Front Squats Q&A

I’ve received questions from lifters having difficulty with the Front Squat exercise, which isn’t surprising – front squats are tricksome.

So lets address some of the common issues, and how to fix them.

Q1 - Every time I front squat, the bar is pressed up against my throat . . . feel like I’m getting choked out. What can I do . . . [to] fix that?

Sounds like you’re doing it right! The bar should be touching your throat. Now, literally getting choked to the point that you can’t breathe is obviously a problem, but most of the time it’s just mild discomfort. Man-up Buttercup. Try relaxing your grip, practicing your shoulder position with some open-hand squats, or ditch the grip issue altogether and use straps (shown here - hugely massive top tip, btw)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q2 - My wrists are killing me . . . can back squat way more than I can front squat, so I know my legs have more in them . . . just can’t hold the weight. I stretch my wrists . . . doesn’t seem to help.

This is a common issue, and one that I have a problem with too. The clean grip is the usual offender, and the simplest fix is to switch to the strap method (see above) or the cross-armed “bodybuilder grip” (shown here)

That’ll let you keep training and for most folk I’ll leave it there - you’ll get the benefit of the exercise.

If you’re intent on the learning the clean grip – which is extremely important if you’re going to be doing any Olympic lifting – or want to fix whatever is causing the pain, then that’s a different story.

Mostly, it’s loosen, strengthen, mobilise (in that order) the forearms/wrist complex. That’s not something I’ll go into here as there’s huge scope for breaking something - get a trainer or wait till I put a video together. Or speak to someone into martial arts like Kali, Bokken and so forth.

Failing/as well as that, remember that the rack positioning also requires good shoulder mobility, thoracic mobility, and flexibility in your lats and triceps - free up your upper body (for most gym rats this means some supine grip bent-over-row style work) and, believe it or not, yoga (every weightlifters friend).

I particularly recommend the transition between Up Dog and Down Dog - over, and over, and over again until your lats loosen up.

Q3 - I can’t get into the position and keep a good grip on the bar . . . [how do I get] all of my fingers wrapped round?

You don’t need to, and few people bother. When you work your way back into the clean grip, you don’t need all your fingers wrapped around the bar - two will suffice (index and middle). This helps many lifters with limited wrist flexibility use the clean grip effectively.

Watch some of the more experienced lifters i.e. Olympic level, youtube it, and you’ll notice (you’ll have to watch closely) that half the time they don’t even grip the bar at all - they hrup it straight out of the rack and hit the drive into the receiving position gaining their grip during the transition - pretty much like juggling.

In the interim, don’t try to force it unless you want wrist/elbow trouble. Strap method until you can use the clean grip pain-free.

Q4 - When doing front squats, it hurts my collarbones. Should I use a bar pad?

Nope. The bar pad is not your friend here, not just because it turns in your man card in front of your mates. If it hurts your collar bone you have the bar in the wrong position and a pad will only make that worse (same often goes for back squat, actually. I own a bar pad, and used it about twice; long enough for the client to realise it’s a false comfort).

The main cause is not keeping your elbows up as much as you should, which is causing the bar to slide down/forward onto your collarbone.

The bar should be resting in a nice groove on the anterior deltoids. Try working in some hands-free front squats (see below) to help reinforce proper bar position.

 

 

 

 

Q4 - I get lower back pain doing back squats - why would front squats be any different?

Because you probably have tight hamstrings that, when you are down in the back squat, pulls your pelvis into a posteriorly tilted position.

Most (I’d say nearly every) Westerner has terrible hamstrings (I sure do) as from a young age we’re told to sit in chairs, at the table, in the car, at desks in school, and we lose the posterior chain flexibility to sit on our heels (did you know that in the East, when you find the toilet that isn’t a hole in the ground but a toilet as we know it in the West, have a look at the sign on the door - it translates as “disabled”)

Look at this piccie; on the left, the front squat allows the bodyweight and centre of balance to rest back on the heels a bit more than the (right) back squat position while keeping lumbar alignment.

Look at the back squat position and consider how the Western Syndrome of tight low back, glute, hamstring and calf chain is going to affect the Drive.

Everything pulls on everything else and the pelvis either tilts (hello low back pain) or doesn’t (serious over-compensation from the quadratus lumborum and . . . hello back pain).

The cure for this syndrome by the way is to free up the ankles with dynamic movement - stretching and yoga moves will assist this greatly, but without dynamic movement stimulus it will get you nowhere by itself.

Q5 - I’m a girly girl and don’t want to get big, bulky or sweaty - why do squats anyway??

Here’s why:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry, I made that question up. I just love this picture.