Squats are one of the best exercises for the human body. For starters, it emulates common daily movement patterns. Every time you sit down in a chair, then stand up, your body is going through the motions of a squat.
Front squats are a great squat variation to add to your routine. Here are some front squat benefits you should know for the next time you head to the gym.
- 1. Versatile Introductory Lift
- 2. Foundational Movement for Other Lifts
- 3. Easier on the Back and Knees
- 4. Safe Solo Training
- 5. Powerful Compound Movement
- 6. Help Build Quad Strength
- 7. Help Build a Stronger Core
- 8. Can Help Develop Better Mobility and Posture
- 9. Contributes to Multi-Sport Performance
1. Versatile Introductory Lift
One of the main front squat benefits is that it’s beginner-friendly. For those who are new to fitness, the front squat is a natural progression from the bodyweight squat. It allows newcomers to get familiar with the movement before upping the weight or getting into more complex barbell routines.
Progression for a new front squatter might look like this:
- Bodyweight squats
- Holding the toddler squat (A.K.A. Third World squat) position to work on depth and mobility
- Goblet squats with kettlebells or dumbbells
- Barbell front squat
Different trainers may take an alternate route to get to the destination. Still, the overarching theme with a progression is an anterior load that prepares the squatter for the front rack position.
Photo by Sergio Pedemonte
2. Foundational Movement for Other Lifts
The front squat is a foundational movement for a variety of other lifts and progressions. It’s the core of Olympic weightlifting, as well as numerous Crossfit workouts.
Once you master the front squat, you’ll be able to learn how to do clean and jerks, snatches, push presses, and thrusters. In other words, you’ll be able to add a lot of variability to your training.
3. Easier on the Back and Knees
Let’s preface by saying that this isn’t a post comparing front squats versus back squats. No one wants to start that battle with powerlifters. However, if you’re someone who has a history of back or knee issues, front squats are an effective alternative that will protect your knees and back.
When front squatting, the compressive forces and knee extensor moments are significantly reduced in comparison to the back squat.
What does this mean?
As the name indicates, compressive forces cause a compression between two materials or structures. In this case, it would be your tibia and fibula compressing in your knee as well as spinal compression. A knee extensor moment (without diving into a ton of scientific terms), refers to the demand put on the knee during flexion.
Front squats present an opportunity for those who have limitations based on issues with their back or knees to keep lifting heavy without doing further damage. Resistance training plays a crucial role in muscle stability and bone density for aging populations. As such, this movement is also an excellent exercise for both new and experienced elderly lifters.
4. Safe Solo Training
One of the front squat benefits worth mentioning for people who train alone is that it’s relatively easy to get out of. If you start to fail on your lift, you push the weight forward and away from you to bail. As a result, you’ll be able to push the weights more during those training sessions where a spotter is nowhere to be found.
Failing on a lift is a rite of passage. It shows that you’re pushing yourself toward progressive overload and striving toward increased strength. However, crushing yourself tends to be counterproductive, so train safe and train smart.
5. Powerful Compound Movement
One of the benefits of squats is that they are a compound movement— an exercise that hits multiple muscle groups at the same time. While there are benefits to target movements for building muscle mass, compound movements are great for building strength and stability. This “work smarter, not harder” approach can help foster muscle growth and help you train effectively in a shorter period of time.
Front squats simultaneously work the quads, glutes, and core while engaging the shoulder muscles for a full-body workout in one movement.
6. Help Build Quad Strength
Front squats are a quad-dominant exercise. If you’re looking to get some serious muscle growth in your legs, front squatting will give you those oh-so-desirable Quads of the Gods.
Your quadriceps are a muscle group that consists of four parts. The front squat targets three of them: the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis. Back squats, comparatively, put more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings.
7. Help Build a Stronger Core
Core strength isn’t about doing crunches and hoping for six-pack abs. Your core is a muscle group that includes your abdominals as well as muscles in your back. It’s estimated that 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime. Building a strong core can help offset that occurrence and the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on overall health.
How does a front squat build core strength?
It takes a lot of stability to keep your torso upright with a barbell on your chest, especially as you move through the range of motion front squatting entails. One of the main core muscles involved in front squatting is the erector spinae— A.K.A., your lower back. Muscle growth in this area will do wonders for your overall health and wellness.
8. Can Help Develop Better Mobility and Posture
As previously mentioned, one of the benefits of front squats is core strength and stability. This, in addition to the anterior load of the front rack position, can help you improve your posture.
Your back and shoulders are axillary muscle groups activated during the front squat. The extension of your thoracic spine that takes place when you get into the front rack position can help correct kyphosis— the hunched shoulders that have become common for office workers.
While that engagement of the upper body muscle groups can contribute to increased mobility, the front squat does a lot for lower body mobility as well. Front squats can improve your lower body range of motion and flexibility in your hip flexors. Remember the toddler squat mentioned earlier? Think of those with a loaded barbell helping you increase that stretch.
9. Contributes to Multi-Sport Performance
While front squatting is the foundational movement for Olympic lifts, weightlifting isn’t the only sport that it contributes to. Front squatting can contribute to multi-sport athletic performance through the increase of power during explosive movements— for example, volleyball players who depend on vertical jumping to succeed. A study of Australian Rules football players showed a notable correlation between their front squat 1RM and speed and agility on the field.
What does this mean for the average, everyday lifter? Those front squats in the gym will improve your performance in your other physical hobbies.
Front squats are a fantastic strength and conditioning exercise. They offer numerous physical benefits and set the stage for progressing onto bigger and better lifts. Start front squatting with dumbbells or kettlebells until you master the movement, then move onto a barbell to see what your body can do.