Front Squat Technique: How to Improve Your Front Squat?
The front squat is one of the most common exercises performed by bodybuilders and athletes. It’s also one of the best ways to build strength and size. However, it can be difficult for beginners because they often don’t have much experience with performing such movements.
When I was first starting out, I couldn’t even get my head up high enough to properly perform a front squat. Even after years of training, I still had trouble getting into position. One day while doing some basic warm-up exercises for a back exercise, I noticed that my neck was sore from all the overhead work I’d been doing recently. So I decided to take a look at what I was doing wrong.
I started by taking my chin over my chest and then lowered myself down until my face was just above the bar. From there, I tried to keep my shoulders pulled back and down as much as possible so that when I stood up, they were pointing straight ahead. After several attempts, I finally got it right! (If you’re having problems with your front squat technique, try this drill. It may help you as much as it did me!)
Once I really had the basics of the movement down, I started trying to get a little deeper. It was tough at first since the bar was hitting me in a weird place on my throat, but eventually I adjusted and learned how to tuck my chin in so it didn’t hurt as bad. After working with the bar for a while and getting used to the new position, I was able to go even lower without discomfort.info.
Front Squats – Is It Alright to Do on the Smith Machine?
The front squat: it’s a staple in the routines of strength athletes and bodybuilders everywhere.
But is it OK to do it on a smith machine?
The answer is no, for several reasons. The smith machine doesn’t allow the natural arc of motion that a barbell does. Because of this, your body has to adapt in a way that’s different than it would with a barbell.
Not only is this bad for your body in general because it doesn’t train your body the way it was meant to be trained, but it can actually lead to decreased strength and power. This is particularly true for the squat exercise and the bench press, which are the two most important exercises in weight training.
The other problem with the smith machine is that it doesn’t allow for free weight movements, and free weight movements build more strength and muscle than machine movements. (Although there are certainly some exercises, such as cable cross-overs, that aren’t nearly as effective as their free weight counterparts).
There are many exercises, such as the bench press and row, that can be done on the smith machine that can also be done with free weights. Even if these movements aren’t quite as good as their free weight counterparts, they’re still better than doing nothing at all.
However, the front squat is not one of these movements. There is no smith machine equivalent to the front squat. Unless you’re comfortable squatting with a barbell across your spine, you’ll need to use a different exercise for your legs.
There are many other leg exercises that you can do. The following are some of the best:
partial squats (beginning with the weight on your heels)
Romanian deadlifts (RDLs)
As you can see, all of these exercises involve dynamic movement. When you do these exercises using a free weight, the arc of motion will be more or less the same as it would be with a barbell. This will allow you to maintain your gains in strength and power without altering your form.
As for the front squat in particular, the best substitute that I can think of is the layback squat. This squat variation is performed with a barbell across your back, but you’ll begin the movement by leaning way back rather than going down in a curve.
Doing it this way will allow you to keep the bar in contact with your body, but it will still force your core and hips to work harder. An even easier exercise would be the leg press. However, the leg press is not a very effective substitute because it doesn’t work your core at all.
Your core is just as important as your legs when it comes to squatting heavy weights.
The front squat is one of the best exercises for strengthening your core as well as your upper body because of the pressure it puts on your entire torso. If you do choose to substitute another exercise, make sure that you’re still working everything evenly.
Make sure you continue doing exercises such as sit-ups and other ab work along with bench press, shoulder press and rows.
How to Front Squat: Set-Up and Form
Once you’ve chosen your substitute front squat exercise, you’ll need to learn the proper form. This is very simple to perform but a little more complex to set up.
Setting up for the front squat is different than any other squat you’ve probably done before because of the bar position. Instead of placing the bar across your shoulders, you’ll place it across the front of your shoulders and chest.
While this may sound easy enough, it can be a little tricky to get the bar in the right place and even more difficult to get used to. It will feel very unstable at first because most of the weight is in front of you rather than on your back.
To start, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and bend over while pushing your butt back. Grasp the bar just outside of shoulder width and lift it off of the supports. While keeping the bar as close to your body as possible, rotate it until the ends are touching your shoulders.
With the bar in place, slowly squat down and place it on the supports. Then, slide your feet back and your knees out while leaning forward at the waist. The idea is to get a deeper than normal squat position without letting the bar roll or shift. When you’re in position, stand back up.
As with any squat, keep your head up, back arched and your weight balanced evenly on your feet. As you descend, make sure that you’re leaning forward and keeping everything tight.
There are two ways to do a front squat; with a wide grip or close grip. The wide grip is just that, with your hands placed outside your shoulders. The close grip has your hands placed inside your shoulders.
For most people, the wide grip will be the easiest to perform. This is due to the fact that it’s slightly easier to keep the bar in place and you have a shorter distance to slide your hands if you start to lose your balance.
As for which one will be better for you, this is debatable. The close grip seems to put a little more emphasis on your upper body while the wide grip has a little more on your core and legs. You can choose which one you want to focus on but both are essential to performing the lift properly.
The other thing that you need to decide is how low you want to go. You won’t be able to go as low as you would with the back squat, however, most people don’t need to or aren’t capable of doing it anyway. Most people will be able to get down low enough for the exercise to be effective. Depending on how low you can go, you may need to add weight or have a spotter add or take weight as you squat down.
Common Front Squat Mistakes and Issues:
The biggest issue people seem to have with the front squat is that they either can’t get down low enough without help or they start leaning backwards as they’re descending.
The first issue is probably the easiest to fix. If you can’t get down low enough, then you’ll need either add weight or get a spotter to help you. The best way to do this is to have a spotter place some plates (padded ones so you don’t get hurt) on a weight tree or anything that’s secure and just add them as needed.
The leaning backwards is a little trickier. Some people have a tendency to do this because they feel like they’re going to fall over their forward. To fix this, you’ll just need to gain confidence in the lift and spend some time practicing it until you feel more comfortable.
Another thing that may cause you lean back a bit is weak glutes and hamstrings. Because of this, your body will naturally lean back to lift the weight instead of just straight up. To correct this issue, you’ll need to focus on exercises that target the glutes and hamstrings such as glute ham raises, leg curls, good mornings and anything else your coach suggests.
To perform a good morning, set up a bar in a power rack just below chest height. This will be the starting position. You can have your feet hip width or wider, whichever you feel most comfortable with. You’ll also want to have your knees slightly bent.
From there, bend over and grab the bar just outside of your knees. Now, keeping your back straight, walk forward and bend over until your chest is touching your legs. At this point, the bar will be behind your head. From here, push your body back to the starting position by extending your legs and upper body.
You should feel this in your hamstrings and glutes. If you’d like, you can set up some weight plates on a safety bar to add extra resistance.
I would do 4 to 6 sets of these with no more than three reps per set. Don’t go too heavy or else you won’t be able to maintain proper form.
Accessory Work For The Front Squat:
Glute Ham Raise: This is an obvious one. Because the glutes and hamstrings are involved in the squat, you’re going to want to do some sort of exercise that targets them. The glute ham raise is one of the best exercises for this.
To perform this exercise, you’ll need a glute ham raise bench. Alternatively, you can just use a regular weight bench and place a pad or something else that’s flat on top of it so your knees don’t hit the floor. In this instance, you’ll just want to make sure your knees don’t bounce up and hit you in the stomach.
Sit on the edge of the bench with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Now, Slowly bend at the hips and slide your body towards your legs until your head is between your knees. Hold this position for a second so you can get accustomed to the position before moving on to the next step.
Now that you’re ready, extend your legs out until they’re straight. You don’t have to lock your knees or anything like that, just straighten them as much as you can. From this position slowly bring your feet back in towards your butt and then bend your knees until they almost touch the floor. Don’t go past this point as going past your knees will put too much strain on your hamstrings.
Do not bounce or snap your body when you perform this exercise. This is a slow, controlled movement.
Start with sets of 10 and work your way up to 20 reps. Again, make sure you go at a steady pace and don’t rush. If you’re struggling to get 20 by yourself, then have a training partner help out by placing some of his weight on your feet.
Again, this is an exercise that I would do 4 to 6 sets of.
Barbell Glute Bridge: Here’s another glute and hamstring exercise. It’s very similar to the first one; however, it’s a little bit more dynamic. To perform this movement, place a barbell on your upper back just like you would if you were doing a regular squat. Have your feet roughly hip width apart and make sure your upper body is bent forward so that the bar hits your upper chest/upper stomach area.
Now, from this position, extend your hips and you knees so that the bar moves straight upward. The movement should be swift, but controlled. Once the bar is at its highest point, slowly lower it back down. I would do 4 to 6 sets of these as well with around 8 to 12 reps. Again, make sure to go at a steady pace and don’t jerk the bar or bounce at the bottom of the movement.
It should be a slow, controlled movement.
Barbell Step Ups: For this exercise you’ll need access to a box that’s roughly knee height. If you don’t have anything like that, then just use a bench or stack some weight plates like I did when I didn’t have anything else to step up on.
The concept of this movement is simple. Place one foot on top of the box and then using mostly your legs (along with a little help from your arms pushing against the box), bring the other foot up on to the box as well. Step down with the same leg that you stepped up first and then do the opposite foot. This will complete one rep.
Now, some notes on the technique. You don’t want to just jump up in the air and throw your bodyweight into it, this is a controlled movement. Keep your knees slightly bent when you’re at the top to ensure a smooth descent back down as well.
The higher the box, the more difficult the movement will be. Start low until you get accustomed to the movement so you don’t pull anything. I would do 4 to 6 sets of these with 10 to 15 reps.
Lunges: I saved the best for last! This is my favorite exercise in this whole article. To perform this exercise you don’t need any equipment what so ever. That’s right, no dumbbells, barbells, or machines. You only need your body and a little space.
If you want to add some resistance, then wear a backpack filled with books or something.
This is a great exercise because it targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It also forces the core to work overtime to keep you from falling over which in turn gives you a nice strong midsection. Trust me; you’ll know the first time you do this exercise.
To start off, place one foot forward with the knee bent. The further your foot is out the harder the movement will be, but you don’t want to start off too hard. So, start with your foot slightly ahead of your hip. Now, bend at the waist while keeping the knees pointed in the same direction as the foot is pointing and the other leg straight out behind you. Slowly reverse the process by straightening your bent leg and twisting your body so that you’re facing the opposite direction and then finally placing your other foot back on the ground.
Make sure to keep your back straight and not bend at the hips. This is a great opportunity to really feel the burn in those hamstrings. I would do 4 to 6 sets of these with 10 to 15 reps.
That’s it for this edition of Blueprint For Gains. Thank you so much for reading and make sure to train hard while employing these exercises into your routine.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Teaching Tips by J Ma, S Sures, BJ Gurd – 2014 – researchgate.net
10 Tips to Smash Through a Training Plateau by S McArthur – breakingmuscle.co.uk
Is Current Protocol Enough? by S an Example