In almost any situation when a person declares that squats are his favorite exercise, you can safely assume that they mean back squats. Even though both back and front squats are equally great movements, it’s true that the first get all the love and attention, while the latter are the ultimate underdog in the vast world of squat variants.
Well, here’s an idea – how about giving your traps a break and including some front squats in your routine the next time you hit the gym?
If you’re wondering how this would affect your gains, here are three important reasons why front squats deserve a permanent place in your training program:
1. Prevents injury
Behind the popularity of the back squat lies a dirty secret: even when consistently performed with perfect form, it’s bad for your lower back, hips and knees. Compared to back squats, front squats cause less stress and compressive forces and are a lot easier on the shoulders. If you lean too far forward on a front squat you’ll drop the weight, so you have to keep your spine and pelvis upright, thereby lowering the risk of back pain, meniscus and ligament damage.
2. Improves core strength
Yes, front squats are hard work. But do you know what hard work will bring you in this case? A rock-solid core that will allow you to execute all other exercises with the kind of power you didn’t even believe could be created in your muscles before. Enhancing your core stability with the help of this great exercise will tremendously improve your strength in all major lifts.
3. Builds fantastic quads
The front squat is unmatched when it comes to lower body development, especially for the quads, gastrocnemius and gluteus maximus. In general, the front squat is a more efficient exercise for building powerful quads than the back squat because it calls for greater muscle activity in the hips and spinal erectors.
However, it will take you some practice before you become able to reap these benefits. Mastering the front squat with proper form is as crucial as it is with any other compound exercise, so let’s see what you can do to improve your current form.
1. Use the rack position
This means that you shouldn’t cross your forearms in front of you, a mistake that most bodybuilders are guilty of. Instead, employ the same position you use to hold the bar at the end of a clean – the bar should rest on your front delts, supported lightly in the fingers, and the elbows should be high enough so that the upper arms are parallel to the floor. Don’t let crossed arms limit the mobility and efficiency of your front squat.
2. Put them first
It’s really a no-brainer that achieving a balanced, symmetrical development requires a decent amount of both front and back squats, but if your front squat is significantly weaker than your back squat, close the gap by performing it more frequently than the latter. In order to reach the optimal ratio in the case of a terribly weaker front squat, try performing one session of back squats for every three sessions of front squats and see how it goes, then increase or decrease the frequency if needed.
3. Target your weaknesses
Undoubtedly, the reasons why your front squat is falling behind include a lack of strength or mobility in one or more specific body areas. If you haven’t so far determined the root of your premature failure, focus on it now. Identifying your weaknesses and working to eliminate them with the help of additional exercises will help you significantly improve your front squat and other major lifts.
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And finally, here’s the basic guide to performing a proper front squat:
• Use a clean grip but keep in mind that the weight should be supported by your chest and shoulders instead of your hands.
• Position the feet at shoulder-width apart, rotate them out about twenty degrees and make sure that your toes are always aligned with your knees.
• Create a solid base for the bar to rest on by pushing your chest out and keeping your elbows up.
• Avoid the health issues associated with prolonged or repeated cervical extension by focusing your gaze on a point in front of you instead of looking up.
• Preventing your knees from drifting out over your toes, push your hips back.
• Slowly descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor or even deeper.
• Push from the heels and drive upwards in a controlled manner to get out of the bottom of the squat.