The back squat is often labeled as the “king of all exercises” and the front squat is just behind it a notch. The front bar squat is a great tool for building muscle & strength, if you’re doing it correctly. In this article, you will learn how to front squat with great technique?
In this form of squat exercise, the barbell is used in front of you instead of on your back. This causes the quadriceps to work harder than the hamstrings and calls for extra core strength to keep an upright position as compared to the barbell back squat.
The front squats are usually neglected. Reason is because people are able to lift more weight with back squats and also in case of front-bar squat it becomes a bit difficult in keeping the rack position. But, ignoring this exercise would be a big mistake if you are looking to build strength, improve sports performance, and correct muscle imbalances and get abs.
How To Do Front Barbell Squat Properly?
Like some of the other barbell lifts, front squats are also often performed incorrectly. In order to effectively develop muscular strength and safely enhance athletic power, good technique and correct form is a must.
Prepare Yourself To Squat – Correct Positioning
(i) Setting The Bar Correctly: This exercise is best performed inside a squat rack for safety purposes. The first step in performing a perfect front squat is to set the bar on a rack that best matches your height. Keep in mind to set the bar at shoulder height. Never place the bar too high in the rack. This would require you to over-extend in order to un-rack the bar. While you may get away with this using lighter weight, but it can be risky when attempting to squat with a heavy weight.
Once you have selected the appropriate height, load the bar with the desired weight.
(ii) Grip And Position The Bar Correctly On Top Of Your Deltoids: Take care to position the bar properly on your chest. Bring your arms up under the bar while keeping the elbows high, as far as you can, and the upper arm slightly above parallel to the floor. While positioning the barbell on your upper chest, let it rest on top of the deltoids and upper thorax. Cross your arms while grasping the bar for total control – right hand on bar even with left deltoid and left hand on bar even with right deltoid.
If done properly this will help create a ‘shelf’ for the bar to sit comfortably on top of the deltoids and upper thorax. Doing so will also enhance the rigidity of your upper back. This will help you maintain an upright trunk position throughout the entire movement. Don’t allow the elbows in low position as that can result into a rounded upper back. This would significantly increase the chances of dropping the weight as it gets heavy and will also put your body prone to risk for injury.
(iii) Un-rack The Bar: Before you un-rack the barbell, position yourself under the bar with your feet evenly spaced around shoulder width. Take a big breath and while bracing your core, lift the bar off the rack by first pushing with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso. Filling your lungs with air and bracing your core before you lift the barbell out of the rack is essential as it will allow you to lift massive weights without breaking in half. As in the case high bar back squat, the front squat will also use a straightforward or slightly upward eye gaze. This will do away with harmful pressure from being placed on your neck during the lift.
Tip: Make sure to keep your upper arms slightly above parallel to keep the bar from sliding off your shoulders.
(i) With the bar secured properly on top of your deltoids, take three steps backwards in a slow and steady manner. Set your feet at a comfortable width and in stable position. Foot placement should mimic the same position used during the high bar back squat. I prefer a shoulder width medium stance with the toes slightly pointed outward.
Each trainer will have a slightly different stance width based on his or her individual anatomy and level of mobility.
Before commencing the descent part of the exercise, secure a stable foundation with your feet. As like in case of the high-bar back squat, ensure your feet are in a tripod position. That is all the three points of both foot need to be in even contact with the ground. If done correctly, feet will turn into a full arched position. This will provide your body the stable platform it needs to move with good technique.
Now, squeeze your glutes in order to bring your knees into good alignment with the toes. Brace your core muscles and begin to slowly lower the bar by bending the knees as you maintain a straight posture with the head up. Continue down until the angle between the upper leg and the calves reaches 90-degrees (which is the point in which the upper legs are parallel to the floor). Inhale as you perform this portion of the movement.
(i) If you perform the exercise correctly, the front of the knees will make an imaginary straight line with the toes that is perpendicular to the floor. If your knees are past that imaginary line (if they are past your toes) then you are placing undue stress on the knee – meaning the exercise is being performed incorrectly.
(ii) Keep your head up at all times as looking down will get you off balance and also maintain a straight back.
(i) Begin to raise the bar as you exhale by pushing the floor mainly with the middle of your foot as you straighten the legs again and go back to the starting position.
(ii) When you ascent, keep in mind these two cues:
(a) The ascent is all about driving with the hips and keeping the torso in a good upright position.
(b) Keep your elbows high. This would prevent a rounded upper back and eventual injury.
(c) It’s a misconception that with the front squat, the knees need to move first. This misconception will lead the athlete to potentially overload the knee joint and capsize their potential to lift heavy weight.
Repeat the above movements for 5-10 repetitions of 3 sets, or as many reps and sets as you can do comfortably. If you are doing it first time, consider having a spotter.
Caution: This form of squat exercise is not to be taken lightly. Individuals with back issues should substitute it with the dumbbell squat variation or a leg press instead. If you have a healthy back, ensure correct technique and never slouch the back forward as this can cause back injury. Be careful as well with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more. The front squat is a very safe exercise but only if performed correctly.
Read here for 45-Minute Complete Leg Exercise Program
Video Showing How To Do Front-Bar Squat