The Front Squat is one of the best strength exercises you can do if you want to build strength or size in your legs and offers advantages that other squat variations don’t offer.
However, the Front Squat benefits aren’t solely limited to strength and mass building, the Front Squat can also improve squatting mechanics and is a great assistant exercises for the Olympic lift the Clean and its’ derivative the Power Clean. Check out more details about the Front Squat benefits.
Before I discuss how to perform a Front Squat and go into detail about the technical execution of a Front Squat, let’s first have a look at the different phases of the Front Squat technique.
How to do a Front Squat? Phases of the Front Squat technique
In very general terms, the phases of the Front Squat technique are no different than the phases of the Back Squat technique
The phases are
- Start position – before the initiation of the movement
- Descent – lowering yourself in the squat position
- Bottom position – the lowest position of the squat
- Ascent – reversing the movement and standing back up
- End position – the end position and start position of the next repetition, if you do multiple repetitions
Let’s go through these phases step by step. Also check out the Front Squat tutorial from minute 00:56 where double Olympian Twan van Gendt demonstrates how to do a Front Squat correctly.
- The barbell is supported on the shoulders
- The hands are fully around the bar if that’s not possible get as many fingers on the bar as possible. The hands are only meant to support the bar, not to hold it.
- The stance, the feet are shoulder-width apart
- The Front Squat grip can vary between a Clean grip, a cross grip or a Clean grip with straps, I would advise using the Clean grip as demonstrated in this tutorial
- The arms and forearms are parallel to each other
- The bottom of the upper arm is parallel with the ground and the elbows pointing straight forward
- The squatting is initiated by breaking from the hips and knees simultaneously (I know that is a topic of debate, different schools of thought advocate different things. In my attempt to keep things simple, focus on sitting down and the rest will follow)
- The elbows maintain pointing forward
- Keep the chest up
- Descent into a full squat position (check out the different squat depths here)
- The upper thigh is less than parallel with the ground, or the crease of the hip is lower than the mid-point of the knees
- The chest remains up
- The elbows point forward
- The weight is balanced on the full foot
- The lower legs are parallel to each other and the knees are aligned with the foot (from the front view)
- Whilst in the basic Back Squat in a full squat position, the shin angle is parallel to the back angle (from a side view), in the Front Squat the shin angle is more shallow and the back angle is steeper. In simple words, the upper body is more upright and the knees are pushed further forward.
- Reverse the movement by extending knees and hip at the same time until fully extended
- Keep the chest up
- Elbows point straight forward
- The weight is on the full foot
Front Squat tips
A quick word to Front Squat tips or Front Squat cues. Without entering the debate on external cues vs internal cues and which cues are better for technical learning, the Front Squat tips listed here, are cues I am using and have been shown to be successful for my athletes.
I have found that sometimes giving an exaggerated cue can help improve the Front Squat form.
Let me explain.
If you check out the technical key point on where the weight distribution should be throughout the Front Squat, you will see, that it should be on the full foot.
However, sometimes you have athletes that are very quad dominant, like my track cyclist and you see a tendency, that their weight shifts towards the front foot the deeper they descend into the squat position.
With these athletes I use the cue ‘Keep the weight on your heels.’, ‘Sit on your heels in the bottom.’ Or ‘Drive through your heels.’
Whilst this might not be fully correct, it helps the particular athlete to get the weight distribution right. This is probably the art of the art and science of coaching.
Here we go, some useful Front Squat tips I use:
- In my experience, the elbow position is crucial and athletes have the tendency to drop the elbows especially in the bottom position and ascent. One of the best cues I have ever heard is to imagine you have a laser pointing out of your elbows and you want the laser to point straight forward at all times.
- Another cue for the elbow position in the ascent is to cue the athlete to drive up with the elbows out of the bottom position
- The elbow position can be related to the chest position, with some athletes the chest collapses and the elbows drop as a consequence of that. It’s important to figure out what is the cause for the elbows to drop, this can only be determined by looking at each individual case. If the athlete collapses from the chest, I use the cue ‘Think about a Gorilla.’ And immediately athletes can relate to that.
- This cue is also helpful, if the athlete initiates the ascent by driving the hip up, which either result I the athlete losing the bar or having too much load on the wrist and hands and a strong rounding of the upper back. If this happens the Front Squat looks like a piece of crap.
- As mentioned, with very knee-dominant squatters is to cue to keep the weight on your heels
The list could go on and on, addressing Front Squat issues, such as knees caving in, bottom position or breathing. However, the cues listed are the most common flaws I have experienced.
If simple cueing doesn’t resolve the Front Squat issue, the next step is to look at appropriate corrective exercises for the specific technical flaw.
If you look at the Front Squat tutorial I mentioned, that Twan sometimes drops the elbows and consequently can’t lift as much as he could because he has to support too much load with his hands and wrist.
For someone like Twan van Gendt who can Front Squat more than 180 kg, the hands and wrists are just not strong enough to support that weight.
Specifically, with him, we included the handsfree Front Squat into his Front Squat warm up as a corrective exercise. Check out the video below
Concluding How to do a Front Squat
Your way to a bigger Front Squat and bigger legs is dependent on mastering the Front Squat technique.
You need to know how to do Front Squats and the weights will follow, not the other way around.
The Front Squat technique has 5 phases, the start position, the descent, the bottom position, the ascent and the end position.
Focus on the main key points of every phase of the Front Squat and you will be successful.
More information on the Front Squat
Front Squats Develop and Why You Need To Do Them
How to Front Squat Heavy
4 Methods to Calculate your Front Squat max
How much Front Squat
Why Front Squat
How To Front Squat Heavier
Why Front Squats are better
How much should I be able to Front Squat
What Does The Front Squat Work
More Front Squat impressions in the Front Squat video library