Let’s talk about how to do the front squat.
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In many of my programs for my ELITE coaching clients and within my own workouts, I often have the Front Squat but, many times there are some issues that arise that prevent people from doing the front squat right.
For me, the front squat is one of my weaker lifts and I’ve been working steadily on improving this it by getting my overall mobility better in both my hips and upper back. These were problem areas for me and I’ll address them later in this post.
In my eyes, the front squat is an amazing lift. It’s great for overall leg development as well as upper back strength and core stability.
It’s been said that the front squat activates the core second most to the deadlift. That’s good stuff and also means that you should probably be doing it as much as you deadlift.
First off, if you’ve never done front squats before, what the heck is wrong with you?? Second, if you haven’t front squatted before, you don’t just want to dive right in and get under a bar and start front squatting. You’ll want to build up to it first.
The first step in learning how to do the front squat is to master the bodyweight squat first.
You should be able to squat “ass to grass” with near perfect form with an upright torso and flat back. Your knees and toes should point slightly out and your lower back should be slightly arched.
From here, your weight should be back on the heels as well as when you come up, you should drive through your heels while pushing your knees out. At the top of the squat, you should be squeezing you glutes while slightly extending your hips.
You should be able to get to the point at which you can do 30 – 50 bodyweight squats non stop with good solid form.
After you master the bodyweight squat, to learn how to do a front squat correctly, you move on to a weighted squat variation in with the Goblet Squat.
There are a number of various ways you can load a goblet squat but, the weight will always be in front for these. You can use a kettlebell, dumbbells, or even a sandbag.
For goblet squats, the key is to keep you upper back tight as you descend into the squat. If you lack mobility and stability, you’ll start to lean forward with these. You should be strong enough to keep an upright torso while doing goblet squats.
The classic goblet squat is performed with either a kettlebell or dumbbell. In my gym, this is the next level of squat we teach after someone has mastered the bodyweight squat. The same techniques are used with the goblet squat as are the bodyweight squat where now, the only difference is that there’s now an external load. This is where we can start to build up some more strength.
I like goblet squats as with these, you now start to use the upper body and core a bit more within your squats.
After you have mastered the goblet squat, it’s time to move on to some weighted front squats.
When learning how to do the front squat, you don’t necessarily have to move right into the barbell front squat variation as with most people, they lack the mobility needed to properly get the bar into position (more about that later)
With this, I typically have clients perform double kettlebell rack squats or sandbag front zercher squats. With these movements, we can load the body up more to start putting more focus on getting stronger in the front squat position. Even though we’ll be loaded up a bit different, we can still build strength from these variations.
When learning how to do the front squat, MOBILITY is key! Lots of my clients don’t have the mobility at first to properly front squat with a barbell.
Here are some key mobility drills to help improve your ability to do the front squat:
- Foam Roll The Upper Back and Lats – Using a foam roller, roll out your upper back, traps, and lats to help improve overall mobility. Most people are extremely tight in their upper back and lats, so these drills will help.
If you’re not foam rolling currently, you need to start! Here’s a video on how to help you out…
- Stretch the triceps, shoulders, and lats by using a band. This has helped me a TON. Just get yourself a performax band or something similar to help get this stretch in. This will help you improve you overall mobility within the rack position. Key for learning how to front squat!
It’s also quite common to lack wrist mobility as well which will also hinder your ability to properly perform from squats right.
Below is a picture of a solid wrist flexibility stretch you can do to help improve wrist mobility.
Now, if your mobility really sucks, obviously try to improve it first but, there are some ways around mobility issues by using different types of grips to hold the bar when it comes to front squats.
For instance, there are these grips here:
Cross Arm Grip
Front Squat With Straps
Now, if you must use these variations from above, it’s fine but, I highly recommend you get yourself to the point where you can do a regular “clean grip” front squat. These are the best variation out there and will allow you to use the most amount of weight. The more weight used, the stronger you’ll get!
Here’s some basic tips on the clean grip front squat:
- Bar should lay slightly behind your clavicles – you might get your air cut off a slight bit but, push through it!
- Fingers OPEN – your shoulders are supporting the weight, don’t make the mistake of keeping your hands closed around the bar. Let the bar sit back on your fingers.
- Elbows Up and In – To help supports the weight and keep your torso and back upright, keep your elbows up high and pointed slightly in.
Now once you build yourself up to front squatting with a barbell in the clean grip position, go ahead and start hitting them up regularly! The key focuses are the same as with your back squat but, are more difficult because of the weight distribution in the front.
The final keys to focus in on while front squatting are:
- Elbows and Chest Up – don’t let your chest fall forward anytime during the lift. Keeping your elbow up will help prevent falling forward or rounding of the back.
- Sit Hips Back – Just like with a regular squat, you want to push your hips back and down, not just down.
- Weight Back on the Heels – Just like any squat variation, we want the weight back on our heels, never on the toes!
- Keep Knees OUT – Do not at any time allow your knees to go in. Instead push your knees out, especially when you’re coming up with the lift.
- Squeeze The Glutes – When you get back to the top, finish the lift off by squeezing the glutes before you go back into another rep.
So that’s how to do a front squat or at least get yourself closer to doing so.
I’m still working on getting better at this lift! It’s taken some time but, I’m going to continue to work at it and get stronger each and every day, week, and month!
Let me hear some comments or thoughts about this article. Was this helpful to you? Let me know as I’m thinking about doing more “How To” posts…
Live Aggressive and Get Strong!
This is how to do the front squat.