Barbell Front Squat

Exercise Name:
Name: Barbell Front Squat (with clean grip)
Also Called: Olympic Front Squat
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Quadriceps
Secondary: Calves, Spinal Erectors, Glutes, Hamstrings
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Compound
Force: Push
Main: Barbell
Ancillary: Power Rack
Optional: Knee Wraps, Weight Lifting Belt
Experience: Intermediate
Rep Range: 3-12
Training Tempo: 2 – 0 – 1 – 0
Related Exercises:
Variations: Front Squat (Cross-Armed Grip), Front Squat to Press, Dumbbell Front Squat
Alternatives: Barbell Squat, Hack Squat, Leg Press, Overhead Squat

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • With bar on rack, place hands shoulder width apart (or slightly wider) atop barbell.
  • Position bar across collar bone and barely touching throat.
  • Slide open hands under bar such that wrists are flexed back with fingers pressing up against bar, just outside shoulders.
  • Bring elbows up and in front of bar.
  • Raise upper arms as high as possible by extending shoulders and pointing elbows inward.
  • Unrack bar and stand with feet hip width apart and toes pointed out.
  • Hold chest up and look straight ahead.
  • Stand with torso almost completely upright; keep lower back neutral and extend thoracic spine (upper back).

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex knees and hips to drop butt straight down until tops of thighs are parallel to floor or lower.

3. Midpoint

  • Don’t pause at the bottom of the motion before beginning the upward motion.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend knees and hips to drive butt straight up until standing up straight, in the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the barbell front squat until the set is complete.
  • The 3-12 rep range is highly effective for most people.

Common Barbell Front Squat Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Moving butt/hips back As you begin lowering the weight, do not stick your butt out or move your hips backwards. Instead, you want to drop your butt and hips downwards, as straight as possible; this prevents you from leaning over.
Anterior pelvic tilt/excessive lower back arch Keep your pelvis neutral by flexing your lower abs and tensing your glutes to tuck your pelvis in so that your hips stay directly under your torso. By putting your pelvis in the right position, your lower back automatically reverts to the neutral position (slight natural curvature).
Leaning forward Tighten your abs and keep your head back. Also, hold your elbows as high up as possible to bolster your rack position (i.e. clean grip). When you have a solid rack position, the weight is evenly distributed over your body so you don’t lean forward.
Knees buckling in Activate your outer thighs to push your knees and hips outward, such that your upper legs are pointed in the same direction as your feet.

Barbell Front Squat Tips

  1. Warm up with thoracic extensions, the squat stretch and hip flexor stretches to maximize mobility and squat depth while minimizing risk of injury.
  2. Start light and work your way up to big boy weights. It takes a little while to learn the technique and get accustomed to the having the weight on the front of your body.
  3. Elongate neck and retract chin as if you were trying to balance a book on your head. This ensures that there’s enough room to rack the bar on your collar bone, and that you keep your torso upright.
  4. Drive through the heels and flex the quadriceps hard to maintain good balance and move smoothly while adequately activating the target muscle group (quads).
  5. Keep your upper torso straight throughout the motion by focusing on extending your thoracic spine (upper back) and keeping your elbows high. You may find your thoracic spine has a tendency to “round,” which will cause your elbows to lower. So be aware of this tendency and fix it if/when it occurs.
  6. Improve flexibility to improve your clean grip over time. You could use the cross-arm grip (see below), but the clean grip provides superior control, facilitates proper torso position and lets you quickly/safely dump the bar if needed. But many people lack the flexibility required for it, initially. These tips help:
    • Use a wider grip.
    • Train through discomfort, but not through pain.
    • Do shoulder dislocations, triceps stretches and wrist stretches/rotations (warm-ups and throughout the week).
  7. Try alternate grip styles if you (currently) lack the wrist and shoulder flexibility to use the clean grip:
    • Clean grip with wrist straps: Loop two lifting straps around the barbell, spaced according to your desired grip width. Grasp the ends of the straps as close to the barbell as your flexibility allows. As you become more flexible over time, you can grip closer to the bar. Eventually, you’ll be able to use the actual clean grip.
    • Cross-armed grip: This is a very common grip variation, typically used by bodybuilders. Cross your arms and put your hands at the top of the barbell, supporting it across your collar bone. This gets the job done, but is inferior to the clean grip. Only use it if wrist injuries or inflexibility prevents you from using the clean grip or clean grip w/wrists straps.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

Front squats are most suitable for intermediate and advanced lifters seeking more developed or stronger quadriceps, as well as improved core strength.

It’s also good for complementing Olympic lifts (e.g. power clean) and standing overhead movements (e.g. push press).

Beginners should stick to the barbell squat. Traditional squats are both easier to learn and they allow you to lift more total weight, which is essential when starting out: As a beginner, you need to build a solid foundation by maximizing strength gains on basic lifts.

You might have to avoid the barbell front squat if you have knee or wrist problems, or overly tight quads and very weak hams/glutes.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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