The front squat is an excellent lower-body exercise that is guaranteed to strengthen your legs, hips, glutes (butt muscles), and especially your quads (thigh muscles).
In many ways, front squats are similar to back squats, targeting the same muscle groups. However, the barbell (or kettlebell) is set across your shoulders’ front side instead of your upper back. This changes the center of mass forward, allowing for a more erect posture, making it much more spine-friendly.
It also shifts some of the tension from your glutes to your quads, so if you are looking to build size and strength, front squats are one of the most effective exercises you can add to your routine. This front squat form guide will take you through the workout and help perfect your front squat technique.
How to Front Squat
Front squats are performed with a barbell; opt for dumbbells if the barbell is not available. Place the barbell in front of you. Place your fingertips under the barbell, drive your arms up, and keep your chest up and core tight. Drop at your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Align your hips and knees to push up to the opening position. That’s one rep! However, you may need more coaching to perfect the form and get the most of the exercise.
Placement Is Everything
It goes without saying, the better your form, the more intense the workout. The barbell should rest across the front side of your shoulders right in front of your neck. An excellent way to know if the bar is placed correctly is to do a quick straight-arm test. Place the barbell on your shoulders and straighten your arms forward, so they’re parallel to the ground. The barbell is in the right position if it sits in place on your shoulders.
After nailing the placement, you can then choose which grip to use. Keep in mind that your hands should only be used to add extra stability and direction, not to take the weight.
Here are the two front squat grip options:
The clean grip is the classic grip most lifters use. With the barbell set in position, put your fingertips under the bar just outside your shoulder brackets. We recommend you have all of your fingertips under the bar, but that’s not a must – whatever feels comfortable—some prefer to use two fingers. The clean grip may cause wrist pain if you don’t have enough mobility. It is frequently recommended that athletes who rely on their wrists (tennis players) avoid this exercise.
The cross grip is another standard grip used for the front squat exercises. Cross your arms, putting each hand on top of the barbell at your opposite shoulders. This grip doesn’t put as much tension on your wrists and has practically no mobility constraints, but it might not feel as steady as the clean grip.
Now, it’s time to set your feet and prepare for your first drop. Start with your feet hip- and shoulder-width apart, with your toes facing slightly outwards at about 10-15 degrees.
Get familiar with this position. You can then adjust to a more comfortable stance, depending on what feels right. There’s not a universal correct stance. Experiment with lighter weight until you find what works for you.
Front Squat Technique Step-by-Step
Step 1: Breathe and tighten your core, pulling your shoulder blades down and back.
Step 2: Bend your knees to lower yourself into the Squat. Keep your chest and elbows straight during the rep.
Step 3: Continue bending until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground.
Step 4: Push your midfoot to stand up as if you are pushing the ground away from you. You should feel the tension in your quads and glutes, as they will be doing most of the work.
The Benefits of the Front Squat
The front squat may look like a simple weighted drop. Still, it’s more of a compound exercise, targeting multiple muscle groups at the same time. Although it’s fundamentally a lower-body exercise, it’s actually a full-body lift. It works everything from your feet to your arms to your glutes and quads. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the front squat:
It Strengthens the Quads
The front squat is one of the most effective exercises for growing quad strength and size. Following a steady front squat routine will build your quads faster than any other workout.
It’s Easy on Your Back
The front squat’s straight torso position places less stress on your lumbar spine (lower back) than back squats.
It Builds a Stronger Core
The Front Squat is also a weighted core exercise. The bar and upright torso’s position works most of the front of your core (abs and obliques) and helps develop the core muscle group you need to handle heavier lifts, such as the deadlift.
It’s Better for Your Knees
Research shows that front squats induce much less pressure on the knees than back squats, making it a great option if you’ve had knee injuries in the past.
It Promotes Mobility
Front squats promote mobility in your upper back, hips, and shoulders. If your technique is off in other lower-body workouts, adding front squats into your routine might fix the problem.
Back squats might let you lift heavier, but the front squat will force your whole body to grow.
Everything from your feet’ position to your arms plays a crucial role in nailing the front squat. However, the quads and glutes are considered the primarily targeted muscle groups. The benefits of performing front squats add up to make the exercise one of the best lifts for athletes.