You’re either squat, or you’re not.
The squat is one of the most popular and powerful leg exercises in bodybuilding. A compound movement that incorporates most of the muscle groups, what’s not to love? What many builders don’t know is that it’s evil cousin the front squat, although slightly intimidating, maybe even better for your goals.
The front squat differs from the back squat in that it places more of an emphasis on the front of the body. By pulling the body forward and increasing knee flexion as a lifter descends into a squat, front squats place more emphasis on the quads rather than the glutes. They also challenge the upper back to remain upright and prevent the torso from falling forward. This is useful for getting deep into a squat and promoting core control.
The main variations you’ll find in front squats is grip. From clean grip, to crossed arms, to the strapped method, we’re going to break down these variations and help you decide which one is best for you.
The barbell can be cleaned off the floor or approached in a squat rack. The barbell will rest on your shoulders and your fingers will be left underneath the bar, positioned there for stabilization. Your handgrip will be slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your hand should just be reaching the barbell not squeezing it. The main thing is to secure it in place, two fingers on each hand can do the trick. If your goal is getting good at olympics lifts, this is the grip for you.
Drawbacks: While the clean grip definitely has its place, lifters with long arms, poor flexibility or a lot of upper body mass may find it difficult.
Place the bar in front of your shoulders, resting it directly on top of your deltoids, just as you with clean grip version. You then will cross your hands over the bar, making an “X” when looked at from up above. Face elbows forward and keep arms parallel to the ground. This will alleviate the wrist pain and flexibility issues associated with the clean grip.
Drawbacks: this position is highly unstable; as fatigue starts to set in the upper back can become rounded making it harder to secure the weight.
If there was an ideal method, this would be it. It’s stronger than the clean grip because you can use your upper body to pull up on the bar. It’s much more stable than the crossed-arms grip and can be used by big lifters, long-armed lifters, and those with poor flexibility or previous injuries. It’s also much less stressful on your elbow and wrist joints.
While we listed the main 3 variations here, there are other variations that may be useful in helping you meet your particular goal. Don’t be afraid of the front squat, try all three variations and tell us which one works best for you.