Your How-To Guide to the Front Squat – Form, Tips, and Variations

Fit Woman Performing Good Barbell Front Squat Form

Many people start to do front squats because they appear easier than traditional squats. But they quickly find that having proper front squat form is harder than it looks. We will get you to perform front squats like a pro.

Front Squat Summary 

  • Main Muscles Worked: Quadriceps
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves, and Lower Back
  • Equipment: Barbell
  • Mechanics Type: Compound
  • Force: Push
  • Utility: Auxiliary

How-To Execute the Proper Front Squat Form

  • Adjust the pins in the squat rack so the bar will rest at slightly below shoulder height.
  • Walk up to the bar and place the bar on top of your clavical.
  • Grab the bar in either a clean grip position or a cross arm position. Ensure that the bar is resting on you Deltoids. Your hands should only be there to keep the bar in place.
  • Next, lift the bar off the rack and take a step back into your squat stance.
  • Your stance should have your heels shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward.
  • Then keeping your back straight, abs tight, and head up looking forward, begin your squat.
  • Your knees and hips should start to bend simultaneously. Move the bar in a straight vertical line down.
  • Lower the barbell until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should be slightly outward and directly over your feet.
  • Drive the weight back up to the starting position until knees are about to lock out.
  • Repeat until the desired number of reps have been completed then re-rack the bar.

Man performing barbell front squats using clean grip

Proper Front Squat Form and Setup Video

In this video, Brandon White from Buff Dudes goes over how to set up and execute a front squat. Brandon has some good tips on how to maintain proper front squat form.

How to Perform FRONT SQUATS - Killer Quads Exercise Tutorial

Muscle Used to Front Squat

Target (Agonist) Muscles

  • Quadriceps

Synergist Muscles

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Adductor Magnus
  • Soleus

Dynamic Stabilizers Muscles

  • Hamstrings
  • Gastrocnemius

Additional Stabilizers Muscles

  • Erector Spinae
  • Deltoid, Anterior, and Lateral
  • Supraspinatus
  • Pectoralis Major, and Clavicular
  • Trapezius
  • Levator Scapulae
  • Serratus Anterior

Antagonist Stabilizers

  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Obliques

7. Tips for Improving Your Strength with Front Squats

By using the tips you will help your muscles development by incorporating more muscle fibers per rep. Consequently, you will enhance your muscle’s size and strength. Additionally, you will have a better front squat form and be less likely to develop an injury.

1. Work on Proper Form and Control First

With any compound movement, it is best to work on your form before you start adding the weight. You want to use enough weight that your muscles are engaged, but not too much that you can not control the weight. Use a mirror or film yourself to see your form before you start to lift heavy. After you have done a few sets and know that you can execute the proper front squat form, then start adding the weight. If you ever notice your form slipping, then reduce the weight back to where you had good form.

2. Choose a Grip That is Comfortable for You

You may find it difficult to hold the bar with a clean grip. If you are working on performing better cleans then you will want to work on that grip. If you are trying to focus on developing your legs and don’t care about doing better cleans then use a grip that is comfortable for you, such as the bodybuilder cross arm grip.

3. Do Not Overload the Weight

While you first are learning proper barbell front squat form do not overload the weight. Besides your center of gravity, is forward compared to the traditional squat. For that reason, you can pull a back muscle by trying to compensate for the weight.

4. Keep Your Back Straight and Head-Up

Maintaining your head up and back straight will help prevent you from tipping or toppling forward.

5. Keep Your Feet Flat and Slightly Outward

Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, pointed forward and align your knees over your feet in the down position. In fact, if your knees start to turn in you risk buckling your knee and pulling or tearing your Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL).

6. Avoid locking out knees

Avoid locking out your knees and allowing your muscles to relax before the next repetition. In fact, if your goal is to build muscle then you want to stress your muscles. Consequently, if you lock your knees you are taking the tension off of your muscles and letting them rest.

7. Stop one rep short of failure

Taking this exercise to all-out failure can be potentially dangerous. Not many people train to failure consistently, and there are many benefits to doing so. You will be safer to stop one rep short of failure and safely re-rack the bar. Although if you want to work to failure, ensure that you can safely lose control of the bar without injuring yourself or others. Additionally, you should also use a spotter if you are training to failure.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Front Squating

The head coach from team Juggernaut Max Aita, discusses the four main mistakes people make when performing improper front squat from. Then he discusses how to overcome these mistakes.

Front Squat Tutorial |

Additional Mistakes That Lead to Improper Front Squat Form

When you perform an exercise improperly it is often referred to as cheating. Cheating will not allow your muscle fibers to use their fullest potential. As a result, you are less likely to achieve your desired muscle development and you have a higher potential for injury.

You Perform the Squat To Fast

If squat too fast, with a jerky motion or using body momentum, you will not allow full usage of all muscle fibers.

Locking Your Knees

When you lock your knees out while in the standing position you are in a resting position. As a result, you will take the stress off your quads and add stress to your joints.

You Bend Your Back and Neck

Failure to keep your head up and back straight can cause you to fall forward with the barbell. Additionally, this lean can also place added stress on your back and knees. Consequently, over time can lead to spinal problems and degeneration of the knees.

Not Squatting All The Way Down or Up

Many lifters do not go all the way down or do not squeeze at the top of the movement. If you don’t use the full range of motion, less of your muscle fiber will be worked and less muscle growth will occur.

You Use Too Much Weight

The front squat can be a very awkward exercise at first. Make sure you start out with lightweight in order to get a proper feel for the lift before moving to a heavier weight.

Front Squat Variations

These variations of the front squat are intended to work different subgroups of your muscles or work the same muscles in a slightly different way. There are many variations for the front squat, by just altering your grip, barbell placement or the equipment.

Barbell Front Squat Grip Variations

Clean Grip Front Squat. You may find this grip challenging, but it is the best grip for control or the barbell.
Cross Arm Front Squat. Many bodybuilders who are not interesting in performing olympic lifts use this grip.
Zercher Squat. The Zercher Squat is a front squat variation where the barbell is pulling you forward even more because of the bar placement.

Front Squat Equipment Variations

Smith Machine Front Squat. You can do all the same grip variations with a Smith Machine that you can do with a barbell. Additionally, pictured here is a Frankenstein front squat. The Frankenstein grip is best done on a Smith Machine since you have little control of the bar.
Dumbbell Front Squats. When you keep the dumbbells in front of you during squats you will gain many of the same benefits and uses similar muscle groups as barbell front squats.
Reverse Hack Squats on a Sled. Although not considered a front squat. If you are looking to work the same muscles and want to use a sled, here is your best alternative.

Additional Complimentary Exercises for Your Legs

Leg Press. The leg press is a great auxiliary exercise for strengthening your glutes and quads. You can perform variation in your stance or even do single-leg presses all of which can tone your muscles and improve your ability to squat. Additionally, using the leg press stresses your lower back less, since the machine removes the use of supporting muscles for balance.
Barbell Squat. The barbell squat is the standard squat exercise that most lifters use. You should be able to lift more with the barbell or back squat than with the front squat. Because you use less stabilizing muscles to perform the standard barbell squat.
Barbell Single-Leg Squat. The Barbell Single-Leg Squat has the benefit of working each leg individually, therefore, you strengthen both legs equally without the stronger leg doing more of the work as with two-legged squats. Even though this is a single leg squat exercise, that requires a lot of balance, you use fewer stabilizers and no antagonist stabilizers.
Smith Machine Squat. The Smith Machine Squat can be a safe alternative to regular squats to help build the legs. Also, you can improve your squat form with Smith Machines that require the bar to move straight vertically. Although, be careful not to learn bad habits if the Smith Machine goes at an angle.
Smith Rear Lunge. Similar to the split squat, except by using a lunging movement you incorporate additional stabilizers and both legs. Likewise, you can do Smith Machine Split Squats and when your front leg gets tired, you can push out a few additional reps by assisting with your back leg.

Complimentary Exercises to the Front Squat  

Hyperextensions. Hyperextensions will strengthen your lower back which you use to stabilize and maintain form when performing front squats.
Smith Good-Morning. This is an isolated movement for developing the hamstrings and lower back which aids in performing all squat exercises. Specifically, good mornings can help reduce the chance of injuries from other exercises. Also, you should train you Quadriceps and Hamstrings equally to maintain a good and reduce chances of injuries.
Smith Straight Leg Deadlift. You can strengthen your hamstring and additional stabilizers that help in performing squats with straight leg deadlifts.
Seated Calf Machine. You use your calves to stabilize for all of your squats. Although if you don’t specifically train you calfs you will find your legs will become disproportionate as your Quads and Hamstring grow. Seated calf machine will strengthen your calves and help with your balance during squats.
Hamstring Curl. Hamstrings are extremely important to work for any type of athlete. The Hamstring curl is the best hamstring isolation exercise. You can perform leg curls lying, seated or standing, depending on the equipment that is available in your gym.

Having Great Front Squat Form

Though the Front Squat is a more advanced exercise, it is a great alternative squat. You should have the confidence to perform better front squat form at the gym now. Remember the front squat is also a fantastic leg exercise that has the added benefit of helping you build a very strong core.

If you are still not convinced you should be doing front squats during your strength training check out 7 Benefits of Front Squats. If you are already doing front squats, what benefits have you seen?

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Fit Woman Demonstrating Your How-To Guide to the Front Squat - Form, Tips, and Variations

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