What is a Front Squat?
Before we discuss ‘What does the Front Squat work?’ let’s start defining what a Front Squat is.
The Front Squat is a squat variation, where the bar is placed on the Front of the shoulders. The term Front Squat simply refers to the bar position, it doesn’t refer to squat depth.
What is the difference between the Back Squat and the Front Squat (Back Squats vs Front Squats)?
Without getting too much into the Back Squat vs Front Squat discussion, which I have discussed in the article Why Front Squats are better
The difference between the Front Squat and Back Squat is the bar position and this difference in bar position influences the squat movement. While the Back Squat has the bar placed on the Back will lead to more forward leaning than the Front Squat and conversely the Front Squat requires the upper body and trunk to stay more upright than the Back Squat.
This difference in posture has an influence on the movement and activation of muscles and muscle groups.
What Muscles and Muscle Groups does the Front Squat work?
As explained the more upright posture of the Front Squat activates more muscle on the anterior side of the lower body, mainly the quadriceps.
Balancing the bar on the shoulders and maintaining and upright body, so that the bar will not roll forward and you ultimately lose the bar to the front strongly activates the lower back and upper back.
If you have ever seen someone with a hunchback coming out of the Front Squat, you know what how much the back contributes to the Front Squat.
What movement patterns does the Front Squat work?
The Front Squat trains the fundamental movement pattern squatting. Due to the bar position on the front of your shoulders, the Front Squat doesn’t allow for compensations in the movement pattern such as leaning forward, as it happens in the Back Squat.
Therefore the Front Squat forces you to execute the right movement pattern and helps to learn the squat pattern.
This is the reason, why we start with the Front Squat with our young athletes who start out with strength training. I have found over and over again if you acquire and consolidate the squat movement pattern through Front Squats it has a high transfer to proper Back Squat technique.
As opposed to starting out with the Back Squat, where you see athletes leaning to far forward, positioning the body appropriately under the bar and also having difficulties with the weight shift in the bottom position. They tend to stay too much on the front foot.
What does the Front Squat work? Strength, Power Endurance or Size?
Depending on the training intensity you chose, the Front Squat can work on strength, power, endurance or size.
I have outlined different intensities, repetition and set schemes to develop strength, power endurance, and size (hypertrophy) in the articles
And the inter-dependency between intensity, repetitions, sets and total volume in the article
Training for Strength / Maximum Strength
Repetitions: 1 – 3
Intensity: 85 – 100% 1RM
Training for Power
Repetitions: 2 – 6
Intensity: 0 – 70% 1RM
Power is a bit of a tricky one since power training exists in different form, for more information have a look at the article The Importance Weight Training Has On Power
Training for Size (hypertrophy)
Repetitions: 4 – 8 (for functional hypertrophy), 8 – 12 (for non-functional hypertrophy)
Intensity: 75 – 85% 1RM (for functional hypertrophy), 65 – 75% 1RM (for non-functional hypertrophy)
An explanation on the difference between Functional Hypertrophy and Non-functional Hypertrophy have a look at the article The Holy Grail of Strength Training – Sets and Reps
Training for Strength Endurance
Repetitions: more than 15
Intensity: less than 60% 1RM
A word of caution, the Front Squat is not a very good exercise for multiple repetitions, hence an effective strength endurance training or hypertrophy training is more difficult with the Front Squat, then with the Back Squat for example.
A possible solution for training higher repetitions on the Front Squat can be rest-pause sets or cluster sets, where multiple repetitions are broken down into smaller chunks of repetitions.
Concluding What Does the Front Squat Work
The Front Squat is characterized by having the bar in front of the body, on the front of the shoulders. This bar position and the resulting upright posture leads to a stronger muscle activation of the anterior side of the legs (the quads / quadriceps).
The upright posture also helps to learn the proper movement pattern of the squat, consequently, the Front Squat is a great exercise for technical learning.
The Front Squat can be effectively used to develop strength power, endurance, and size.
used for training for strength and power.
More information on the Front Squat
Front Squats Develop and Why You Need To Do Them
How to Front Squat Heavy
How To Front Squat Heavier
How much Front Squat
Why Front Squats are better
More Front Squat impressions in the Front Squat video library