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How to Front Squat – Muscles Worked, Benefits and Technique Tips

Everything you need to know about the Front Squat.

The Front Squat is an anterior loaded barbell squat with incredible benefits.

According to CrossFit, “The front squat builds exactly on the mechanics of the air squat. All that is added is a load supported in the front-rack position, where the weight sits squarely on the upper chest and shoulders, and the elbows point forward to bring the upper arms parallel to the floor.

This ‘rack position,’ critical to weightlifting, both demands and improves wrist and shoulder flexibility while the load, supported by the torso, both demands and improves midline stability.”

front squat vs Zercher SquatSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc
Push yourself

Table of Contents

  • Muscles Worked
  • Benefits
  • How to Front Squat
  • Front Squat Technique Tips
  • Front Squat Mistakes
  • Front Squat Alternatives
  • Front Squat Variations
  • FAQs

Front Squat Muscles Worked

Front Squats are a great exercise for building muscle mass and strength in the lower body.

They especially target the quads but also demand hard work from the hips and hamstrings.

This Squat variation is an excellent way to build better glutes and a powerful core and abs. They also assist in the development of the spinal erectors.

Front Squat Benefits

Fronts Squats have a huge pay out when it comes to their benefits.

  • Target the quads and glutes in new ways
  • Build better Posture
  • Enhance core strength and abs
  • Augment mental toughness
  • Develop better rack mobility
  • Improve other exercises such as the Clean or other Squat variations

Front Squats will help to expose all the following weaknesses:

  • Problems with thoracic extension (the ability to keep your chest up)
  • Overdeveloped pic minor, biceps or triceps that can lead to a hunched forward position
  • Imbalances in the shoulder girdle
  • Weaknesses in the core
  • Front rack mobility issues
  • Poor strength in the glutes and quads
  • Hip mobility issues
  • Lack of ankle flexibility

How to Front Squat

  • Rack the barbell into the front rack position. Either grip the bar fully or use the finger tips if your front rack mobility will not allow for the former option
  • Place your feet at a comfortable shoulder width distance apart
  • Inhale and brace your core, glutes and hips
  • Break at the hips to engage the posterior chain then descend
  • Maintain a vertical torso
  • Squat lower than parallel
  • Stand straight up from the bottom position. Maintain the straight body position and high elbows
  • Exhale at the top of the movement
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Front Squat Technique Tips

Experiment with your Foot Placement

Take time to find the right foot position for you. Everyone is different so although the general principles apply, your perfect foot placement will probably be slightly different to your training buddies.

A great way to figure this out is a technique from Dan John.

First, jump up and down three times in a row.

When you land on the final jump stay completely still. Don’t move your feet at all.

This will be a natural stance for you to support and hold the weight of your body. Start with this position the next time you perform Front Squats.

Try the Zercher Squat

Front squat by mat fraserSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.
Mat on fire

Bar Path

Keep the bar over the mid-foot during the entire squat range of motion.

This will help you support the load and stabilise your body properly.

Hip Hinge

With the Front Squat you only need to push your hips back slightly.

This will help you to keep the bar over the mid-foot and engage the glutes and posterior chain.

The level of backwards movement is less than the Back Squat.

High Elbows

Squat University demonstrate exactly how high elbows and a solid rack position will help you, “If done correctly this will create a ‘shelf’ for the bar to sit comfortably on top of the shoulders and chest.

Doing so will also increase the rigidity of your upper back. This will help you maintain an upright trunk position throughout the entire lift.

Leaving the elbows in low position can lead to a rounded upper back. This greatly increases the odds of dropping the weight as it gets heavy. You will also place your body at risk for injury.

Mobility issues at the shoulder and/or thoracic spine (upper back) may cause the lifter to not be able to reach the high elbow position.

It’s acceptable to leave the fingers in contact with the bar and have an open palm to reach the high elbow position.”

Improve your Bulgarian Split Squat

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Front Squat Mistakes

The Front Squat takes time to master, and in the meantime, make sure to avoid these common mistakes.

Low Elbows

Low elbows will cause the weight to drop forwards. They will also make it much harder/impossible to sit back in your hips.

Not Sitting into the Heels

In the Back Squat the lifter must think about sitting back into the hips. When it comes to the Front Squat, this coaching cue doesn’t work because it causes the athlete to fall forwards.

Instead, you must try to “drop down” and keep your torso as vertical as possible

Rounding the Upper Back

Poor front rack mobility, insufficient core strength and the anterior loading can all be contributing factors to a rounding upper back.

Make sure you keep your spine straight. If the problem persists, work on technique with a lighter load.  

Front Squat Alternatives

The following are all effective alternatives that will work your body in a similar way to the Front Squat:

  • Goblet Squat
  • Narrow Stance Leg Press
  • Cross-Arm Front Squat
  • Front Rack Barbell Split Squat
  • Box Pistol Squat
  • Dumbbell Step-Up
  • Zercher Squat
  • Safety Bar Squat
  • High Bar Pause Squat
  • Front Foot Elevated Dumbbell Split Squat

Front Squat Variations

These variations will help you keep your training varied, fun and challenging.

Band Resisted Front Squats

The introduction of bands will bring a new kind of stimulus into your training. They offer resistance in a new way.

In this variation there will be less tension at the bottom of the range of motion and more at the top.

Band Resisted Bottoms Up Front Squats

This variation builds impressive explosive power from the bottom position.

A great benefit is that after you use this type of Squat, the regular version will feel easier.

Pause Front Squat

As simple as it sounds. Incorporate a pause in the hole at the bottom of the movement. Remember to keep your body tight and strong and pay attention to your breathing.

Zombie Squat

This variation will really help to improve your understanding of the vertical torso position because you can’t use your hands.

Sots Press

This exercise is essentially a Strict Press performed from a Squat position. It will help to improve your rack position, balance and overhead strength as well as identify any mobility issues.

Performed correctly, the Sots Press results in a great amount of thoracic extension stretch, shoulder stability, and hip/core strength.

Heel Elevated Front Squat

For this variation, simply place your heels on a bumper plate or other raised surface.

Elevating the heels makes the upright torso easier to achieve and decreases the need for excellent dorsiflexion (ankle flexibility).

Thruster

Very common in CrossFit, the Thruster is a brutal combination of a F Squat and Push Press. This ferocious exercise will improve your power, mental toughness, and dynamic lifting skills.

FAQs

Got further questions? Check out our FAQs.

What is Front Squat Good for?

The Front Squat is good for building lower body strength and muscle, enhancing mobility and flexibility, creating a better front rack position, augmenting squatting power out of the hole, strengthening the core and improving full body strength in general.

Are Front Squats Harder?

F Squats work the quads harder and place less stress on the knees than Back Squats. All lifters (with very few exceptions) can lift more weight with the Back Squat than the Front Squat.

What is a Good Weight to Front Squat?

Iconic strength coach Charles Poliquin stated that a lifter should be able to F Squat around 70-85% of their Back Squat weight.

Do Front Squats Build Mass?

Yes, they do build muscle mass. They are a great way to develop muscle mass, general fitness and health in general.

Do Front Squats Improve Posture?

Yes, they demand perfect posture throughout every rep so they reinforce this movement pattern in everyday life.

The exercise will also contribute to enhanced mobility of the hips, knees and ankles. They force thoracic extension which is great news for your spine, back and posture in general.

Do Front Squats Build Legs?

Yes, the exercise will build bigger and stronger legs. If muscle mass is your goal, then make sure you follow a hypertrophy program for optimal results.

Does Front Squat Train Glutes?

Yes, they do train glutes and will help you create a better, stronger and more functional lower body in general.

Learn More

Try the Jefferson Squat.

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