Front Squat: How to Perform, Benefits, & Expert Tips 

The front squat is a highly underrated exercise that does not get the respect it deserves, and if you want to fast-track your lower-body development, then you might just want to include it in your routine.  

However, there are also some things you need to know about the front squat to maximise its effectiveness – there are a few common mistakes that hold many people back. 

Let’s take a look at how to perform the front squat, the benefits that come from this exercise, as well as some expert tips that will allow you to gain an edge.  

What are Front Squats? 

Front squats are a fantastic exercise that targets your lower body, specifically your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.  

They provide a unique twist to the traditional squat by shifting the barbell to the front of your shoulders. This adjustment not only engages your leg muscles but also challenges your core and upper back strength.  

Front squats are a favourite among athletes, weightlifters, and fitness enthusiasts due to their ability to build lower body strength, improve mobility, and enhance overall athleticism. 

How to Do Front Squats 

Ready to give front squats a try? Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing them correctly: 

  1. Start by setting up a barbell in a squat rack at about shoulder height. Stand facing the bar, and with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, position your hands on the barbell. Ensure your elbows are high and parallel to the ground, creating a sturdy “rack” for the bar to rest on. 
  1. Step under the bar and position it across the front of your shoulders. Use your fingertips to lightly support the bar, keeping it stable and secure. Make sure the bar is resting on the front deltoids, not your collarbone or throat. 
  1. Take a step back and position your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Toes should be pointed slightly outward. This stance will provide you with a stable foundation for the exercise. 
  1. Maintaining an upright posture, engage your core, and start the movement by bending your knees and lowering your hips toward the ground. Focus on keeping your weight in your heels, which helps activate the proper muscles and prevents your knees from extending too far forward. 
  1. Continue descending until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or even lower if you have the flexibility and mobility. Make sure to keep your chest lifted and your back straight throughout the movement. 
  1. Pause for a brief moment at the bottom of the squat, and then push through your heels to stand back up, fully extending your legs. Remember to exhale as you rise. 
  1. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form and control throughout. 

Front Squat Grip 

The front squat grip is a critical component for maintaining stability and safety during the exercise. The most common grip is called the “clean grip” or “cross grip.” Here’s how to achieve it: 

  1. Start by positioning your hands just outside shoulder-width apart on the barbell. 
  1. Lift the barbell off the rack and bring it to the front of your shoulders, crossing your arms. The bar should rest on the front deltoids, with your fingers lightly supporting it. 
  1. Alternatively, you can use the “straps” grip, where you create a loop with straps or a towel and hold onto the straps instead of crossing your arms. This grip can be useful if you have limited shoulder mobility. 

Choose the grip that feels most comfortable and secure for you, ensuring the barbell is stable and properly positioned on your shoulders. 

Front Squat Weight 

When it comes to front squat weight, choosing the appropriate weight is essential for maintaining proper form and preventing injury.  

It’s best to start with a lighter weight until you have mastered the technique and feel comfortable with the movement pattern. 

Typically, the weight used for front squats is less than what you would use for back squats.  

This is because the front-loaded position challenges your core and upper back more, making the exercise more demanding.  

Start with an empty barbell or lightweight dumbbells and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves. 

Front Squat with Dumbbells 

If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can still reap the benefits of front squats by using dumbbells. Here’s how to perform front squats with dumbbells: 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting them on the front of your shoulders with your elbows high and parallel to the ground. Keep your core engaged and maintain an upright posture. 
  1. Take a step back and position your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. 
  1. Descend into the squat by bending your knees and lowering your hips, maintaining the same form and technique as with the barbell front squat. Remember to keep the weight in your heels and your chest lifted. 
  1. Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat, and then push through your heels to stand back up, fully extending your legs. 

Front squats with dumbbells provide an excellent alternative if you’re looking to add variety to your workout routine or if you prefer using dumbbells over a barbell. 

Front Squat Muscles Worked 

Front squats are a powerhouse exercise that engage a variety of muscles throughout your lower body and beyond. Let’s take a closer look at the front squat muscles worked: 

Quadriceps: The front squat primarily targets the quadriceps, the large muscles located at the front of your thighs. These muscles play a significant role in knee extension and are essential for movements like walking, running, and jumping. 

Hamstrings: While the focus is on the quadriceps, front squats also activate the hamstrings. These muscles, located at the back of your thighs, assist in knee flexion and hip extension. Strengthening the hamstrings not only improves lower body balance but also helps prevent injuries. 

Glutes: The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are engaged during front squats. They contribute to hip extension and provide stability and power during the movement. 

Core Muscles: Front squats challenge your core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. Maintaining an upright posture and stability throughout the exercise requires a strong and engaged core. 

Upper Back: The muscles of the upper back, such as the trapezius, rhomboids, and erector spinae, are activated during front squats. These muscles help stabilize the barbell on your shoulders and maintain proper posture throughout the exercise. 

Front Squat Benefits  

Leg Hypertrophy 

Front squats are excellent for building leg muscle mass, especially in the quadriceps. By targeting these muscles, you can achieve impressive leg hypertrophy, contributing to a stronger, more defined lower body. 

Great for Beginners 

Another one of the main front squat benefits is that front squats are often considered more accessible for beginners than back squats.  

The positioning of the barbell in front of the body places less strain on the lower back and promotes better squat mechanics.  

It allows beginners to focus on developing proper form and technique before progressing to more advanced variations. 

Increased Testosterone 

Squatting exercises, including front squats, have been shown to increase testosterone production.  

This hormone is crucial for muscle growth, strength development, and overall athletic performance.  

By incorporating front squats into your routine, you can potentially boost your testosterone levels naturally. 

Improved Posture 

Front squats require you to maintain an upright posture throughout the exercise. This position helps strengthen the muscles responsible for good posture, such as the erector spinae and core muscles.  

Regularly performing front squats can contribute to improved overall posture and spinal alignment. 

Improved Bone Health 

Weight-bearing exercises like front squats are excellent for improving bone density. Squatting movements place stress on the bones, stimulating bone growth and strengthening.  

This can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions. 

Front Squat Mistakes 

Front squats can be highly effective, but like any exercise, there are common mistakes that can hinder your progress or increase the risk of injury. Let’s take a look at some front squat mistakes to avoid: 

Poor Bar Placement: One of the most common mistakes is improper bar placement on the front of your shoulders. Avoid resting the barbell on your collarbone or throat. Instead, aim to position it securely on the front deltoids for better stability and comfort. 

Rounded Back: Maintaining a straight and upright posture is crucial during front squats. Avoid rounding your back, as this can lead to strain on your spine and compromise the effectiveness of the exercise. Keep your chest lifted and your core engaged throughout the movement. 

Knee Collapse: As you descend into the squat, be mindful of your knees. Avoid letting them cave inward, as this can strain the knee joints and increase the risk of injury. Focus on pushing your knees outward in line with your toes. 

Shallow Squats: Going too shallow in your squats limits the engagement of the targeted muscles and reduces the overall effectiveness of the exercise. Aim to achieve a depth where your thighs are at least parallel to the ground or slightly below to maximize the benefits. 

Lack of Core Engagement: Your core muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing your body during front squats. Failing to engage your core can lead to an unstable movement and potential loss of balance. Keep your core tight and activated throughout the exercise. 

How to Use Straps to Help Your Front Squat Grip 

If you’re struggling with the traditional front squat grip or have limited shoulder mobility, using straps can provide an effective solution. Here’s how to use straps to help your front squat grip: 

  1. Begin by securing a pair of lifting straps or wrist straps. These are typically made of durable fabric and have a loop at one end. 
  1. Hold the straps in your hands with the loop end facing downward. 
  1. Step under the barbell and position it on the front of your shoulders, just like in a regular front squat. 
  1. Place your hands through the loops of the straps and adjust them so that the straps rest on the front of your shoulders. 
  1. Cross your arms and grab the straps, ensuring they are securely in place. 
  1. Proceed with the front squat movement, focusing on maintaining proper form and technique. 

Using straps in this manner can provide additional support and stability for your front squat grip, allowing you to concentrate on the exercise itself rather than worrying about grip strength or discomfort. 

How Many Reps, Sets and Which Weight Is Best? 

Determining the ideal number of reps, sets, and weight for front squats depends on your goals and fitness level. Here are some general guidelines: 

Reps and Sets: For strength and muscle development, a common range is 8-12 reps per set. Perform 3-5 sets to create enough stimulus for growth. Adjust the number of reps and sets based on your fitness goals and individual needs. 

Weight Selection: When selecting the weight for front squats, it’s important to find a challenging yet manageable load. Start with lighter weights to focus on technique and gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable and stronger. 

Aim for a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of reps with proper form while still feeling challenged by the last few repetitions. 

Remember, it’s crucial to listen to your body and progress gradually. It’s better to start with lighter weights and perfect your form before increasing the load.  

As you become more experienced and confident, you can gradually add more weight to continue challenging your muscles and promoting progress. 

Best Front Squat Variations 

Sandbag Front Squats 

If you’re looking for an unconventional but challenging variation, sandbag front squats are worth trying.  

Instead of using a barbell, hold a sandbag in the front rack position and perform your squats.  

The shifting weight of the sandbag adds an extra element of instability, engaging your core and requiring greater control throughout the movement. 

Dumbbell Goblet Squat 

The dumbbell goblet squat, also known as the front squat with dumbbells, is a popular front squat variation that provides an excellent option for beginners or those without access to a barbell.  

Hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest, with your hands cupping the top end of the dumbbell.  

Perform your squats with the same technique as a front squat, keeping your elbows high and chest lifted. The goblet squat emphasizes core engagement and promotes a more upright torso position. 

Dual Front Rack Squat 

In the dual front rack squat, you use two kettlebells or dumbbells and hold them in the front rack position.  

This variation places additional demand on your core and upper body, as you must stabilize two separate weights. It also challenges your grip strength, making it a great variation for overall strength development. 

Front Rack Carry 

The front rack carry involves holding a heavy weight, such as a barbell or kettlebells, in the front rack position and walking for a designated distance or time.  

This variation not only strengthens your legs but also challenges your core and upper back stability.  

It can be an effective way to build functional strength and improve your posture. 

Cross Arm Front Squat 

In the cross arm front squat, you cross your arms over each other instead of using the traditional front squat grip.  

This variation can be useful for individuals with limited wrist flexibility or discomfort with the regular grip.  

While it may take some time to get used to, the cross arm front squat still targets the same muscle groups as the traditional front squat. 

Front Squat vs Back Squat 

Front squats and back squats are two popular variations of the squat exercise, each with its own advantages. Let’s compare the two: 

Front Squat 

The front squat places the barbell in front of your shoulders, challenging your core and upper back strength.  

It targets the quadriceps and glutes while still engaging the hamstrings and lower back. The front squat promotes an upright posture and places less stress on the lower back compared to the back squat.  

It is particularly beneficial for individuals with back issues or those seeking to improve their core strength and mobility. 

Back Squat 

The back squat involves placing the barbell across your upper back, targeting the same muscle groups as the front squat.  

However, it places more emphasis on the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back due to the barbell’s positioning.  

Back squats allow for heavier loads to be lifted, making them effective for building overall lower body strength and power.  

They also engage the posterior chain to a greater extent. 

Choosing between front squats and back squats depends on your specific goals, fitness level, and any physical limitations you may have.  

Both variations provide unique benefits and can be incorporated into your training routine for a well-rounded lower-body workout. 

Front Squat – FAQs 

What Is Front Squat Good For? 

Front squats are good for building a strong and muscular lower body.  

They are also excellent for improving traditional back squat strength.  

Are Front Squats Better Than Back Squats? 

No, front squats are not better than back squats. 

Back squats tend to cause more overall lower-body muscle activation than front squats, making them the better leg builder. 

However, front squats are better than back squats for targeting quads, so they will be better for people who want to focus on growing their quads.  

Is It Harder To Front Squat? 

Yes, it is harder to front squat than back squat. 

The front squat puts more stress on your core and requires more stabilisation than back squats, making them feel more demanding. 

Additionally, many people find the barbell position of the front squat to be more uncomfortable than with the back squat.  

Why Front Squats Are So Hard? 

Front squats are so hard because they put a ton of stress on your core and require a lot of strength just to maintain the correct position.  

We hope we have been able to help you.  

Including the front squat into your routine is a must if you want to optimise your leg day, and when you factor in that this article contains everything you need to know to do so, it just becomes a no-brainer.  

If you would like more fitness content, you might want to take a look at the other content we have at MovingForwards

Good luck. 

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