What is a Front Squat? (with picture)

Mike Howells
Mike Howells
Performing squats can help strengthen the thighs and other muscles of the legs and lower back.
Performing squats can help strengthen the thighs and other muscles of the legs and lower back.

A front squat is a specialized form of the weightlifting exercise known as the squat, in which the person holds a weight and goes into a squatting position, and then pushes back up to a standing position. Though squats mainly focus on the leg and core muscles, the front squat works a variety of muscles throughout the body, and, as such, is known as a compound exercise. This is opposed to an isolation exercise, which focuses only on a single muscle group. Though exercise machines exist that can recreate the front squat motion, it is best and most effectively performed with free weights.

Specifically, the front squat involves holding a barbell roughly neck-high, in front of the chest with the palms of the hands face-up. This is most easily accomplished by loading the barbell on a weight rack that is set close to the appropriate height. This way a comfortable grip and posture can be set without any load. The elbows should be bent completely and placed as high and far forward as possible.

It is important to understand that the wrists should not be supporting any of the weight of the barbell, at any point in the exercise. The barbell should be gripped firmly, with the hands spaced just wider than shoulder-width apart. Ideally, the load should rest lightly on the front of the shoulders and top of the chest, avoiding the collarbone.

Stepping back from the weight rack, the feet should be planted about shoulder-width apart as well. With the shoulders static and back remaining arched, the actual squat should take place, with the torso descending until the thighs are just past parallel with the ground. Continuing in a single, smooth motion, the load should then be pushed back up to a standing position. With the load in front, and not borne over the shoulders like with a traditional squat, care should be taken not to tip forwards at any point in the front squat. To this end, weight should be evenly distributed over the balls of the feet and the heels, and not solely on the toes.

The front squat targets a number of muscles, including the long muscles on the front of the thighs, known as the quadriceps, as well as those in the back of the leg and buttocks. In maintaining balance and stability, the abdominal muscles, chest muscles, and shoulder muscles are also worked. Depending on the goals of the exerciser, a front squat can be done with an emphasis on improving strength or muscle volume. A smaller number of repetitions with heavier weights will do more to improve strength, while greater repetitions of lighter loads will emphasize muscle volume.

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    • Performing squats can help strengthen the thighs and other muscles of the legs and lower back.
      Performing squats can help strengthen the thighs and other muscles of the legs and lower back.