The Front Squat

Front Squat Basic Movement Description: Holding weight on the chest while moving from a standing position to a full squat and back to standing.

This is a gif animated image of an athlete performing a front squat

Performing the Front Squat

  1. Execute the Front Squat using all points of performance found in the Air Squat while racking the bar in the ‘front rack’ position
  2. Finding the ‘front rack’ – use a PVC pipe or broomstick to focus on technique
  3. Hands are outside the shoulders
  4. Pinch the bar (PVC or broomstick) in your finger and thumbs (loose fingertip grip) and place on shoulders
  5. The bar should be resting on the shoulders while the hands ‘baby-sit’ the bar (balance the bar) resting on the fingertips
  6. Lift your elbows so they are parallel to the floor
  7. Follow execution for the Air Squat while maintaining high elbows (parallel to the floor) throughout the entire movement

Add this movement breakdown page to a fitness journal or training log

Front Squat journal page description and technique, setup and execution
gif of a front squat from the side with fast motiongif of a front squat from the side with slow motion

The front squat is an amazing exercise for improving your fitness and wellbeing. The front Squat can help iron out deficiencies in your posture and mechanical movements. It works so effectively by creating a load on the front of your body, forcing you to really sit back to maintain your balance and therefore really activating your posterior chain.

When front squatting you are performing a squat with the weight balanced on your chest so you are moving a weight that is resting on your chest from a standing position to a squatting position with your hips below your knees.

In order to get a front squat correct you will need to perform a few movements right.

Chest Up (back in extension) – You will need to keep your chest upright most importantly and your elbows up right in front of you. Successfully keeping your chest up will ensure your back does not collapse into a dangerous position.

Knees Out – you will also need to keep your knees tracking outside of your feet and pushing outwards.

It is very important to choose the weight wisely because the amount of weight you can safely lift on your chest may be quite different than the amount of weight you can lift for a back squat or a deadlift, at least at first.

This is how I perform my front squat.

My Setup

I start from a standing position with a correctly weighted barbell in a squat rack. Alternatively, I can start with the weighted barbell resting on the ground and perform a clean to get it up to my chest in a position called the front rack. The front is when the barbell rests on my chest. I personally like to squat from a squat rack.

Gathering the front squat

I step up to the bar in the squat rack and bending my knees, position my chest against the bar with the bar resting high on my chest near my clavicle. I place my palms on the bar and rotate my elbows under the bar until they are parallel to the ground and perpendicular to my torso. Once my elbows, hands and chest are in position I stand up and take three steps back.

Squatting with weight in the rack position

From this position, standing with the barbell on my chest, I make sure that my feet are positioned under my shoulders with my toes slightly turned out. Once my feet are positioned I push my butt backwards keeping my chest up, until I feel my hamstrings and glutes fully engage, at which point I squat down until my hips are below parallel.

Standing Back Up – Once my hips are below parallel I stand back up by firing my hamstrings and posterior chain as well as my quads. When the movement is complete I either perform more reps of my set or I take small steps forward to return the barbell safely to the squat rack. If I cleaned the bar up then I will drop the bar making sure to safely return it to the ground.

Front Squat Points of Performance

There are a couple important points of performance for the front squat. The first is you need to keep your chest up. This is important because you have to be able to keep your back in extension, similar to most powerlifting exercises, your back in extension means you have flexibility to lose a little bit of your position before causing injury. If you’re back is not in extension and is rounded when you start there is a good chance that when you start to lose your technique because of fatigue or overexertion then you will find yourself in a lot of pain.

Another important point of performance is to make sure that your knees are tracking outside of your feet and pushing outwards. You do not want your knees to cave in and it is very important that you do everything possible to make sure they do not. This is especially important when you are working at the outer limits of your endurance or strength.

The last point of performance that I want to mention is the necessity of keeping your butt back, to fully engage your posterior chain. With squats your quads will activate pretty much automatically but it is your hamstrings and butt that are more difficult to engage, at least until you have better technique. I make sure my feet are flat on the ground, and remain flat on the ground, throughout the lift. A good proprioceptive feeling for that is if you can wiggle your toes, your feet are probably in a good position, as long as your knees are out.

Things that can go wrong with a front squat

I mentioned earlier that it is important to pick the right weight and I can tell you about one time when I did not. I had three hundred and forty five pounds on the bar and was fairly adept at front squatting but was unable to complete this rep.

When I tried to bail away from the bar, which is when you push the bar away from you while pushing yourself back, my elbow caught on my knee because I was unable to maintain an upright chest. I took most of that 345 pounds right on my wrist. It does not belong there. It took me about 6 weeks of babying to recover from that wrist strain. And that is six weeks I was unable to improve my strength or fitness in meaningful ways.

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