kg to the total weight of your previous workout. If this is too difficult, just remove the added weight and work on your previous load for 2-3 more workouts before progressing.

How Often Can I Front Squat?

If you’re looking to increase strength, you’ll need to train using a low-rep/high load workout routine. Include the front squats into your routine but only do 1-2 sessions a week, ensuring you have at least 2-days rest between sessions. 

If you’re looking to bulking out the muscles, then you’ll need to train using a high-rep/moderate load workout. Include front squats into your workout around 2-3 times a week. It’s vital to rest the muscles with days off between sessions. 

How to Front Squat

To start with, the bar should be on the rack and level with your shoulders.

Step 1

Move closer to the bar so it touches the front collarbone. Stand with the bar parallel to the middle of your feet. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Step 2

Grab the bar with the position that places your hands shoulder-width apart. Straighten out your elbows in front of you and bend your arm upwards as you bring your hands back down towards your head. Your elbows should always be pointing forwards throughout the entire movement.

Step 3

Position yourself with the bar resting across your front shoulders. Support the bar with your fingers. At all times, keep your eyes focused in front of you and make sure you have a straight back as you stand upright. Lift the weight of the bar and support it on your shoulders, balancing it with your fingers. Step back from the rack to get enough space.

Step 4

Take a deep breath and hold it. Engage your core as you prepare to perform the squat. Start the descent by bending at the hips first followed by bending at the knees. Drop your hips down so that they move lower than the level of your kneecaps. This is the adequate depth of the squat. The barbell should remain resting on the front of your shoulders as should your elbows remain pointed forward.

Step 5

Stand upright, keeping your back straight as you ascend out of the squat. Repeat these steps for your remaining reps. Once you’ve finished your reps, take a step towards the bar with both feet, and rack the barbell.

Gripping the Bar during the Front Squat

Though technically a misnomer, holding the bar during the front squat is not so much a grip as it is simply a light hold. The point of holding the bar with your hands to ensure you have 5 points of contact with the barbell: 2 points of the hands, 2 points on either shoulder, and 1 over the base of your neck.

There are various ways you can Hold the bar:

  • Partial grip, using 2-3 fingers in an underhand grip.
  • Full grip, using all 4 fingers in an underhand grip. 
  • Using a holding strap.
  • The Cross Grip, cross your arms over as you grip the bar with an overhand grip.
  • The Zombie squat which doesn’t use your hands. Keep your arms outstretched and balance the bar on your shoulders as you perform the front squat

It’s important to use proper technique so you can avoid injuries and engage consistently in workouts. One common injury that can occur from doing front squats is wrist pain. Because of the extension of the hands when holding the bar, some may experience pain over their wrists and be unable to do the movement.

An important variation to address this problem is through the use of holding straps. Wrap the straps around the barbell corresponding to the position of where your hands should be. Then with a hammer fist grip, you can properly position your elbow in front without having to extend your wrists.

For that reason, you may want to invest in a pair of heavy-duty wrist wraps. That way, you’ll be pumping on that iron unhindered.

Squat Variations

There are many variations to the squat, such as, 

Front squat vs back squat

How you hold the bar when exercising influences which muscles you work out. The back squat is fundamentally similar to the front squat but it also targets a different range of muscles in your body. If you’re a powerlifter, then the back squat is ideal.

Resting the bar on the back of your shoulders means that you can lift more weight. This is because the back squat recruits more muscles from your back and buttocks. More muscles mean more strength and therefore, more weight to lift.

That’s not to say, however, that the back squat is king. In some ways, the front squat is an equally important workout to target weak areas that the back squat simply cannot address. The front squat focuses more on the quads and the upper back with a strong emphasis on core stabilization. Have a look at the targeted muscles in front and back squats.

Front squat v goblet squat

Performing an Olympic lift using heavy weights such as the front squat requires significant coordination. More than strength, training coordination is paramount to proper technique and significantly fewer injuries.

Goblet squats are an excellent alternative for learning major squat movements such as the front squat. Anything that helps you improve technique is worth spending time and effort on.

Because of its utility as a preparatory workout, the goblet squat has versatile applications. You will need simple weights like kettlebells or medicine balls. With a lighter weight and simpler movement, the Goblet squat is useful for practicing the right technique before you move on to the barbell. 

The movement begins with carrying your desired weight at the center of your chest. Brace your arms against your body as you perform the squat. Short, sweet, and easy to learn, the Goblet squat is an important variation you need to add to your squat regimen.

Goblet squats are simple enough that you only need a basic dumbbell for an efficient workout. To get more mileage out of your workout equipment, you may want to look into securing an adjustable dumbbell set to fuel your workouts.

Front squat v squat

The position of the squat is a very natural alignment for the human body. It gets harder as we get older, due to our aging skeletal frame. You don’t need to lift weights to do the squat. If you incorporated this move into your daily routine from a young age, you’ll find yourself more flexible as you age.

The lower you can squat, the more muscles, tendons, and bones you will be flexing and improving. You’ll become a well-oiled machine. You’ll also find that you’re able to do many more movements than if you hadn’t practiced the squat in your daily exercise.
A GHD machine complements the front squats in the development of glutes and hamstrings. Stretching your body to its limits is a great way to keep yourself supple.

Try a stretching machine as another way to improve your overall strength and body movement.

Conclusion

By including squats into your exercise routine, you’ll increase your strength and power significantly. You’re not only limited to performing the front squat with barbells. You can also do dumbbell front squats and kettlebell front squats.

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