Front squats. Although, difficult to perform, the lower body benefits are well worth the effort. In this article we explore the main 5 benefits of front squats and why you should make the a part of your training program.
Often tossed out of gym programs due to it’s level of difficulty and the restriction of the ability to push as much weight as the back squat, the front squat should feature in any respective lower body strength program. Front Squat benefits include:
- Allow for greater range of motion at the hip, stimulating and recruiting more muscle fibers in the gluteals
- Greatly improves core activation and strength
- Improves lower body flexibility and stability
- Improves Quad development
- Is the gateway to advanced powerlifting movements and olympic lifts
Build More Muscle
Greater range of motion allows for increased muscle activation. The more muscles active during lifts leads to improved potential of building muscle. The front loading of front squats requires more of a posterior (backwards) tilt of the pelvis to counterbalance the weight. This counterbalancing of weight forces proper technique whilst allowing for a deeper squat. Deeper squats promotes a greater stretch throughout the glutes and hamstrings allowing for an improvement in range of motion (R.O.M). This improved R.O.M allows for greater strength gains throughout the strength curve of each rep – strength throughout the movement of the rep. Strength of muscle at different lengths.
Compared to the back squat where the weight is placed along the upper trapezius, the frontal loading forces more core muscles to activate in order to keep upright. During the descent of the lift, this upright posture forces oblique activation to stabilise the weight. The deeper R.O.M also allows for a more activated lower abdominals to assist with the lift as opposed to hip flexors during the back squat. This functional training of the abdominals strengthens the abs far beyond any floor oriented abdominal exercise.
Increased Flexibilty Whilst Exposing Lower Body Weaknesses
The forced upright posture of the front squat minimises lower back involvement. This restriction of lower back involvement demands more flexibility throughout the hip and knee joints. Working the hips and the knees throughout its full R.O.M not only improves functional strength but also flexibilty. Increased flexion at the hip and knee joints also expose any weaknesses throughout the lower body. Poor stability are red flags to muscular imbalances. Weaknesses may include:
- Rounding of the back due to weak back muscles – mainly erector spinae which run along the spinal column and rhomboids which connect the shoulder blades.
- Bowing of the knees – Uneven distribution of weight throughout the quadriceps. May be caused from inflexibilty of the knees and/or hips causing compensation from stronger components over weaker components of muscle.
- Lateral pelvic tilt – Uneven distribution of weight throughout the hamstrings caused by either tight hamstrings or glutes.
*The above examples are for demonstartion purposes only. Seek professional advice for a proper diagnosis of lower body imbalances.
Improved Strength Gains During Back Squats
Front squatting leads to improved back squat strength through an improvement in form. As the front squat allows for a deeper R.O.M and activation of the abdominals, this leads to improved stability throughout all squatting movements due to its increased muscular activation and improvements in neural activation (mind to body response). This improved recruitment of muscle activates more fibers to assist with the lift. The more fibers activated the greater the potential strength gains. Improved form and recruitment with the front squat transfers to improved form and recruitment during the back squat; leading to greater gains in strength. Break through back squat plateaus by mastering the front squat!
The Start of Advanced Lifting
Front squats feature in almost every powerlifting movement. Powerlifting movements are composition of traditional lifting movements chained together. A strong foundation of the front squat will lead to greater increases in strength throughout powerlifting movements. Powerlifting benefits include:
- Total body muscle activation leading to greater calories burnt during the workout
- Increased fat loss potential
- Functional strength that easily transfers to athletic performance
- Intense calorie killer workouts in less time
How To Front Squat
Video courtesy of CanditotrainingHQ
- Stand hip width apart.
- Provide a ‘shelf’ for the bar by keeping elbows up. Use the 2 or 3 finger grip to improve wrist flexibilty.
- Initiate the movement from the hips.
- Descend as low as comfortably possible. Increase to full R.O.M once comfortable.
- Keep elbows and chin up throughout the entire lift whilst pushing through the heels.
- Front squat for greater flexibilty and strength
- Utilise the front squat to break through back squat strength plateaus
- Front squat place more force and tension throughout the quad and glute groups
- Master front squat technique before attempting powerlifting movements