TUTORIAL FOR THE FRONT SQUAT
The Front Squat. You put it in the front and squat. Ok, that sounded nasty, let’s rewrite that.
The Front Squat. A very valuable exercise for any men with a curly, straight or wavy mane to build strength and muscle. Sound better this time?
Being a Manly Curls reader, you are used to my tutorials, having myself previously covered how to correctly perform a Power Clean as well as how to perform One Hand Snatches. Likewise, you have probably read about the front squat in one of my fitness ramblings and you are more than acquaintanced (or should be!) with what a conventional squat is. Today, I want to further continue my fitness ramblings and channel them in this article to the superb exercise, the front squat, and actually teach you how to do it! Still with me? If so, then continue reading.
As the name implies, the front squat calls for the lifter to have a barbell in the front to squat it, to be more precise, the barbell is held in the clavicle area (front of the neck). This exercise is a variant of a conventional squat and is practised extensively by Olympic weightlifters yet it offers great benefits to mere gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts too. The exercise builds tremendous lower body strength as well as muscle mass and sometimes it brings on better benefit than a (back) squat itself. While the latter is touted as the king of exercises, the front squat could be regarded as the evilish brother of the king. Cooler but harder. Unfortunately for us fitness enthusiasts, this exercise is taught wrong by many so I’d like to teach you the correct way to do the front squat (myself having been a competitive Olympic weightlifter).
As previously outlined, the barbell is placed on the clavicle area and held by the arms into position. The lifter then squats down and proceeds to stand back up again, while keeping the barbell unmoved from the clavicle area. The front squat calls on the strength of the legs, buttocks, abdominal area and upper back while developing flexibility and allowing one to squat with a deeper range of motion (the longer the range of motion, the more potential for hypertrohy i.e muscle gain).
The front squat is a bit harder to perform and learn than a conventional squat and it requires some flexibility in the upper body to be able to master it. I will break down the technique to you and show you how to properly perform it. Let’s go!
1) THE APPROACH
Approach the barbell which should be supported on a rack. Grab it with both hands about 3 inches apart (on each side) from the shoulders. Now get your throat close to the barbell and place the bony base of your throat under the barbell. The barbell should now be resting comfortably across the clavicle and front of the shoulders, and it should be resting on your hands anywhere throughout the length of your fingers (depending on your flexibility). Push your elbows up (you will feel a stretch in your triceps) and take the barbell off the rack.
2) THE INITIAL SET UP
Take one or two steps out from the rack with the barbell held as aforementioned. Keep your chin up and the elbows up. Your feet should be wider than shoulder width, upper arms about parallel to the floor, knees locked out and back and shoulders straight (not slouched). You are now ready to squat.
Keep the elbows up, back arched and take a deep breath in
3) SQUATTING DOWN
Take a big breath in and push your abdominal wall out. Squat down by unlocking your knees (this is called “break at the knees”) while keeping your elbows in the same position (don’t let them fall down!). Continue to maintain your chin up and back straight as you go down. Go all the way down until the back of your thighs make contact with your calves, think of sitting between your legs. Your back will want to lean forward as you go all the way down (also known as “in the hole”) so avoid this by really making an effort to keep your elbows up. If your elbows are dropping down, your technique is faulty.
The elbows are still up, back arched and not rounded, and sitting between the legs
4) SQUATTING UP
When you are in the hole, squat out of it by trying to push your elbows as high as you can while simulatenously pushing with your thighs up and squeezing your glutes. Use all your leg and buttock might to squat up: your upper body will want to again lean forward and activate your lower back to lift the weight, which is dangerous and can expose you to injury. You should not let the air from your lungs out until you are about mid-way up. Continue pushing up with your lower body power and as you finish squatting up, don’t let the elbows drop down!
The elbows are still up and push through the thighs
5) THE FINISH
If you have to do another rep, repeat the above process. If not, take another breath in and carefully step back to the rack to return the barbell. You are done and have worked so many muscles that other gym exercises do not come close to. This is how your front squat should look:
As you have read, the main issue with the front squat is the leaning forward of the upper body which is solved by keeping your elbows up. This is key and should be the main cue you should be telling yourself as you squat down and up, if you can do this, you have 99% of your front squat problems fixed.
Some people will find that they cannot do the front squat as illustrated. The grip that I use to depict this exercise is called a clean grip (as it is the grip used to do cleans and powercleans). If you fall in this category, you have two options, improve your flexibility on your shoulders and elbows or use another grip.
To improve your flexibility, you should grab an unloaded barbell as if you were going to front squat it and instead of squatting down, alternate pushing each shoulder up and holding the raised position of each elbow but about 10 seconds at a time. Do about 5 of these per elbow, more if you are new to this exercise. Moreover, the barbell can be held anywhere across the length of your fingers and you don’t need to have all your fingers grabbing the barbell, even just one finger holding the barbell per hand is enough (although I recommend having at least two for optimal support). Work your shoulder flexibility with shoulder dislocates with a PVC pipe or towel and you are good to go.
The barbell should be resting across your fingers as shown above
On the other hand, if you still have issues with resting the barbell and using a clean grip, you can use a crossarmed grip. With the crossarmed grip, you have the barbell resting exactly as with a clean grip only that instead of grabbing the barbell with your elbows pointing up and the hands hyperextended, you grab the barbell with your arms crossed in an X, hands overlapping each other and grabbing the opposite side. This grip is very intuitive and much easier to do but I would recommend you to keep working your shoulder and arm flexibility to eventually be able to use a clean grip. The crossarmed grip doesn’t allow as much torso stabilizing as the clean grip so it is in your front squatting interest to eventually use the latter grip. If your grip is weak, then I advise you to have a read through my recommended hand grip exercises.
This is how you grab the barbell with a crossarmed grip.
That is it. Apply this front squat tutorial and work it hard to kick-start your muscle and strength gains! And remember, like us on Facebook so that you get access to the latest Manly Curls on fitness, hairstyles and lifestyle!
All the best.