A Fearless Front Squat

THE FRONT SQUAT

A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The front squat is one variation of a barbell squat and is exercise used to strengthen the lower half of the body. True to its name, the front squat relies on the athlete’s ability to perform a squat while holding a barbell in front of the body, with the bar itself resting on the front of the shoulders. Just as with the air squat, the front squat requires good hip, ankle, and torso control to get the hip crease below the knees, and it is a movement that increases strength in the legs.  Athletes will immediately feel leg muscles activated as they perform the movement, with the bulk of the exercise focusing on the use of the quadriceps, but also an activation of core muscles as they keep the torso in proper position.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.

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MOVEMENT BASICS:

  1. Set Up at Shoulder Height: Set up the j-hooks and barbell to be just below shoulder height as you stand in front of the rig. This will allow for you to easily get the barbell on and off of your shoulders before and after you perform the squat movement.
  2. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Often you’ll see athletes put their hands too close together on the bar, which causes them to set up incorrectly with the athlete’s upper back slightly hunched forward. Keep hands a bit further apart with thumbs’ width from the knurling and you will be able to maintain a better position throughout the movement.
  3. Douchebag Shoulders: Whenever you do a movement with a front-rack position, meaning the bar is placed on the front of your shoulders, you want your shoulders to round forward. This actually creates a shelf on which the barbell can rest without causing pain or strain on the clavicle bones near the neck. Rolling the shoulders forward (douchebag shoulders) also prevents the bar from sliding down the chest altogether while you squat, and relieves strain on the wrists.
  4. Elbows High: Another key component of a solid front-rack position is to keep elbows high and in front of the body. While some athletes may struggle to keep elbows up due to mobility, the intention is to relieve pressure on the arms and wrists and keep the weight of the barbell back on the shoulders. Especially as you drop down fully into the squat, think about driving those elbows up to counteract the natural tendency of having your torso lean forward due to the weight of the barbell in front of you.
  5. Remember the Basics: As you perform the front squat, keep the basics of the air squat in mind: keep your feet about hips’ width apart; ensure toes are straight forward or possibly slightly angled out, depending on your mobility; keep your weight in the heels with your butt back; stay focused on moving the knees directly out over the feet; and maintain an upright chest. All of these are essential to perform the squat without injury.
  6. Look Straight Ahead: As athletes focus on keeping proper form, it’s common to see them look down at their legs or toward the ground. However, this actually pulls you forward and throws you out of position, especially since the weight is in front of your body. Focus on keeping eyes forward to keep the rest of your body in proper alignment.
  7. Focus on Range of Motion: When dropping into the squat, proper range of motion is having your hip crease below the knee. This helps take weight and pressure off the knee itself and engages your glute and hamstring muscles to provide maximum strength for your entire leg versus just the quadriceps muscles. Also be sure to fully extend hips open at the top of the movement for the most bang for your buck.

SCALING: Sometimes our mobility or lack of strength can hinder us as we attempt to perform the front squat with proper form.  Remember: Scaling isn’t a negative thing! It will help you gain strength while staying in a safe position until ultimately you can perform the movement in its entirety. Stay encouraged that as you continue on your fitness journey, you will find that you won’t have to scale as significantly or as often.

  1. Cross Your Arms: If you struggle to keep your elbows high due to your mobility, cross your arms in front of the bar, placing each hand on the opposite shoulder, to again create a good shelf in the shoulders on which the barbell can rest.
  2. Loosen Your Grip: You can certainly have a tighter grip while performing a front squat, but often athletes may not have great range of motion in their shoulders to achieve this while maintaining a correct front rack position. You can therefore loosen your grip slightly, allowing the barbell to roll back a bit into your fingertips, as a means of easing wrist tension. Keep in mind, though, that this requires that you still maintain high elbows and forward shoulders to keep the barbell from rolling down onto the chest.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 

BARBELL POWERLIFTING SERVICES: Technique at Every Stage

Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.