In my opinion a true test of strength. It requires serious leg strength, tons of core stability, upper and lower back integrity coupled with flexibility from all the major joints. What more could you ask for in a lift?
The tight spots for the front squat are similar to the back squat. Two places, however, differ slightly – the wrists and the thoracic spine.
Front squats place immense pressure on the wrists, and can make the wrist flexors feel like they’re going to snap. A few targeted wrist flexor stretches will do the trick (the second image is great for stretching the triceps, lats and thoracic spine simultaneously – perfect for front squats.)
The thoracic spine requires even more flexibility in the front squat than it does in the back squat. Because the load is in front of the body, the torso needs to be more upright, and poor thoracic mobility severely comprimises that. On top of foam rolling, try the following:
- Use two tennis balls taped together as trigger point balls. Place them in between the shoulder blades on either side of the spine (first picture.) From there, take the arms from straight in front to overhead and aim to reach the ground (second picture.) Try this for 10-15 reps.
The Weak Link
Typically, the upper back is the weakest link in the front squat chain (less so for those with an upright squat – thanks to great ankle mobility.) Apart from front squatting regularly, add in a few upper-back specific exercises like:
- Chest to bar chin ups: Use and unders grip, pull the elbows tightly into the sides and keep going until your chest comes in contact with the bar. Use a weights belt or dumbbell if needed.
- Ring rows: elbows tight and pull as high as possible. Do not let the chest drop or sink!
- Bottom to bottom front squats: Exactly the same as described for back squats (obviously substituting in with front squats.) Doubles as a great exercise to get out of the hole in a full squat clean (which is why we front squat in the first place, right?)
- Weighted pistols: Again the same as described in the back squat article, but even more relevant to front squats. Using a kettlebell in the rack position really forces you to get upright and resist collapsing forward. Also relies on great ankle and thoracic mobility, just like the front squat.
- Candlestick to levers: Great for developing anterior core strength (and I’ve found in the past to have good carryover to front squatting.) The upper back is on the ground, but nothing else! Keep the body straight and lower from the top to just above the ground. Keep in mind that these are seriously tough and not for the faint-hearted!
As always, for any extra questions or demos, the trainers are at your disposal!