Master the front squat

Master the front squat

First of all, I just wanted to thank you all for the comments and feedback on my last post. I knew in advance that quite a few people were going to disagree with me, and I really enjoy having constructive discussions with my readers in the comments section. I’m still very new to the industry, so I truly appreciate all the helpful suggestions everyone offers.

What I clarified in a few comments but not in the post itself is that I was by no means suggesting that everyone should use machines in their workouts. I train very differently to how my clients train. The studio where I work only has two machines in it, and I’ve never used either machine with a client.

I would only recommend intermediate to advanced lifters incorporating machine work into their training for a specific purpose. Even then, I wouldn’t ever recommend using machines in every single workout – they should never replace for free weight exercises. I would never have a beginner client using anything other than free weights and their own bodyweight as a tool. I thought it was interesting that the common assumption is that machines can make knee and back injuries worse, considering I’ve had both and am convinced that machines have in fact helped me strengthen those areas.

Moving on, today’s post is all about the front squat. This is probably my least favourite exercise. But, like I tell everyone, if it’s an exercise you hate doing, it probably means you need to do it more!


Purpose: It is recommended that beginners start with front squats before progressing to barbell back squats, as they teach you to maintain an erect spine and really sit back into the bottom position of a squat. Front squats target your quadriceps muscle more than back squats, which is good for those of us that are hamstring-dominant, and they are easier on the back as there is less spinal compression. They are also a killer for the core!

Set-up: Stand in front of a a squat rack, with an Olympic bar resting across the top of your shoulders (it will hurt your clavicles at first, but you’ll get used to it!). The idea is that your shoulders support the weight, not your hands. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart – slightly wider than for a back squat – with your toes pointing slightly outwards.

The weight you’ll be lifting on a front squat will be much less than what you can back squat. You should be doing it already, but make sure you warm up with just the bar to get a feel for the exercise.

There are two ways to hold the bar: using either a clean grip or a cross arm grip. I personally use a clean grip, but it requires some wrist flexibility. Most bodybuilders opt to cross their arms.


Execution: Keeping your chest up, sink right back and down so the tops of your quads are just below the top of your knees. It’s generally easier to go beyond parallel in this type of squat variation. Make sure your elbows are pointing straight ahead and lifted high, so your upper arms are almost parallel to the ground. Keep your eyes looking straight ahead throughout the lift.

Push through the heels and keep the abs braced to return to the starting position. Because of the difficulty of the exercise, I tend to perform higher repetitions than I would with back squats, although I’m working on reducing my volume for this exercise.

Here is a great video of Erin Stern performing front squats, past parallel (I don’t know why my videos are no longer embedding in the post, so apologies for the click-through):

Total leg workout:
Dumbbell sumo squat: 3 x 15
Front squat: 4 x 10-12
Lying leg curl: 4 x 8
Barbell deadlift: 4 x 3-6
Alternate barbell lunge: 4 x 16 (total)

We have to be up in seven hours to leave for Amsterdam, so I have to go pack. We are a last minute kind of couple – we only just booked our hotel last night! I’ll be back next week 🙂

Have you tried the front squat? Do you prefer a back or front squat?

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