Barbell back squats are arguably the king of all leg exercises, with the barbell front squat close behind. Back squats are part of the powerlifting big 3, but the front squat and the various front squat variations, although less load, is used because of the reduced stability; they have better carryover to sports and Olympic lifting because everything is happening in front of them, not behind them.
That’s not a knock on the barbell back squat but more of a compliment to the front squat.
Front squats train your anterior muscle heavily, strengthening the quads and anterior core to a greater degree. The vastus medialis—aka the teardrop muscle—is targeted more heavily during the front squat. Plus, if you suffer from lower back discomfort while back squatting, the front squat vertical torso makes the squat more accessible because the spine has less compressive force placed upon it.
Here we get into what’s needed for good front squat form and three front squat variations that are not the barbell front squat for juicy quad gains and rock solid anterior core.
What’s Needed For a Good Front Squat
There are a ton of cues, techniques, and methods when it comes to the front squat, but the following are non-negotiable.
- The lumbar spine remains in a neutral position throughout the movement. Core stability and hip mobility make this happen.
- Your feet stay planted on the ground and stable throughout the rep, which requires good ankle mobility.
- The barbell stays in a vertical line over the midfoot. This requires a certain amount of shoulder and upper back mobility.
- You need upper back strength and mobility when using the front rack, crossover grip, or straps. This keeps your torso vertical, elbows up, and prevents you from losing barbell position.
Front Squat Benefits
The knock against the front squat is that you can use less weight than the back squat. That’s true because the front squat anterior position is less stable than the back squat. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot build serious size and strength with the front squat.
- Be A Quad God: Both the back and front squats work the quads hard and heavy. But the anterior position of the barbell encourages an upright torso, placing more emphasis on the quads than the back squat.
- Low Back Saver: Back squats place a compressive load on the spine because, let’s face it, the barbell is sitting right on your spine. This is not bad, but if your back is aggravated, why upset it further? The vertical torso position with the front squat is easier on the low back because there is less compressive force on your spine.
- Better Sports Carryover: As mentioned previously, sports and life happen in front of us, not behind us. The front squat has better carryover to Olympic weightlifting movements, CrossFit competitions, and combat-based sports like MMA and boxing. Front squats are better than back squats if you’re competing in anything but powerlifting.
Top 3 Front Squat Variations
The barbell front squat will always remain the king of front squat variations, but only some have the upper back strength and mobility to hold a barbell in position. Or they are new to front squatting and need to start building the required strength and mobility for the barbell front squat. Either way, these three front squat variations will have you walking funny the next day.
You can thank me later.