Although often overshadowed by it’s behind the neck counterpart (atleast in commercial gyms) the Front Squat is a powerful and majestic exercise that delivers tons of bang-for-your-buck as well as major transfer into your other lifts. In fact from a transfer-into-other-lifts perspective the Front Squat is to the Back Squat as the Overhead Press is to the Bench Press. Moreover, good Front Squat technique demonstrates great ankle mobility, good Quadriceps output, strong midline stabilization, as well as very healthy shoulder mobility. Perhaps it is for these reasons Front Squatsare sometimes overlooked… They are not a super complex movement, but they demand a great deal of structural integrity.
THE CHALLENGES. Let’s start with the elephant in the room and in the case of Front Squats that would be the front rack position. The front rack position involves a wide pronated grip on the bar, elbow flexion such that the bar is right up against the base of the throat. The weight of the bar should not be held up by the hands, but should rest on the muscular shelf created by the anterior Delts. Attaining this position requires adequate shoulder external rotation (at 90 degrees flexion) as well as good Lat Dorsi, Triceps, Teres Major and Posterior Deltoid flexibility. I’ve included the exercises I’ve found to be most effective in opening up Front Rack mobility (see below). The second challenge of front squats is the amount of ankle mobility required in the lift. All squats require good ankle mobility, but Front Squats require even more range. In my practice as a strength coach, ankle Dorsi Flexion is one of the most common restrictions I see in novice and intermediate lifters. I also see its importance often overlooked by coaches. The tricky thing about ankle mobility is how difficult it is to isolate and work on. The body is so good at adapting and finds all kinds of ways to avoid dorsi flexion (these include pronation of the foot, external rotation of the lower extremity). I’ve included the exercises I’ve found to be most effective in opening up ankle mobility (see below)
MOST IMPORTANT CUES. The key points to remember when performing a Front Squat are the following: 1) “Chest up and open”. This cue reminds you to keep your trunk upright and keep your shoulder blades from rounding forward. 2) “Elbows Up”. This cue will also help you keep an upright posture and helps you keep the bar from rolling forward and away from that ideal position against the base of the neck and sitting on the muscular shelf you’ve created. 3) “Knee’s Out”. This cue is to keep your lower body from collapsing against the weight. It also keeps the feet, knees and hips going in the same direction. This cue will help make your front squats much more stable and clean. I’ve also included a remedial exercise I use to help strengthen and reinforce proper lower extremity mechanics.
4 Remedial Exercises to Improve Your Front Squat: