Front squats are one of the best exercises you can do to build your quads, they will work to bring out that teardrop shape in the quads. Yet, no one seems to want to do them, and hardly do you ever see anyone performing front squats at the gym. Why is that? And what's the difference between front squats versus back squats?
Most people avoid doing front squats simply because it's so difficult to do. Don't get me wrong, back squats aren't easy to perform by any means, however, when you do full front squats, additional difficulty is introduced in the exercises where it requires more technique, balance, and more core strength. It's not uncommon for someone that might back squat three plates to have some initial difficulties with just one plate on the front squats, until they've taken the time to master the technique and move on to heavier weights.
So how do you do the front squat? With normal squats, the barbell is placed on your back, while for the front squat, the barbell rests on the front of your shoulders. Start off with lighter weights to master this technique before moving on to heavy weights. It is an exercise that requires high discipline and also requires great amounts of core strength.
Front Squat Technique
When performing front squats, it is important to always remember that your front shoulders are supporting the weight, and not your hands. Your hands are simply there to hold the barbell in place on your front shoulders, and the shoulders takes all the weight. Doing front squats will enforce good, solid technique, otherwise, you will lose the bar, especially when performing heavier sets. So here's a brief rundown on how to do front squats.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, with your toes pointing slightly outwards
Step up to the squat rack and place the barbell across the front of your shoulders and chest
Bring your elbows up to shoulder height, and during the squat movement, fight the urge to drop your elbows lower
There are mainly two ways to hold the bar in place: 1) in an olympic style, which power lifters and olympic lifters always prefer, and 2) with crossed arms, which is more often seen with bodybuilders
With the bar secured on your front shoulders, lift it up from the rack and take a step back
Keep your back tight and not arched, and always look forward - do not arch your back, drop your elbows, or lean forward. You will lose the weight with improper technique
Squat down till your hamstrings are parallel to the floor, then push back up
Do not bounce up from the bottom, but push up in a controlled motion
Here's a video on how to do front squats.
The front squat is more difficult than the back squat also because it involves a less stable position, where the barbell is placed in front resting on your shoulders, and this will prevent you from lifting as heavy compared to back squats. However, more stress is placed on the vastus medialis, which gives the teardrop look of the quads. Because of the lighter weights used, there is generally less pressure placed on the back and spine. At the same time, front squats basically forces good technique and form upon you where you will not be able to lean forward - if you do, you will lose the bar.
Did you know that front squat is also excellent for abdominal muscle training? It is an exercise that requires great core strength, and to hold your upper body upright puts a great amount of stress on your abdominal muscles. This is one exercise that will work your entire core. I remember the first time I introduced this exercise to my wife - she certainly had a tough time at it. The next day, she asked my why her abs are so sore when she didn't even train her abs. Of course, I told her otherwise, and explained to her how the abs are so involved in the front squats exercise.