How to Calculate your Front Squat max?
If you are an athlete or consider yourself to train seriously, there is no way around squatting. Most athletes start to learn the Back Squat and add the Front Squat to their strength training program at a later stage.
Over the years I have come to the realization, that this is not the ideal sequence and I actually start with the Front Squat before introducing the Back Squat. I have outlined the reasons for starting with the Front Squat and later add the Back Squat in the articles
- What Do Front Squats Develop and Why You Need To Do Them
- How to Front Squat heavy
- Increasing your Back Squat – How much and how often to Squat
But if you start like I used to and most athletes do, first Back Squat and then introduce your Back Squat, you are faced with the question ‘How much weight should I use in the Front Squat?’
To answer this question, you need to know what your Front Squat max is. Once you know your Front Squat max, you can calculate the percentages you need to work on Maximum Strength, Power, Hypertrophy or whatever you want to work on (find an overview of the different intensity zones for the different training goals in the article Increasing your Back Squat – How much and how often to Squat)
So, how do you actually calculate your Front Squat max?
There are different methods to calculate your Front Squat max, some methods are more accurate some are less accurate, but sometimes the less accurate methods are the most practical methods.
Method 1: Front Squat 1RM testing
This method is pretty straight forward, you do a 1RM (repetition maximum) test and you have your Front Squat max.
The advantage is, that it is a really accurate method.
The disadvantage is, that you need to have a high proficiency level and need to be accustomed to training at high training intensities for one or two repetitions. The problem is, that if you haven’t trained at these high training intensities, you probably won’t get to the weights you could.
Method 2: Front Squat multiple RM testing
This method is very similar to the first method, the only difference is you perform multiple repetitions (as many as possible) and calculate your 1RM through conversion charts or a formula.
The advantage is, that if you aren’t accustomed to performing the Front Squat for heavy singles or doubles (as it is required for method 1), you can perform multiple repetitions at a lower weight you can execute with proper Front Squat form.
The disadvantage is, that it is less accurate. Especially the higher the repetitions are.
Let me explain.
The predicted 1RM from 3 or 4 repetitions is more accurate than the predicted 1RM from 8 or 10 repetitions. Athletes are conditioned differently and some are made more for strength and some are more made for endurance to put it I simple words. As an example, if you would take a group athletes, you know their 1RM in a certain exercise (let’s say the Bench Press) and you would let them do as many repetitions as they possibly could at 70% 1RM, you can find results between 8 and 12 repetitions (in some extreme examples probably more than 12 repetitions).
The reasons for this phenomenon is manifold, muscle fiber type distribution (more slow-twitch fibers = more repetitions), body size and proportions (longer limbs = longer levers = fewer repetitions), the capacity to tolerate and remove lactic acid (higher tolerance = more repetitions) and much more.
The takeaway message, if you are doing multiple RM testing try to do a 5RM or less, preferably 3RM to get more accurate results.
Method 3: Front Squat max calculated by Back Squat max
This is probably the least accurate method, but very practical, as you will see in the following examples.
For most athletes, their 1RM Front Squat is 80 – 90% of their 1RM Back Squat. If you know your 1RM Back Squat, you calculate 80 – 90% of that and you have an indication of your Front Squat max.
A practical example, your Back Squat 1RM is 120 kg. 80% of 120kg is 96kg and 90% of 120kg is 108kg, so you know your Front Squat max is between 96kg and 108kg.
You can even take it one step further, if you don’t know your 1RM Back Squat, you can determine it via the multiple RM methods explained in method 2. Once you have the predicted Back Squat 1RM you can then calculate 80 – 90% of that Back Squat 1RM to get an idea of the Front Squat 1RM.
I am fully aware that this method is not accurate at all, but let me explain from a coaches point of view.
In a training situation, you are often faced with scenarios like an athlete is new and has never done Front Squats, but has done Back Squats. The strength training program says 4 sets of 3 repetitions at 85% 1RM.
What are the possible solutions?
Scenario1: Stop the training, conduct a Front Squat 1RM test and you know for the next session, what the right weight is. The disadvantage you lose a session and for those who work in the sport know losing a session is the last thing you want to do if you can avoid it.
Scenario 2: Replace Front Squats with Back Squats, because you know the 1RM of the Back Squat and the resulting weight. You can do that, question is, you probably have the Front Squat in the program for a reason (something you want to achieve through the Front Squat) otherwise you would have put Back Squats.
Scenario 3: Chose the method I have outlined, calculate the predicted Back Squat 1RM, then take 80 – 90% of that to assume that is the Front Squat max and train at the given intensities prescribed in the strength training program. What I do in these scenarios I start at the lower end of the calculation, assuming the Front Squat 1RM would be 80% of the predicted Back Squat 1RM and then use a sliding scale of incremental increases from set to set. This way you get fairly close to what the athlete is capable of doing. My rationale for that approach is, that in my conviction the biggest time-waster is to train either with a load that is too light or a load that is too high, so any opportunity I can get that indicates where the appropriate load is, I am happy to employ.
Scenario 4: Chose a load randomly. As I have just outlined that can cause quite a bit of time wasted.
Method 4: Velocity-based testing to calculate the Front Squat max
In recent years devices that can measure the bar velocity have become fairly accurate and accessible. These devices measure the bar velocity and with 3 – 4 sets incremental of Front Squats at sub-maximal loads the device can determine your Front Squat max fairly accurate. You can also put the values into an xls spreadsheet that does the calculation for you.
The advantage is, that you can get an accurate estimation of your Front Squat max without performing a test as outlined in method 1 and 2. Because the detrimental effect of such a test is, that you wouldn’t be able to train on the same day. So the velocity-based testing allows you to get an accurate estimation and train on the same day.
The disadvantage is, the costs involved to purchase such a device and if you have larger groups it can become quite time intensive to conduct the velocity-based testing. I have experienced that first hand a couple of times.
Concluding How To Calculate Your Front Squat Max?
Knowing your Front Squat max is important to plan, manage and control your training. In order to calculate your Front Squat max, you can use direct methods, such as a 1RM test, multiple RM test, and velocity-based testing or indirect methods such as calculating the Front Squat max from the Back Squat max.
Each of those methods has its’ unique advantages and disadvantages, you should be aware of to use it for your needs and circumstances.
More information on the Front Squat
More Front Squat impressions in the Front Squat video library