How to Front Squat

Olympic Style Barbell Front Squat
Olympic Style Barbell Front Squat

How to Perform Front Squats

The best exercises for speed, strength, size, and power, are squats – bar none. Back squats, front squats, overhead squats… they are all great, and will help you develop powerful legs and a rigid core.

Front squats are just about the best alternative to back squats, so let’s see how to do them correctly.

Barbell front squats are just about the same as back squats except the bar is placed across the front of your shoulders, using one of the two styles detailed below.

Rules to remember when squatting:

  • Keep the lower back straight and mostly flat; do not round your back!
  • Keep knees pointing out slightly, do not let them creep inwards as you push yourself up.
  • The bar should rest on upper chest and front deltoids (shoulders).
  • Push from your glutes (butt), not your knees; your hips should raise first and everything else should raise with them.
  • Fill your stomach with air before descending and keep it tight with your chest out while pushing up.
  • Push up with your eyes focused 30-45 degrees above normal eye level.
  • Try to keep your knees behind your toes to avoid injury.

Barbell Front Squats

While barbell front squats do require strong shoulders, there are two styles of front squatting that you can choose from if one or the other makes the exercise easier for you.

Not that I always encourage taking the easiest route when lifting – normally the hardest exercise is the one you should use most. However if you have an injury or a physiological condition that limits your ability to front squat, maybe one of these styles will be better for you.

Traditional Style Barbell Front Squat

Ready now? Do the movements with your arms as I explain them, and you will get the gist. This style requires strong shoulders.

The traditional barbell front squat starts by placing the bar on your upper chest and shoulders from within a squat rack. Next, extend your arms out straight with palms down and bend the elbows so that you can grasp the bar with each hand palms-down on the opposite shoulder. At this point your elbows will be pointing straight out in front of you, slightly elevated so as to keep the bar in position against your upper chest/neck/deltoids area.

Now simply squat down, resting the bar against your neck, keeping your eyes, chin, chest, and elbows up. Once you hit parallel or slightly below, come back up.

Sorry, but I don’t have a good video for this style of front squat. Here’s an image of a professional body builder from the 70’s doing it.

Front Squat
Traditional Style Barbell Front Squat

Olympic Style Barbell Front Squat

The Olympic style front squat requires strong fingers and hands, and very flexible wrists. You should stretch your wrists a bit before trying it. Most people who are unfamiliar with olympic style front squats will complain about wrist pain for a couple workouts before adaptations in strength, flexibility, and pain tolerance really set in.

This style is basically the finished position of a clean, sometimes called a “high hang”. While the bar should still be sitting on your upper chest and delts, your fingers will now be underneath the bar acting sort of as a hook. Your hands will not be on the opposite shoulder for this position. Elbows should be pointing up and away from you.

Now you know how to front squat with a barbell.

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6 Responses to “How to Front Squat”

  1. Thanks Steve,

    It seems better to start it from the rack, but I have another question.
    I seem to be having a problem resting the bar on my deltoid muscles. Its seems like I’m still using arm strength to secure the bar and I know this will become more of an issue as I increase the weight I’m lifting. Any advice is appreciated.

    • It’s tough for sure. You just gotta get that bar racked under your chin and keep your elbows up. Work on your flexibility and eventually it will work out for you.

  2. We are starting a program and I have a hard time just doing a clean and racking it. Any suggestions?

    • Start with the bar already in a rack – a squat rack or power rack, then you can position it on your shoulders and unrack it from there. You can also have your workout partner help you handle the bar, or get two people to simply hand it to you.

  3. Hi Steve,

    So what is the purpose of adding a front squat if I already do back squats. Is it mainly to incorporate the arms and shoulders more, or will it hit my legs and core differently because of the center of gravity change.

    I’m guessing that this is something that you would mix into your routine rather than replace a back squat right?

    Also, I’ve been following the site for about 3 or 4 months now, and would like to say it and you have been a huge help in my training. Thanks!

    • Actually I would use front squats instead of back squats for a change of pace. Furthermore if you were using a workout where you do squats 3 days a week, such as the upcoming Swole 5×5 routine, then you might use front squats on one of those days to change it up and to stimulate the body in a different way. Also, thank you for the kind words. I’ve been very busy and unable to post often, answer all the comments, or answer my emails, but I’m glad you and some others are getting results from using what I write on this site.

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