Benefits of Front Squats
The classic squat is already a staple with most serious lifters, so are the benefits of front squats really worth the trouble of learning a new way to do it? The answer is: absolutely. In fact, there are several heavy arguments in favor of adopting this slightly different take on the traditional leg blaster.
How to do Front Squats
As the name implies, the main difference between front squats and the classic squat is that you place the barbell in front of your neck instead of behind it. But let’s do a quick run-down of the proper execution of a front squat first.
Place your feet about shoulder width apart standing immediately in front of the racked barbell. Bend your knees slightly and flex your abs, maintaining good tension in your midsection throughout. Shrug your shoulders and roll them back into a neutral, relaxed position with your arms raised straight out in front of you. Now, either cross the forearms so that your fingertips rest on the opposite shoulders, ie. left hand on right shoulder and vice versa, or bend your forearms back like you’d do with an overhead press; either way works.
Take a small step forward and find the natural groove that presents itself at the top of your chest and shoulders (fingers on top of the bar, obviously, if doing the crossed-arms version), then use your legs to lift the weight off the rack and take a small step back. From there, you perform your set as you would normally do.
Some Benefits of Front Squats
This may seem like a really minor difference. What impact could this possibly have? Plenty, and here’s why:
More quads – Keeping the bar in front of you shifts the center point of gravity noticeably, forcing you to maintain a much more upright position as you squat down. This in turn puts a lot more emphasis on the quadriceps muscle (front thigh) compared to classic squats, which bring in more hips, butt and hamstrings (rear legs) into play.
Safer back – When people get tired doing classic squats, they tend to sag forward a little, rounding their backs. I don’t have to explain why this is an exceptionally bad idea, especially with a loaded barbell balancing on the shoulders. With front squats it’s physically impossible, as you’d do an instant faceplant on the floor.
Better form – This is merely another side of the same coin outlined before; you can’t cheat, period. The inability to cheat makes better progress automatic, tying into the first argument to boot. One drawback is that you’ll not be able to handle the kind of poundage you did with classic squats, which may be something of an annoyance. Don’t let it get to you – check the ego at the door and remember what’ll give you best results in the long haul.
Variation – Finally, the mere fact that it’s a new way of training quads is a potent benefit of front squats all by itself. Muscles thrive on variation; the more you surprise them each week, the stronger they tend to get. Conversely, if you stick to a predictable routine, your muscles have little incentive to improve once they have achieved that level of fitness. Thus, mixing classic and front squats with their different poundages and strictness tends to give the best overall results compared to only one kind of either exercise.
Front squats are excellent for beginners and experienced weight lifters alike looking to build strong legs in a safe but effective manner. Just don’t forget to stretch thoroughly afterwards, as the soreness can be brutal if you haven’t done front squats before.