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Front Squat: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

The slightly less known brother of the back squat: the front squat. While you have the bar on the back of your shoulders during a back squat, the barbell is on the front of the shoulders during a front squat.

This means that the center of gravity is completely different so that your muscles are also put to work in a different way. During the front squat, you will find that you mainly use the front of your leg muscles, also known as the quadriceps.

The exercise is a perfect addition to the regular back squat to pay some extra attention to your quadriceps.

Which muscles do you use during a front squat?

The front squat is an upper leg exercise in which the most dominant muscle group is the quadriceps. Because the center of gravity of the bar is further forward than with a back squat, the load is transferred from the hamstrings to the quadriceps.

The front of the legs will therefore have to work the hardest to perform the exercise correctly. However, there are many more muscles that are used to complete the movement.

The hamstrings and glutes also play an important role in performing the front squat. In addition, you even use your calves, but to a lesser extent than your hamstrings and quadriceps.

Since you need to keep your upper body straight with the weight at the front, your abs and lower back muscles are also used for stabilization. In addition, you also use your shoulder and arm muscles to ensure that the barbell does not roll off your shoulders.

However, there are several ways to hold the bar off during a front squat. We briefly explain these techniques below so that you can choose the position that is most comfortable for you.

Front Squat: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

How to keep the barbell in place during a front squat

There are basically three ways to hold the barbell during a front squat. Try all the poses to find out which one is most comfortable for you. Especially if you get pain in your shoulders, elbows, or wrists, it is advisable to try a different grip. View the three most commonly used techniques below.

Arms crossed with your palm down

With this variation of the front squat, you cross your arms so that your left-hand ends up at your right shoulder and your right hand at your left shoulder. The bar lies on the front of your shoulders and you grab the bar from above with your hands. This variant requires little mobility in your wrists.

For many people, this is the most pleasant technique. However, this technique does put a lot of pressure on your shoulders.

Arms straight with your palm up

This technique does require a certain amount of mobility in your arms and wrists. The bar is on the front of your shoulders and you extend your arms straight out. Bend your elbows until your hands are near the bar.

Place your hands just outside your shoulders with your palms up and grab the bar. This can take some getting used to in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it's a piece of cake.

Arms straight using straps

This is a variant of the technique where you have the palms up and the arms straight, but this way is also suitable for people who do not have the mobility to perform the other technique. By putting straps around the bar, you don't have to bend your elbows so much that you grab the bar. Instead, you can make the straps as long or short as you want to cover the distance.

Front squat execution: the right technique

The steps below will ensure that you can perform the front squat correctly. This is important not only to prevent injuries but also to ensure that you perform the exercise as efficiently as possible.

  1. Stand in the starting position

    Make sure the barbell is level with your shoulders in the squat rack. Stand under the bar so that it is on top of your shoulders. Now grasp the bar using one of the techniques explained above. Make sure the barbell is stable and lift it off the rack. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed slightly out.

  2. Drop the weight

    Take a deep breath and tense your abs before you begin to lower. This makes it easier to keep your balance. Lower in a controlled manner until your hips are just below your knees. Push your knees out slightly to make room for your hips. Keep your upper body upright while performing this movement.

  3. Push the weight up

    Then come back up until you are back in the starting position. Push from your feet, trying to distribute the pressure evenly between your heels and the ball of your foot to maintain balance. Avoid using momentum and don't let yourself bounce up. Try to do the movement in a controlled manner while focusing on contracting your quadriceps.

  4. Repeat

    Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

If you're not sure how many reps you want to do, 8 to 10 reps is a good target to get used to the exercise. If you have a specific goal, such as an increase in strength, you can choose to do fewer reps. Make sure that you can perform the exercise correctly first.

TIP: Also check out other quadriceps exercises, such as the split squat to train your legs unilaterally or the classic back squat.

Most common mistakes

Because the center of gravity is different with a front squat than with the back squat, the position can be a bit awkward for many people. This can lead to incorrect posture and eventually injuries. Read the most common mistakes below and make sure you correct or prevent them yourself.

  1. Leaning forward
    Leaning forward is without a doubt the most common mistake made when performing the front squat. This can make it difficult to maintain your balance and lift the maximum weight. Usually, this is because people drop their elbows too low or don't tighten their core enough. Make sure to keep your elbows at shoulder height by pushing your chest up. Looking slightly up can also help you maintain a correct posture. In addition, tighten your abdominal and lower back muscles after inhaling.
  2. Not lowering deep enough
    Another common mistake, as with almost every squat variation, is not lowering deep enough. Often this is the result of using too much weight. It is important that you reach a good depth and lower your hips below your knees. This final portion of the movement is critical to achieving maximum quadriceps stimulation. Keep in mind that you can lift less weight with the front squat compared to the back squat. So take some weight off the barbell if you can't reach this depth. Is it still not possible with less weight? Then you may have limited mobility. Try to work on this by stretching and performing the front squat without weight.
  3. Heels off the floor
    On the bottom portion of the front squat, some people tend to lift their heels off the floor. This almost always has to do with limited ankle mobility. Although ankle mobility is partly genetically determined, you can certainly work on this. You can stretch your calves and Achilles tendons in particular to increase ankle mobility. Do this with the help of a foam roller and some stretching exercises for your calves and ankles.

Frequently asked questions about the front squat

Here you will find a selection of the most frequently asked questions about the front squat. Do you have a question of your own, but it is not listed? Please contact us and we may add your question to the overview.

Can I also do the front squat on the smith machine?

Yes, the front squat can also be done on a smith machine. It is a lot easier to keep a balance here since you are limited to the freedom of movement of the smith machine. Because you are limited in this, you will use fewer assisting muscles to perform the exercise. You can, however, focus on your quads by putting your feet a little further forward than if you would perform the exercise with a loose barbell.

Is the front squat also good for the glutes?

The glutes are definitely used while performing a front squat. However, if your goal is to give extra attention to your glutes, it is advisable to do another exercise for this. The front squat is a very effective exercise, but with an emphasis on the quadriceps. If you would like to have stronger or larger buttocks, it is better to choose specific buttock exercises.

Front squat vs back squat, which exercise is better?

This is another question that is surprisingly often asked, but really shouldn't be asked. Yes, the exercises are very similar, but that doesn't mean you should see them as direct alternatives to each other.

The emphasis on which muscles live the most work is very different, so it is certainly not wrong to do both exercises. Do you really want to make a choice, because, for example, you have limited time during your workouts and you don't want to focus specifically on your quadriceps or hamstrings, but on your legs in general? Then we would choose the back squat because it is a more general strength and mass builder than the front squat.

What are good front squat alternatives?

When looking at alternatives to the front squat, there are certainly several possibilities. First of all, a safety bar squat is a good alternative. During this squat with a special safety bar, there is more emphasis on the quadriceps than during a normal back squat. Because the front squat also places the most emphasis on the quadriceps, a safety bar squat can be a good alternative.

The dumbbell front squat is also a worthy alternative to the conventional front squat. In this variant, you take two dumbbells in your hand, which you place on the front of your shoulders, as it were, just like you would with a barbell. This exercise requires a lot of balance and upper body strength since you have to keep the dumbbells neatly in place.

Looking for even more front squat alternatives? Then view the overview of all exercises for quadriceps.

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