Don’t get me wrong, front squats should never replace your back squat, but they should always be a part of your training protocol. Front squats tax your muscle fibers in a different way than back squats, particularly because the load is on the front of your body. This makes the front squat more of an accessory exercise if you’re training for strength or powerlifting, similar to the high bar squat. The positioning for both the high bar and the front squat requires your spine and torso to be in a more vertical position, therefore placing more emphasis on your quads (yet still hitting the hamstrings and glutes).
Front squats also place a lot of emphasis on your core. Seriously, if you want a strong core make sure front squats are in your training routine. Not only do they make your quads and core strong, they make your upper back freaky strong as well. The upright positioning of the torso during a front squat requires a lot of upper-back stability and strength. If your upper back caves as you’re coming out of the hole in a front squat, the bar will start to slide down your arms – and I know from experience, it’s scary! So if you struggle with upper-back strength like me, make front squats a priority. Add in a lot of rear delt, rhomboid and upper and lower trap work – it will help tremendously.
There are a couple of different ways to perform the front squat. You can either do a cross-over grip or a front rack grip. The cross-over grip is just placing each hand on the opposite shoulder with the bar resting on your front delt. The front rack grip is the same hang positioning as a power clean. This hand positioning requires a little more wrist flexibility, so you may need to work at it first. My wrists hurt initially when I first started performing front squats in my own training, but the more I did them the more that uncomfortable feeling in my wrists went away. Doing front squats often will basically force your wrist flexibility to get better so the wrist “pain” is temporary.
You can also use wrist wraps for support during front squats, which is what I always do. In my opinion, the front rack position is a more efficient way to hold the front squat. If you ask me, I would tell you to work at that position because you’ll be stronger during front squats with a front rack position.
If you’re new to front squats, practice! Practice makes perfect. You can start with just the bar and work on your hand positioning and just getting comfortable with the movement. It’s a different feeling from the back squat because the load is in front of the body.
After you’ve practiced a bit with it with super light weight and are comfortable with the movement, here’s a basic front squat workout:
Front Squat Workout
Front Squats, 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Pause Front Squats (light)*, 3 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift, 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Split Squats, 3 sets of 12 reps per leg
Leg Extension, 3 sets of 15 reps
Leg Curl, 3 sets of 15 reps
*This is just to get you comfortable holding the front squat position as well as getting better exploding out of the hole.
If you don’t have much history with front squats, you probably still have some questions. Visit the JYM Girls Facebook page and ask away!
Good luck working those quads, glutes and hammies with front squats, ladies!