The front squat is one of the most basic, effective, yet often ignored lower-body exercises. Compared to other Squat Variations, this core strengthening staple effectively increases lower body power and size, while decreasing the stress in your lower back. This exercise is also a centerpiece workout for athletes who build their quads for improved athletic mobility and endurance.
Although the position and movement look uncomfortable and painful, the Front Squat is actually easy to master. Since we are going for an essential movement, the subtleties are important to be done the right way.
Before you shoulder up your barbell and push your quads and core to the limit, let’s break down the Front Squat essentials, save you from the bad habits and perfect your form to unlock your strongest lower body ever.
This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:
- How to do Front Squat
- 3 Front Squat Benefits
- Common Front Squat Mistakes to Avoid
- Front Squat Muscles Worked
- Front Squat vs Back Squat
- Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs
- Front Squat Variations
- Front Squat Alternative Exercises
- Frequently Asked Questions about Front Squat
How To Front Squat
The exercise is best performed with weights or tension. We highly recommend a decent barbell that is moderately loaded. Beginners can start with 10-lb. plates, and gradually increase as you get stronger.
The bar’s position influences your leverage and upright torso position during the exercise. This unusual position affects muscle activation and demands extra effort from your upper back, core, and lower body.
What You’ll Need:
- Barbell (empty or with plates): The front squat is more efficient when done with a barbell to achieve balance on both sides of the body
- Dumbbells: More useful if the challenge is balance asymmetry as the weights are equal for both hands during the squat
- Resistance Bands: As an alternative to free weights, you can simply loop the band around your legs, just above the knees before you lower down into a squat.
- Kettlebells: Use one kettlebell if you’re new to front squats, then gradually work your way up.
Step 1: Setting Up The Equipment
The first thing you need to do is set up a barbell on the squat rack at the optimum level for your height. It’s best to have the barbell racked just below your shoulders to load it on your shoulder easily.
Step 2: Get In Position
The second step is to get into a standing position. Move towards the front rack position, and while facing it, place your fingertips beneath both ends of the barbell.
Step 3: Rotate Your Arms, Elbows Pointing Up
Turn your arms below the barbell with your fingers, so your elbows are facing up. All while your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Notably, your palms should stay open as you lift the barbell.
Step 4: Prepare To Lift The Barbell
Lift your chest while refraining from extending your spine, and push your head back to avoid the barbell touching your neck. The barbell should be supported by your middle and index fingers, which should be placed on your upper chest area and the front of your shoulders.
Step 5: Walk The Weight Out
Unrack the weight and start taking a few steps back. Maintain your front squat form as your posture should be straight, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your knees bent slightly.
The position of your shoulders should be directly above your hips, all while your head and neck should be in a stable and relaxed position.
It’s important to note that keep your chin tucked as if you were trying to support an egg beneath your chin throughout the workout.
Step 6: Get To Your Starting Position
To achieve a firm stance, spread your weight evenly and secure the ground with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your core tight while flexing your shoulders and hips. All of the exercise’s repetitions should start from this position.
Step 7: Squat Down
Take a deep breath and initiate the downward movement by lowering your hips, bending your knees and ankles while maintaining your chest up, elbows straight, and spine neutral. Lower your legs until they are equal or slightly below parallel with the floor.
You should only go as low as you can while maintaining a neutral pelvis. When you reach the bottom of the front squat, pause for a second to keep tension in your lower body muscles.
Step 8: Finish A Rep by Standing Up
To start your rising movement, press your legs into the floor and try to stand up. Don’t let your elbows drop and keep your chest high as you prepare to stand, clench your glutes, and let your knees straighten and your hips forward. Squeeze your glutes and quads as you finish the workout while keeping your spine neutral, then return to your initial front rack position
Keep in mind that your shoulders should be exactly over your hips. It’s also easier to think that your pelvis is a bucket of water in which you are striving not to spill any of it.
3 Front Squat Benefits
1. Improved Mobility
You can’t do the workout with good squat form unless you have the mobility to do it. This technique relies heavily on hip and ankle flexibility and movement. If you lack the ability, front squats are a wonderful opportunity to work on this. Some benefits will transfer to other activities you do in the gym.
It will all seem simpler as you practice the front squats, the Olympic lift, various forms of squats, box jumps, burpees, and various other moves and exercises.
2. Increase In Overall Body Strength
Your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes will all receive a great workout. But these are just a few muscle groups that will be worked with front squats. Remember that this isn’t only about gaining more lower body strength. It will also make you more powerful and faster all around.
3. Strengthens Your Core and Upper Back
Your core and upper back, particularly your erector spinae and traps, must work extremely hard to keep you stable, keep your elbows and chest up, and keep you from collapsing beneath the weight of the barbell.
The barbell front squat is good for developing core strength and upper back, improving the stability of your body.
Common Front Squat Mistakes to Avoid
Front squats enable lifters to maintain their torso upright during the workout since the barbell is held near the body’s center of gravity. Leaning forward is a big NO because it undermines the front squat’s low-back sparing advantages while not enhancing leverage or strength.
Not Utilizing Full Range of Motion
One of the primary benefits of this workout is to have the ability to reach parallel or below the desired height without bending forward with the upper body, which distributes tension to the lower back.
Doing a front squat in lower depths has been demonstrated to increase leg growth and strength more than higher-depth squats.
Letting Elbows Pull the Body Down
Maintaining proper bar position implies that your upper back is completely engaged, your core is tight, and your body is positioned for maximum power production.
If your elbows are pointing down, you’ll set off a chain reaction of possible technique faults. Soon after, inefficient training and the possibility of damage ensue.
Shifting Your Knees
Your knees should remain in general alignment with your ankles throughout the exercise and when moving from the bottom position back up to lockout. Allowing the knees to cave in promotes knee instability and increases the risk of injury.
Front Squat Muscles Worked
- Upper Back
The front squat is one of the best exercises that work both your upper and lower body muscles. Because of the weights utilized in this exercise, you will be working both your quadriceps and upper back muscles hard. Your core muscles will also be used because they are required to stay upright and stable while carrying the weights.
When you do the front squat, the weight is redistributed from your upper to lower body, which works out your glutes and hamstrings. If you want to work out many muscle groups at the same time, this is one of the finest exercises you can do.
Front Squat vs Back Squat: Which Is Better?
The major distinction between the front squat and the back squat is where you place the barbell. The bar is in an underhand grip and supported by the front deltoids when doing a front squat. In comparison, the bar sits over your trapezius and rear delts in back squats, so the weight is loaded on the posterior of your torso.
As for the Front Squat, the movement warrants better mobility of the upper back, shoulders, ankles, wrists, and hips which makes it more difficult to perform compared to a back squat.
Although each works different muscle groups, both are effective in targeting the quads, hamstrings, and glutes that are essential for enhanced athletic performance and endurance.
If you are aiming for enhanced strength and power, you can work on your back squats. To achieve killer quads, start incorporating front squats to your lower-body routine.
Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs:
Moderate Weight, Low Repetition
A front squat performs particularly well for developing explosive strength and speed with moderate-intensity weights lifted at high rates without losing proper technique. Six to eight sets of two to four repetitions with a weight that isn’t close to muscle failure. This can be an excellent method of training athletes or lifters who desire to boost their mobility and quad strength and endurance.
Heavy Weight, Low Repetition
To concentrate on strength, three to five sets of three to five repetitions with a weight that hits near-muscular failure on each set is a tried-and-true method. Long rest intervals between sets, up to a few minutes, provide minimal tiredness and more power output.
Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetition
A typical bodybuilder’s strategy of three to four sets of eight to twelve repetitions, nearing muscle failure at the final rep of each set, is ideal for increasing leg growth. This type of gut-busting workout makes lifters despise leg day until the newfound results justify the effort.
Front Squat Variations
This workout can be modified in various ways to better suit your level of fitness, objectives, and needs.
Band-Resisted Front Squat
It increases the total resistance involved in the lifting, but it also packs the resistance towards the peak of the exercise when the tension in the band is highest.
This means there’s no added load on the bottom section of the workout, which may be problematic given the squat’s mobility issue. Still, it enhances your strength and encourages you to work your way up as you stand to counteract the band’s increasing resistance.
Start with a kettlebell and work your way up if you’re unsure about taking on a loaded barbell in a front squat. Support the weight towards your chest, arms bent, so your hands are just above your elbows. Perform a front squat until your elbows are touching your knees, then push back up to a standing posture.
Offset Kettlebell Front Squat
This squat variation serves as a transition from the goblet squat to the full front squat, and it is an excellent technique to work out your core strength. The objective is to add weight on one side of the body, so your core needs to resist the impulse to turn to that side while you squat, which recruits various muscle groups than a straight up-and-down squat.
Front Squat Alternatives
The front squat isn’t the only workout movement in the gym that may help you increase your quad strength, hypertrophy, and general posture.
Dumbbell Front Squat
The dumbbell front squat is an excellent approach for teaching yourself the front squat. If you don’t feel completely comfortable front squatting with a barbell, it can also be a useful exercise for building strength and hypertrophy.
High Bar Pause Squat
The High Bar Paused Squat emphasizes the quad muscles similarly, and you’ll likely be able to carry as much weight as possible with this exercise. The barbell will rest on your upper traps in a high bar squat position. In comparison, a low bar squat will have the barbell resting 2-3 inches deeper on the top of your rear deltoid.
Barbell Split Squat
The Barbell Split Squat is an excellent unilateral workout for improving quad strength and muscle growth. Also, it is utilized to help work through any possible asymmetries between the right and left sides. Weightlifters with evident imbalances between sides or having a ‘dominant leg’ might benefit from this.