by: Brandon Richey
Why You Should Be Front Squatting…
So I had a friend approach me the other day to ask me about the barbell front squat. He asked, “So B what’s the deal, I mean why not just back squat?” He brings up a very good point. Why not just barbell back squat? I mean why even bother with the front squat? Well just keep on reading so we can examine this a bit closer.
The Front Squatting Purpose…
So my friend obviously pointed out something very interesting in his question. However, I always like to try and look at the other side of the coin. I mean we could ask “Why bother with the back squat, right?” Ah ha, now we’re using both sides of the brain, or maybe we keep using both sides of the kinetic chain? I know that was a bad joke, but maybe you got a little chuckle out of it.
Regardless, this is also a good question because it calls into action how and why we may want to program one version over the other when looking at a smart and effective strength and conditioning program. The fact is that both offer great benefits, but for today I want to examine why the front squat should be a an inclusive part of your overall strength development.
For starters, one reason folks may want to back off the back squat is because some may experience a level of shoulder discomfort due to the extreme abduction/externally rotated angle of the shoulder to hold the bar into place. The front squat still requires external rotation, particularly with a proper front rack hold, but the arms/elbows are pointing forward bringing the shoulders into a more adducted position. (As seen below with me demonstrating this hold after a front squat workout)
Because we are supporting the load of the bar in this position rather than on the back of the shoulders during the back squat position we must force ourselves to maintain a more upright torso position as we descend and ascend up out of the front squat. In addition to this because the weight is front loaded you are going to more easily be able to hinge your hips back and down further increasing your ROM and squat depth.
Another important cue that I like to point out to many of my trainees is to keep the elbows in line with the knees as they descend as if they were going to touch their elbows to their knees at the base of the squat. Obviously they have to keep the elbows up to not lose support of the weight, but it forces proper knee to foot traction and prevents any excessive internal rotation of the hip/knee, or excessive knee valgus from occurring.
In addition to this the front squat is great for helping us to develop a tremendous amount of dynamic core strength and stability. As a matter of fact, when I’m front squatting on a consistent basis I notice that I’m able to more easily perform presses. Push ups especially seem to improve drastically with me when I’m front squatting. It’s wild because I feel very strong in the push up and I know it’s due to the addition of front squatting because I’ve personally tested this scenario on myself and many of my students. It’s like some sort of Jedi body trick!
Now obviously the front squat can be performed by pulling it out of the weight rack, but I especially like cleaning the bar up from the ground to the rack position and performing the front squat that way if possible, or by performing other variations such as doing clean squats altogether.
The added advantages of pulling the bar off the ground to me just gives it a little more of that functional element adding in more arm strength, lat strength, trap strength, and hip drive. The point is that there are many variations that we can add in to accomplish what we need with the front squat.
As you can see there are many advantages and reasons as to why you should be front squatting. If you have trouble holding the bar in the front rack position then I would suggest you work on both strengthening and stretching your shoulder girdle to train for more external rotation. You can also attach a couple of straps to the bar to assist with maintaining the hold as well if necessary.
I hope that helped to clear things up a bit as far as programming for external rotation. As you can see having the ability to do this and in turn hold the barbell in the front position is in and of itself advantageous.
So hopefully you have a better understanding as to why you should be front squatting. Now you have something to go out and stick right into your strength program immediately. Like I told you it’s like some sort of Jedi body trick so make sure you go and apply it and let me know how it works out for you. Please post up a comment or question of your own in the box below and let me know if you have already tried it this way. Remember that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart my friend.