April 26th, 2017
front squat form

Front Squat Form 101 (With Example Workout)

If you’ve browsed around fitness sites, Facebook and Instagram accounts lately you’ll see a common theme, “YOU NEED TO SQUAT!”. Every image is tagged with captions like, “real women squat”, “Do you even squat?”, or a picture of a scantily clad woman with a barbell on her back captioned “Yeah, she squats”. Okay we get it, squat are a fantastic exercise that help burn fat, build muscle and of course, help build a nice derrière. But most of these articles and “motivational” pictures feature the back squat aka, squatting with a barbell on your shoulders.

Truth is, back squats can be troublesome for many who have trouble with back, hip and shoulder injuries. Front loaded squats like the goblet squat and barbell front squat are generally more back-friendly and provide additional benefits that you just can’t get with the back squat alone.

Benefits of the Front Squat

  • Works your quads more directly
  • You can achieve better depth
  • Requires a more upright back position
  • Works your core and upper back differently than the back squat due to weight distribution
  • As you progress in your lifting, the front squat transitions to cleans better than the back squat

Proper Barbell Front Squat Form

The Different Grips

At first, using a barbell to front squat may feel awkward. It takes a little practice and reps to figure out which bar position/grip works best for you. Everyones bodies are made differently and arm length and shoulder and wrist mobility may affect your decision to use one style over another. There are two different grips you can use, the “clean grip” and the “cross-armed” grip. While we recommend the clean grip, it does require a bit more mobility and technical skill. If you’re just starting out with barbell front squat, the cross-armed grip may be a good place to start.

Elbows Up, Chest Up

After finding your grip, the next important cue to remember is “elbows up, chest up”. This allows your back to stay upright as you squat down and keep you spine in a neutral, safe alignment. You’ll notice that compared to the back squat this may take a bit more upper back strength and mobility to stay upright; just one of the many reasons front squats are so great!

Time to Squat

The next step is to start squating. That’s why we’re here right? As you lower your body towards the floor, remember to keep your weight on your heels and to push your knees out. Keeping the weight on your heels will help keep you upright and in proper position. Pushing your knees out will help activate your glutes. That’s right, while the front squat is generally a more quad-dominant exercise, you’ll still be engaging that booty.

Additional Points

One important thing to remember about the front squat is that it requires good hip, back, shoulder and wrist mobility, so make sure to incorporate good mobility drills into your workouts and warm-ups. Secondly, if you have trouble balancing the bar or finding a comfortable grip, the goblet squat is another great, front-loaded squat that is a good place to start.

Here’s a great in-depth look at the front squat:

Example Workout

Here is a great lower-body workout that incorporates quad-dominant front squats as well as posterior dominant exercises so that you work your whole lower body.

1. Active stretch/Warm-up

2. Box jumps – 5×3

3. Front Squats – 4×8

4. Single leg Deadlift – 3×8

5. Kettlebell swings – 4×15

6. Your favorite workout finisher

Alex Lewis

Alex is the co-founder & CEO of PrettyFit. He previously built and sold the sports nutrition company JackedPack.com. He was team captain of the Harvard men's track team in 2007-2008 where he set a school record in the Heptathlon and was 2nd all-time in the Decathlon. He is now focused on helping others discover the best ways to improve their lives through a healthy and fit lifestyle.

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