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Front Squat Benefits: How To, Muscles Worked & Variations

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Benefits of Front Squats – Introduction

Front Squat Benefits: How To, Muscles Worked & Variations

Squats and deadlifts are two of the most productive exercises you can do with a barbell.

Both work your lower body, but squats are especially leg-centric.

Whether you want to run faster, jump higher, build stronger legs or just tone up and lose weight, squats deserve a place in your workouts.

Squats aren’t just an exercise; they’re also a fundamental movement pattern.

It’s hard to get through a day without doing at least a handful of squats.

Getting in and out of a chair, in and out of your car, bending down to tie up your shoes, and picking up a grocery bag are all examples of squats in daily life.

Squats truly deserve their title of king of the exercises!

But, while many people favor back squats, front squats are another variation that is worth considering.

What makes front squats so great? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!

The Top 8 Benefits of Front Squats

Not sure if squats deserve a place in your workouts?

Consider these front squat benefits and then decide!

#1. A fantastic leg exercise

One of the greatest benefits of front squats is that they are a compound exercise.

A compound exercise means that they involve two or more joints and several muscles working together.

Front squats work virtually every muscle in your lower body and several in your upper body, too.

The main muscles trained during front squats are:

  • Quadriceps – front of the thigh
  • Hamstrings – back of the thigh
  • Gluteus maximus – back of hips
  • Abductors – outside of hips and thighs
  • Adductors – inner thighs
  • Core – muscles of the midsection

Front squats also involve your arms, shoulders, and upper back.

In fact, front squats involve more upper body muscles than back squats and tend to hit the quads harder, too.

#2. A more athletic movement

Athletes tend to favor front squats over back squats.

That’s because front squats have a better carryover to athletic activities than back squats.

If you want to run faster or jump higher, front squats are the way to go.

#3. Less low back stress

Front squats keep your torso more upright.

This takes stress off your lower back.

If back squats cause lower back pain, you may find some relief if you make the switch to front squats.

#4. Better posture

While front squats are undeniably a compound leg exercise, your upper body gets a good workout too.

Front squats are especially good for strengthening your upper back and, specifically, the thoracic spine extensors.

These muscles, which include the trapezius, rhomboids, and the upper sections of the erector spinae, help hold your body up against the pull of gravity.

As such, front squats could help fix your slump and improve your posture.

#5. Safety

With the bar on the front of your shoulders, you can dump the bar if you cannot complete a rep.

This makes front squats somewhat safer than back squats.

You should always do heavy back squats in a power rack, but for front squats, this is not absolutely necessary.

However, it’s generally best to stop your set before reaching failure, as getting stuck at the bottom of a front squat can still be dangerous.

#6. Build strength, muscle size, or endurance

Front squats are a very versatile exercise.

You can program them to improve almost any aspect of muscular fitness, from strength to power to endurance.

Done for high reps with light weights, front squats will also provide a cardiovascular workout that could help you lose weight and burn fat.

#7. Improve your mobility

Front squats require and develop good upper body and lower body mobility.

Mobility is your ability to move your joints through a large range of motion.

Front squats are probably better for your mobility than back squats, as they tend to allow you to squat deeper.

#8. Variety

Back squats are probably more popular than front squats.

Nevertheless, as effective as back squats are – if you do them too often, they may start to lose their potency.

Alternating between back squats and front squats will help keep you out of training ruts and ensure that your workouts are always productive.

How to Do Front Squats

Front squats are a very beneficial exercise, but you need to do them correctly to enjoy those benefits!

Follow these steps to get the most from front squats.

  1. Place a barbell in a squat or power rack set to just below shoulder height.
  2. Hold the bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  3. Stand close to the bar and press your elbows forward and under the bar, so it rests across your anterior (front) deltoids, lightly touching your neck.
  4. Brace your core, unrack the bar, and step out and into a hip to shoulder-width stance.
  5. Pull your shoulders down and back, brace your core, and look straight ahead.
  6. Your upper arms should be roughly parallel to the floor.
  7. Keeping your arms up and your torso upright, bend your knees and descend until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  8. Keep your elbows up.
  9. Do not round your lower back.
  10. Drive your feet into the floor and stand up.
  11. Reset your core and repeat.

Front squat – upper arms parallel to the floor

Note: You can also do front squats with the bar resting on your shoulders but with your arms crossed.

This technique is not as secure but is easier in terms of upper-body mobility.

The arms crossed variation is popular with bodybuilders, who often find it hard to hold the barbell with the more usual grip.

Banded front squats – arms crossed variation

Front Squat Variations and Alternatives

The classic front squat is a great exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only variation you can do.

Liven up your leg workout with these other front squat exercises.

#1. Goblet squats

Goblet squats are very similar to front squats, but the type and position of the weight make them a more forgiving and accessible exercise.

Best of all, you just need a single dumbbell or kettlebell for this exercise – no barbell (or squat rack) required!

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest, just below your chin.
  2. Stand with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart.
  3. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  4. Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  5. Do not allow your lower back to round.
  6. Stand back up, reset your core, and repeat.

Goblet Squats Tutorial (using a dumbbell)

#2. Zercher squats

Named after powerlifter Ed Zercher, like front squats, this exercise involves holding the weight in front of your body.

However, it doesn’t rest on your shoulders but in the crooks of your arms instead.

How to do it:

  1. Put a barbell in a squat rack set to around waist height.
  2. Hold the bar in the crooks of your elbows.
  3. Clasp your hands together and pull them into your chest.
  4. Unrack the bar and adopt your preferred squat stance.
  5. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  6. Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  7. Do not allow your lower back to round.
  8. Stand back up, reset your core, and repeat.

Zercher squats

#3. Front box squats

This variation involves squatting down to a box.

This ensures that all your reps are the same depth and also reinforces the need to descend slowly and under control.

Finally, pausing briefly on the box helps eliminate something called the stretch-shortening cycle, or SSC for short.

This reduces the elasticity in your muscles and tendons and makes each rep performed more challenging.

How to do it:

  1. Place a knee-high box, step, or bench in front of your squat rack.
  2. Place a barbell in a squat or power rack set to just below shoulder height.
  3. Hold the bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  4. Stand close to the bar and press your elbows forward and under the bar, so it rests across your anterior (front) deltoids, lightly touching your neck.
  5. Brace your core, unrack the bar, and step out and into a hip to shoulder-width stance.
  6. The box should be just behind you.
  7. Keeping your arms up and your torso upright, bend your knees and descend until your butt lightly touches the box.
  8. Keep your elbows up.
  9. Do not round your lower back or relax on the box. Stay tight!
  10. Drive your feet into the floor and stand up.
  11. Reset your core and repeat.

Front box squats

#4. Kettlebell front squats

No barbell or squat rack?

No problem!

You can also do front squats using kettlebells or even dumbbells.

This exercise is ideal for home exercisers or anyone looking for a simpler, safer alternative to barbell front squats.

How to do it:

  1. Raise your weights to shoulder height so your upper arms are tucked into your sides.
  2. Pull your shoulders down and back, brace your core, and look straight ahead.
  3. Stand with your feet between shoulder and hip-width apart.
  4. Bend your legs and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  5. Take care not to round your lower back.
  6. Stand back up, reset your core, and repeat.

Kettlebell front squats

#5. Thrusters

Thrusters are something of a CrossFit staple.

Combining front squats with overhead presses, this is a full-body exercise that’s ideal if you want to develop strength for all your major muscles.

Using only one combination exercise!

Who doesn’t?

Done for high reps with a light weight, this is also an excellent conditioning exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Rack and hold your barbell across your shoulders.
  2. Stand with your feet between shoulder and hip-width apart.
  3. Brace your core.
  4. Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
  5. Stand up and use this momentum to help you press the bar up and overhead to arms’ length.
  6. Lower the bar back to your shoulders and repeat.

Thrusters

5 rounds of 10 deadlifts superset with 10 squat thrusters

Front Squat Benefits – Wrapping Up

All squats are good squats, and you’ve got plenty of variations to choose from.

Despite this, most people tend to gravitate toward back squats.

This makes a lot of sense given how effective the back squat is, but if that’s all you ever do, your workouts will soon become dull and unproductive.

Keep your leg workouts fresh and interesting with front squats.

They work all of the same muscles as back squats but are also different enough that they’ll help keep you out of any potential training ruts.

That’s not to say you need to give up back squats.

They’ll always be one of the most productive exercises you can do.

But, supplementing them with front squats should make your workouts even more effective.

Try doing front squats for the next 6-8 weeks or, if you squat twice a week, do back squats one day and front squats the next.

Regardless of when or how you do them, front squats will make a great addition to your workouts.

What’s Next

Now that you have learned about the great benefits of front squats, it is time to focus on the back squat.

Why?

Because traditional back squats are arguably the most important exercise you can do.

It’s not a coincidence that many exercisers refer to squats as the King of free weight training.

Therefore, you need to learn How To Do Squats Properly With or Without Weights!

In this guide, you’ll learn why you should do this popular exercise, how to squat correctly, plus additional variations. 

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