Many intermediate lifters, after seeing the benefits that the traditional squat has for building strength and muscle, start to look for ways to tweak the squat. They want to make subtle changes in order to improve the quality of their squatting exercise.
One of the most common changes or additions to a normal squatting routine is to substitute in the Front Squat.
At first glance, the front squat is a challenging movement that can be difficult to learn. But with some knowledge, the proper training and correct approach, you can not only add the front squat to your workout, but use it to improve the strength and mass of your legs.
In today’s article, we are going to discuss just how to do this, so stick around if you’re looking to improve your front squat ability.
First we will go over the benefits of the front squat, and why you should be adding this movement to your workout routine.
Then we will go over how the front squat can have differing effects on your muscles when compared to the back squat.
Finally, once we’ve sold you on the many benefits of the front squat, we will go over how to perform the front squat, as well as the proper rep schemes.
The purpose of this article is not only to educate you on how to do front squats, but also why you should be doing them. We will also discuss some required safety tips, as there may be some individuals that are at risk when performing front squats.
Be aware that not every exercise is good for every lifter, and that rule also applies to the front squat.
Front Squats: The Benefits
The squat is often referred to as the “King” of all exercises, because it’s so challenging and gives a near Full Body Workout. The front squat is a variation on the standard back squat, and some lifters actually consider it an improved variant.
Regardless of whether you think one or the other is superior, what isn’t up for debate is that the front squat works your muscles in a different manner than the back squat.
You see, with the front squat, you’re getting much greater quadriceps activation. This is due to the center of gravity being changed because the weight is in front of your spine.
Because of this, you may find yourself feeling awkward or off-balance when first performing front squats. In this stage, it’s advisable to start with a lighter weight until you become accustomed to the differences between front and back squats.
You’ll notice it may take some time for you to find your balance and proper placement of the bar.
After doing a few sets of front squats, you’ll notice that your quadriceps were worked much more than during normal back squats. You may also find that you were able to go deeper than with a traditional squat.
Along with these obvious benefits, the front squat can also improve core strength and be better for the lower back and knees, depending on the individual lifter.
Front Squats: Increasing Stability
One of the biggest factors to consider when performing front squats is the stability. The front squat isn’t as “natural” of a movement as the back squat, and as a result many lifters find it awkward, off-balanced and limiting.
The best way to increase your stability on any movement is to practice with lighter weight while focusing on the mind-muscle connection.
With front squats, this is especially important so that you don’t injure yourself.
Another point worth making is to be mindful of your footwear. You don’t want to be wearing shoes with a lot of cushioning as this can throw you off balance. For this reason, you’ll see a lot of people squatting barefoot, which is actually advisable.
If you don’t want to lift barefoot, then we recommend getting some basic lifting shoes with minimal cushioning and support. Converse Chuck Taylor’s are inexpensive and will do the trick nicely.
It’s also very helpful to either record yourself, or to be able to watch yourself in a mirror while squatting. This will show you if you have any sticking points, and allow you to critique your own form.
Front Squats: Increasing The Weights
Once you’ve got the form nailed down, we can begin increasing the weight to build size and strength.
As we’ve said before, lower weight/higher reps are often used to build size, while higher weight/lower reps builds strength.
Since we’re just starting out with our front squats, it’s best to stick with something in the middle, so a rep range of around 6-10. Remember, the lower the weight, the more reps you can do and the less risky the exercise will be.
As you gain confidence and strength, you can slowly start to increase the weight. It’s best to use increments of 5lbs, which normally translates to the smallest plates available at your gym.
Front Squats: Keeping Safe
Staying safe while performing any type of exercise should always be your first priority, and that is especially true for front squats.
You see, during the traditional back squat, you can always bail out by letting the weight “fall” off your back and stepping forward. With the front squat, that is no longer an option as the weight is in front of your body and often over your legs.
For this reason, it’s advisable to use a power rack when front squatting. Make sure to set the safety pins just below the lowest point reached during your rep. This will allow you to bail out of the squat by sitting down, and you don’t have to worry about the weight falling on you
Because the front squat works the body in a different manner than the back squat, you may notice some extra stress on your shins, knees or back. You may also, like many lifters, realize that in some areas where back squats hurt you, you feel relief when performing the front squat.
Front Squats: Final Thoughts
If you find that the traditional back squat is causing you some minor injuries, or if you’re just looking to change up your routine, now is the time to throw the front squat into the mix.
You’ll certainly be able to feel the difference, and you may even prefer to use the front squat over the back squat.
Just make sure that you’re starting slow and progressing steadily, keeping an eye on safety and perfect form.