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The Front Squat: A Powerful Exercise for Quads, Core, & Glutes

The front squat is a powerful compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups including your core, legs, and upper body all at once. It involves placing a barbell across the front of your shoulders, requiring a unique positioning of the upper body compared to other squat variations. Let’s explore the benefits of front squats and provide some progressions to help you better understand and incorporate this exercise into your fitness routine.


Fit Societe Director performing a front squat.

Benefits of Front Squats


Front squats offer a multitude of benefits that make them a must-add to your workout regimen.


Full-Body Engagement

Front squats engage the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Additionally, they require significant core stabilization, leading to improved abdominal strength and stability.


Enhanced Quadriceps Development

The front squat emphasizes the quadriceps, making it an excellent exercise for building strength and size in the front of your thighs. The positioning of the barbell places a greater emphasis on the quads compared to back squats.


Improved Posture and Upper Body Strength

Holding the barbell in front of the body requires proper thoracic extension and upper back strength. Front squats can help improve your posture and develop strong upper back muscles, contributing to overall upper body strength.


Functional Movement and Balance

Front squats closely mimic the movement patterns used in daily activities, such as lifting objects from the ground. By incorporating front squats into your routine, you can improve functional movement and enhance your balance and coordination.


Proper Technique for Front Squats


  1. Set-Up: Begin by placing the barbell on a squat rack at approximately shoulder height. Step under the bar and let it rest on your front deltoids. Use a clean grip with three fingers under the bar.

  2. Hand and Elbow Position: Your hands should be just outside shoulder-width apart, with your elbows pointing forward. Keep your chest lifted and engage your upper back muscles.

  3. Feet Placement: Position your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Toes can be slightly turned outward to accommodate your hip mobility.

  4. Descent: Initiate the squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Keep your chest up and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

  5. Depth: Aim to go as low as your mobility allows while maintaining proper form. Your thighs should ideally be parallel to the ground or below but do not compromise your form for depth.

  6. Ascent: Push through your heels, engaging your quads, glutes, and core as you rise. Maintain a controlled movement both on the way up and down.

  7. Breathing: Inhale as you lower yourself into the squat and exhale as you push back up.


Progressions for Front Squats


Goblet Squats

If you're new to front squats or struggle with mobility, goblet squats are an excellent starting point. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest, close to your body, and perform squats while maintaining an upright torso. This helps develop the necessary mobility and strength for front squats.



Fit Societe Director performing a goblet squat.


Zercher Squats

Zercher squats involve holding the barbell in the crooks of your elbows with your hands crossed. This variation places more emphasis on the core and upper body strength, preparing you for the front rack position used in front squats.


Fit Societe Director performing a zercher squat.


Front Squats with Straps

If wrist mobility is a limiting factor, using lifting straps can assist with holding the barbell in the front rack position. This allows you to focus on the squat movement and leg strength without worrying about your grip.


Fit Societe Director performing a front squat with straps.

 

Once you have developed the necessary mobility and strength, you can progress to performing front squats with the barbell placed across your shoulders. Focus on maintaining an upright torso, keeping the elbows high, and achieving proper depth while performing the movement.


Incorporating front squats into your workout routine can yield significant benefits, including increased lower body strength, improved posture, and enhanced functional movement. Start with appropriate progressions based on your current fitness level and gradually work your way up to performing front squats with proper form. Consult with a qualified fitness professional if you're unsure about your technique or have any specific concerns. Embrace the front squat as a valuable tool for achieving a strong, balanced, and healthy body.

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Scott Ryan, BS, CSCS, CF-L1, CF-W, BFRC


A professional coach who specializes in Applied Functional Science, Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit L1, and Olympic Lifting. He attended New England College in New Hampshire obtaining a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Biomechanics. He has a passion for injury prevention and coaching, as he was a collegiate athlete who suffered sports injuries. His goal is to get athletes back to optimal shape as well as prevent future injuries.

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