Breaking Muscle Video – The Squat: Front Squats
The front squat is one of the most popular exercises among bodybuilders. There are many reasons why it’s so popular. First of all, it allows you to build strength and size without having to lift heavy weights or doing any other specialized training. You just need to have good technique, which is easy if you’ve done them before. Second, it’s a great exercise for developing your overall athleticism since you’re not only strengthening your muscles but also improving balance and coordination.
Finally, it’s very convenient because you don’t even have to change out of clothes when performing front squats.
Front squats are also considered to be a “functional” movement since they allow you to work different parts of the musculoskeletal system at once. They’re often used by athletes who want to improve their speed, agility, explosiveness, balance and coordination. These benefits make front squats ideal for building explosive power and endurance.
However, there are some drawbacks to front squats. One drawback is that they tend to cause injuries due to poor form. Another drawback is that they require a certain level of flexibility in order for you to perform them correctly. In addition, you need weightlifting shoes in order to maximize performance. If you don’t wear the proper support, then you are more prone to injury.
There are three different types of front squats:
Low-bar position: uses a bar position that is around hip level. This is the type preferred by powerlifters and most other strength athletes.
High-bar position: uses a bar position that is around chest level. This position is preferred by most Olympic weightlifters, although some prefer a slightly lower bar position.
Mixed-bar position: uses a bar position that is somewhere between the low and high bar positions. This is preferred by CrossFitters who believe that it provides the benefits of both while minimizing any potential drawbacks.
The mixed-bar position is considered to be the safest of the three, while the low-bar position is considered to be the riskiest. If you have back problems, then you should not do low-bar position front squats. This type of squat can also be problematic for competitive powerlifters to perform since most of them prefer a high-bar position.
When doing front squats, it’s important that you keep your body as straight as possible. Bending forward or leaning backwards throws off your center of gravity and makes it more likely for you to fall forward or backwards. This is especially true when you’re lifting heavier weights. If you do not have the flexibility to keep your back straight when doing front squats, then it might be a good idea to stick with the mixed-bar position.
One of the reasons why front squats are so effective for developing strength and size is because they involve supporting more weight than other types of squats. Typically, the deeper you squat, the more you can lift. This is because the more you squat, the more your muscles are stretched. Stretching muscles causes them to grow in order to withstand such forces.
This is why powerlifters and other strength athletes tend to perform high-bar squats. Even though this type of squat puts more strain on the knees, most of them will still exclusively perform this style since they are primarily interested in increasing their raw strength.
On the other hand, Olympic weightlifters and CrossFitters will usually perform low-bar squats. This is because this position allows them to lift more while maintaining proper form. This style of squat also helps them with their primary goal which is performing the clean and jerk and the snatch.
If your goal involves developing explosive strength and you need to be able to move large amounts of weight, then high-bar squats are probably a better choice for you.
If your goal is to be able to quickly jump higher, run faster, and perform other types of athletic movements, then low-bar squats are probably a better choice for you. (CrossFit)
For optimal gains, a combination of all three squat types is probably ideal. You won’t need to perform high-bar squats if your goal isn’t to perform the clean and jerk or the snatch.
Barbell Front Squat
This is the standard squat that you see most people doing in the gym. For maximum results, your feet should be shoulder width apart. You then place a barbell across your shoulders and hold it there while you lower yourself as far as you can go. Really concentrate on using your legs and try to keep your back as straight as possible.
Barbell High-Bar Squat
This is the most common type of squat performed by powerlifters. The main difference between this and the standard squat is that you place the bar a little higher on your back. This brings your torso more vertical making the center of gravity more favorable for lifting heavy weights.
Barbell Low-Bar Squat
This is the type of squat that you see most Olympic lifters perform. Unlike the high-bar squat, you place the bar lower on your back. This brings your torso more horizontal which is a more natural movement pattern for your body. It’s also better suited for quickly moving large amounts of weight since it takes stress off your legs and puts more of it on your hips and back.
Barbell Front Squat
Much like the barbell back squat except you hold the bar in front of you while keeping your elbows tucked in at your sides. This shifts the emphasis from your legs to your chest making this version of the squat more suitable for people with prior shoulder or injury.
Barbell Zercher Squat
This squat variation brings the bar into your front “pocket”. This shifts the weight a bit forward but it also puts a tremendous amount of stress on your core as you fight to keep the bar from shifting forward.
Most guys don’t perform this version of the squat but it’s a great way for newbie’s and women to get started. Since the weight is in each hand, you don’t need to worry about balancing a bar across your back making the movement much easier. Just make sure to keep your elbows tucked in at your sides and your upper arms parallel to the ground.
Most people think that you need to perform all the way up and all the way down in order to get stronger at squat but this isn’t true. In fact, taking the squat bar from the rack and only lowering it to just above your kneecap can be a great way to increase strength throughout the whole range of motion. Sometimes referred to as partials, negatives, or strip sets.
The Goblet Squat
Unlike the barbell back squat where you rest the bar across your shoulders and collarbone, you instead hold an empty weight in front of your body. This shifts the emphasis from your legs to your core and upper back making for a great challenge for overall strength and stability.
5. Leg Extension
You don’t see many people doing this exercise anymore but it’s a great way for beginners to learn how your quadriceps muscles contract and how your legs behave when being challenged by weight.
Beginners usually keep their legs fairly straight so they can lower the weight. This isn’t necessary but it’s OK as long as you don’t bounce at the bottom of each rep.
6. Leg Curl
Unlike the leg extension, the focus here isn’t on your quads but rather your hamstrings. This is a great way to give your knees and hips a bit of a rest in between sets of squats or deadlifts.
7. Calf Raise
Calves are made in the kitchen, right?
Well, yes and no. To some extent, sure. However, genetics do play the larger role. If you want bigger calves, you’re either going to need to up your caloric intake or spend some extra time in the gym doing specialized exercises.
In any case, don’t overdo it or you’ll just risk injury.
How much weight should I use?
While economy of movement is important, try to resist the urge to load up on heavy weight. As you get stronger, your body will thank you for not using extra weight to help you through the motions.
In any case, heavy weight is overkill for this routine. You want to focus on constant, even contraction of your quads without having them take a rest at the bottom or top of each rep. The goal is strength gains, not getting a pump!
8. Hamstring Curl
Just like the quads, most lifters ignore their hamstrings when they’re focused on building bigger legs. However, this is a big mistake as having strong hammies can prevent lower back pain and help you lift more weight in other movements.
Besides, who doesn’t want an extra pound of muscle hanging off their backside?
Sources & references used in this article:
Breaking Muscle by B Taylor, RL Movement – breakingmuscle.com
Working Towards Powerful Mobile Glutes by J Pilotti – breakingmuscle.com
The Psychology of Skill Development by J Pilotti – breakingmuscle.com