Serious Squats: Good Form, Great Legs

Photo Credit: Nicolas Smith
Front Barbell Squats
A front squat will put greater emphasis on your quadriceps and the front of the thigh. It is also a slightly more difficult squat from the point of view of managing the bar. If you do front squats, you should use less weight to start and be even more careful about form.

To begin, rack an Olympic bar at chest height. Walk up to the bar and place your fingertips on it just wider than your shoulders. Squat down under the bar, without crossing to the far side of it, keeping your abs engaged and chest lifted. As you come under the bar in a squatting motion, bend your elbows forward (not sideways), keeping your fingertips on the bar as your hands come underneath it. Keep moving forward until the bar comes to rest on the front of your shoulders, right in front of your neck, balanced by your fingertips. Your elbows should be pointing straight in front of you and held as high as you can. Note that if you drop your elbows, round your shoulders, or drop your chest, the bar no longer will stay up on your shoulders.

If you find holding the bar very difficult, you may use fewer fingers: three, two, or even just your thumbs. But note that as you reduce the number of fingers on the bar you will be tempted to let your elbows bow out and drop down, which is dangerous.

Balancing the bar on the front of your shoulders, lift the bar up off the rack and step back until you are clear of the rack (onto a mat for elevating your heels if desired). As in the standard squat, place your feet at shoulder distance apart, allow your toes to turn out at a natural angle, engage your abs, slightly arch your back, and tip your pelvis forward. Inhale deeply and sit down onto an imaginary bench right behind your heels. In this squat, it is crucial that you keep your chest up. “You always want to be underneath the bar rather than have it ahead of you,” Wicks says.

From the bottom of the front squat, exhale as you rise back up to near standing (keeping your chest up and the slight arch in your back, as well as your abdominal engagement). Be very careful not to let your shoulders round. Watch in the mirror for the proper tracking of your hips and knees, the levelness of the bar, and the evenness of the rate at which your hips and shoulders rise. Remember, these things are not afterthoughts—managing these balance and alignment issues is what makes the squat effective.

Serious Squats Quick Links
Squat Tips, Form Check, Weight Goals, and Reps
Standard Barbell Squats
Front Barbell Squats