3 Tips for Nailing the Front Squat

Front Barbell Squat
Edgar Artiga

The back squat partner in gains is the front squat, an exercise that calls for the bar to be in front you instead of on your back. This causes the quadriceps to work harder than the hamstrings and requires extra core strength to keep an upright position compared to the back squat.

Since people tend to lift more weight with back squats and may find keeping the rack position of the bar difficult, front squats are often neglected. Of course, this is a huge mistake for anyone looking to build strength, improve sports performance, and correct muscle imbalances and get abs.

Use these three helpful tips to perfect the front squat.

1. Improve mobility—everywhere

The rack position, where the bar rests on your shoulders with the slight support of your fingertips, requires mobility at the shoulders and wrists, along with triceps, lats and forearms. Before front squatting, do shoulder “dislocates.”

Next, foam roll your lats and thoracic region to assist in holding the weight at shoulder height. Having good ankle mobility and calf flexibility will help you attain your thighs being parallel to the floor. If this gives you a hassle and you find yourself slightly elevating the heels, lower weight and make it a point to increase your mobility so your heels stay put with heavier weight. 

2. Start by goblet squatting

Doing goblets squats is a good way to segway into the front squat, as they require a load placement in front of the body. The front load allows for a much more vertical torso, meaning more forward knee tracking, and ultimately a deeper depth. The goblet squat will improve your hip mobility and enforce an upright stance while squatting.

3. Remember the cues

Sometimes people adequate mobility and flexibility, but don’t emphasize the right cues while they’re actually doing the front squat. Common errors include elbows dropping, the torso falling forward, insufficient depth, and knees moving in or out too much. The aftermath is a poor quality squat with less than ideal weight, coupled with unwanted joint pain. Here’s how to do properly do the front squat:

Step 1
Set up under the bar by grasping it with a closed overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.  Place bar evenly on top of your front deltoids and collarbone.

Step 2
Remove your thumb and pinky finger from under the bar and keep a relaxed, open palm, with 3 fingers under the bar.

Step 3
Remove the bar from the rack and take a step or two backward. Take a breath in and hold that breath towards the bottom to maintain intra-abdominal tightness.  Flex hips and knees slowly. Remember to drive your knees outwards as you squat down also.

Step 4
As you reach the bottom, be sure to continue to squeeze the elbows up and inwards. Focus on keeping your elbows up at the bottom of the lift.

Step 5
Once you’ve reached parallel, drive upwards but keep heels on floor and knees aligned with feet. Halfway up, let your breath out, and power through with the glutes and core braced to the top position. 

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