Front barbell squats are a great way to add variety to your leg training regime. This is also an exercise that can help relieve stress on your lower back that can come from lifting heavy weights on exercises like the back squat or deadlifts. It is also a fun exercise that many lifters love as it challenges their flexibility and balance while still allowing you to lift fairly significant weights. Here’s a little more information about this unique exercise.
Muscles Targeted: The direct movers in front barbell squats are the quadriceps. Then it’s the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings. The erector spinae has a stabilizing role in this one and your core is activated as well. The upper back and trapezius work hard to support the bar and help that you don’t round over and lose control over the bar. Your shoulders will receive some stimulation also from holding the bar up.
Exercise Instructions: Place a barbell under your chin, resting it securely across the tops of your shoulders. Hold the barbell in place with your hands and have your elbows elevated so that they are parallel to the floor. Your feet should be just beyond shoulder width apart. Begin this exercise by squatting as though you are going to sit down in a chair. Squat to a point to where your thighs become parallel to the floor and then return to the start position. It is very important that you keep your back as straight as possible throughout this movement (one way to help do this is to focus your eyes on a spot high on the wall in front of you throughout the entire exercise).
Why This Exercise is Important: Mostly only Olympic lifters prioritize front squats over back squats. This is due to the direct carryover to their sport. However, that does not mean that there is not great benefit in including front squats on a regular basis in your routine. Performing front barbell squats is a great way for a new lifter to learn the mechanics of squatting. Front barbell squats have a way of forcing you to keep good form due to the unstable nature of the bar resting on your front shoulders. For the bodybuilding enthusiast this exercise places more emphasis on the quadriceps and can be part of a routine designed to shape those muscles. Many lifters who feel discomfort when back squatting take to the front squat as a way to relieve the pressure and still work their legs adequately. Also, athletes may get more carryover to their sport from front squatting due to high recruitment levels in the core muscles to stabilize the load.
Things To Avoid: While the front squat does force you to use better form than a bad back squat, there are still several things to watch out for when doing this exercise. Make sure that the grip you place on the bar is comfortable and not too wide or narrow. Hold your elbows up high and do not let the bar roll down onto your hands. Keep your upper back arched to protect the bar and your lower back arched too. Keep your knees from going too far forward over your toes and from bowing inward and outward. Do not let your heels raise off the ground.
Reps and Sets: The front squat is best used with lower repetitions because your shoulders will tire long before your legs will. Try using sets between 3-6 and repetitions in the 2-6 range. Anything higher and you will usually fail at the exercise due to your shoulders fatiguing. Your shoulders fatiguing also can lead to bad form as well.
Other Exercises To Use: Barbell front squats serve as a nice substitution for the back squat. However, if you are an avid front squatter then you can always switch them up and use back squats in their place. Barbell deadlifts work similar muscle groups even if they do not look extremely similar, and can be used in place of front squats. Also consider replacing front squats with lunges. Try to keep the emphasis on the quadriceps muscles when you do your lunges for a total replacement. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the quadriceps.
The barbell front squat can serve as a substitute or it can stand alone from the back squat. It is a fun exercise once the lifter has acquired the flexibility needed to perform it. Experiment with several grips to find one that is comfortable and allows you to keep a good handle on the bar.