Anyone serious about getting stronger, fitness or flat out moving well understands the importance of training the squat. The squat is a great movement that shouldn’t just be for athletes or bodybuilders, but a movement that everyone should be performing when they enter the gym.
“If it’s important, do it every day.” – Dan John
When it comes to training the movement there are a few different variations that I like. The traditional back squat, goblet squat, split squat, rear foot elevated split squat are all good in my book – but I do have a favorite, the front squat.
Simply put, the front squat is variation that has the barbell resting across the front of your shoulders as opposed to behind the neck in the traditional back squat. This bar position has some pros and cons to being racked across the front of your shoulders. First off, with the bar resting across your shoulders you are forced to squat in a more upright position, keeping your chest up and back flat or else you will drop the bar on the floor. But on the other hand, because you are forced to stand a little taller throughout the entire movement you will be forced to use a little less weight with the front squat than you would with the back squat.
Setting up for the front squat is very similar to the back squat. Your feet should be roughly shoulder width apart, maybe slightly wider with your toes pointed out slightly. You should step up and under the bar, chest high with your lats as tight as possible. The bar should be resting between your throat and your clavicle – a position you will become more and more accustomed to the more you front squat (it takes a little time to find your ‘sweet spot’). Your hands should be open against the bar helping to assist in holding the weight in place, though your shoulders should be doing the majority of the work in keep the bar in the appropriate position. Finally, keeping your elbows as high as possible throughout the entire movement.
The execution of the front squat is very straight forward. Once you have the bar in the appropriate position, sit back by pushing your hips (butt) back – think sitting in a chair. Continue to lower the weight, under control, until you have reached parallel with your thighs – anything above parallel does not count as a real squat (unless you’re at Gold’s Gym grunting with a bunch of ego lifting bodybuilders and/or teenage boys). Finally, make sure you are focusing on pushing your knees out while performing the squat. Any ‘knee knocking’ is proof that you should focus on some glute activation exercises and take some weight off the bar.
A small pet peeve of mine has to do with the grip people will use with the front squat. I feel everyone should learn how to front squat with the clean grip instead of the cross armed grip. One reason I like the clean grip a little better is because it is easier to keep your elbows high while performing the lift. People tend to let their elbows drop a little more with the cross armed grip. Furthermore, people should learn to be comfortable with the clean grip as it carries over to many Olympic lifts like the power clean and hang clean amongst others.
In closing it should be noted that it takes a little time to get used to the front squat. The bar position can be very uncomfortable when you first start and it takes a little time to get used to. It took me close to a month to get really comfortable with the position of the bar but now it is actually a more comfortable position for me than the back squat position.