How to Perform a Proper Front Squat

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Today Tabata Times brings you Part 1 of a 3-part series this week on an essential strength training movement: the front squat.
It can make you feel as though the tendons and ligaments in your wrist are about to tear clean off, and the ensuing aching of the knees certainly doesn’t help make it a favorite among many lifters. However, it is one of the essential lifts that promote both strength and flexibility while conditioning the entire body/chain. If you’re a functional fitness aficionado, this is definitely a good thing. Of course, I’m talking about the highly enjoyable front squat.

The degree to which just a few horizontal inches in difference of bar placement can change the entire mechanics/dynamics of the squat is astounding. To most, this very difference hinders strength, thus cultivating an aversion to practicing the front squat regularly. This aversion is the very thing that could be the missing piece to many strength-training programs.

What is a front squat?

As defined by, the front squat is a variant of the standard barbell back squat. It requires the barbell to be stabilized across the clavicles and anterior deltoids in a clean grip, front rack position with the arms (anatomically; not including the forearms) parallel to the floor, which is the standard. An alternative position allows the arms to be crossed with hands over the bar with the palms facing down. However, this option is often not recommended for safety reasons. As stated here by, the crossed arm position provides less barbell stability (more on this later).

How to perform a proper front squat

Step 1: Set-up

Start with the loaded (or empty) barbell on a squat rack. Make sure that the bar is racked about an inch or two below the clavicles while in a full standing position. This ensures both an aggressive primer for the kinetic chain when un-racking the barbell as well as an easy and safe re-racking of the barbell once the set is finished.

Step 2: Hand position

Choose a hand position on the barbell close to or mirroring the grip you use for a press or a clean. Do not fully grip the bar, but rather just hook the fingers around the bar.

Step 3: Placement

Meet the bar and place it above the clavicles while rotating your elbows upward to create as much of a horizontal angle with your arms. This creates the “shelf” across the clavicles and anterior deltoids. (This is similar to the front rack receiving position for a clean or power clean.)

Step 4: Un-rack

Un-rack the bar. Simple, right? Not so fast. This part of the lift tends to be overlooked due to its seemingly miniscule importance by many novice lifters and can negatively affect future lifts that are bound to get heavier. Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dave Kirschen for EliteFTS explaining why this matters:

Think of the unrack as a mini-repetition in preparation for the big attempt. If you unrack the bar using the same technique you need to squat the weight, you will start the lift in a good position almost every time. If you make mistakes unracking the weight, you will almost certainly have problems during the lift.

So, take a deep breath, tighten that midsection, and un-rack that bar with the same aggression and intensity you plan on putting into the set.

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