There are three different options for holding the bar:
- The clean grip can be very hard on the wrists; however, holding the bar with this grip will help develop flexibility in your shoulders, wrists, and biceps allowing you to keep your elbows up. The extra ROM, (Range of Motion) allows for a more comfortable front squat. The flexibility created in your biceps will also transfer to better technique for your power cleans. Plus holding heavier weights will also strengthen your overhead pressing movements. You might eventually try having just your index and middle fingers under the bar. The majority of the weight would be resting on your shoulders.
- The second option for holding the bar would be similar to the clean grip but just with the aid of wrist wraps looped through the bar. This method puts less pressure on the wrist and helps the lifter emphasize a high elbow placement.
- The third option would be to place your arms under the bar and cross your hands over the barbell. This technique usually is more comfortable especially with heavier weight. Face the barbell using the different bevels on the bar to make sure you are lined up even and in the middle. The lift will be more challenging if you are positioned too far left or right.
Roll back your shoulders; push your chest tall, basically just as if you are at the top of your dead lift. Put your arms straight out and duck them under the bar; scoop it with your shoulders, then cross your arms over the bar to secure it. The barbell needs to be resting across your front deltoids. If you get the placement wrong the weight will be on your clavicle which causes the bar to feel as if it is moving around the whole time during the exercise, going from your neck to elbows. Another key is to keep your elbows raised or up for the entire time because this mainly keeps the bar secure.
Once you have the bar secure on your shoulders you are ready to initiate the squat. Much of the rest is the same as a normal back squat. Push your hips back first, chest tall (which should already be that way from the initial set-up), take a breath of air and slowly start your descent. Once the hamstrings are parallel to the ground or the top of your hips below your knees, drive your chest straight up with your hips following pushing against your abs or belt. Push out on your knees and drive through your heels. Both will take pressure off your knees allowing your larger leg muscles to work instead. This will also allow the lifter to lead the concentric movement with their chest and not hips.
Other than the obvious, grip placement of the front squat differs from the back due to bar placement. The front position transfers the load to the front making you stand upright or vertical. This makes the lift more lower back friendly, mainly due to less weight being used. There is also less spinal flexion due to the upright stance during the Front Squat. Due to the bar placement you are forced to keep a tight back and maintain a neutral spine. If you do not, most often the weight drops to the elbows. This decreases your chances of bending your back making it safer on your lower back.
Front squats are great for increasing your abdominal strength. In order to hold the bar tall in the vertical position throughout the entire lift, your abs or core are forced to work. If you can front squat heavy then you most likely have some strong abs. No bosu needed!
They also are less taxing on your central nervous system than a back squat, mainly due to the reduction in potential weight used. They will also test your mental fortitude. Try a heavy twenty rep front squat then make sure you have a place to lie down after or a bucket.
Your flexibility and strength in your hip flexors will improve especially when able to squat to full depth. This would help out all you desk jockeys out there. Generally people can squat lower when front compared to back squatting.
As well as receiving all the other usual benefits from squatting, the quadriceps can greatly benefit as well from the upright stance. This places more tension on the quadriceps than the back squat. Plus your back squats will feel much easier than before.
Dumping the Bar
The main safety concern is losing the bar or having the barbell slip forward off your shoulders during the squat. This usually happens when using the crossover technique grip. Don’t panic. The bar just slides down your shoulder to your elbows then drops to your hands. Just try to keep your hands crossed over the bar to help control the slip. Elbows raised will help out with preventing the slipping of the bar as well.
If you use the clean grip, simply just push the bar off you. Drop the bar and get out of the way especially your knees.
- Front squats can be safer than back squats due to the vertical positioning of the bar. Plus a tougher exercise to load so less weight is used which results in less spinal flexion.
- Abdominals/Core becomes stronger; strong abs/core help maintain an upright position during front squats.
- Form usually is better on front squats. If your form is incorrect, you can’t maintain an upright position with your back and will not be able to execute the lift effectively. If you don’t place the bar correctly, most likely you will drop it.
- The quadriceps are developed more from fronts squats. Again the upright stance places more work or development in the quadriceps. The bar is lined with the quadriceps unlike back squats where the bar is lined more with the gluts muscles.
- There is a strong carryover to other lifts. Over head pressing and power cleans can benefit from a stronger front squat. Both lifts’ starting positions are on your shoulders. This also allows you to become comfortable with weight loaded across your shoulder. Your start off the floor for any sort of pulling lift may see improvements as well.
*Note- Posted with pictures on www.WorkshopFitness.com