The Front Squat

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Molly and Kyle making it look easy.

“Why front squat?”

I was asked that question today by a CFWSC athlete. And, this being CrossFit–remember the adage “The magic is in the movements, the art in the programming, and the science is in the explanation,” I actually knew the answer. Let’s see if I can do the front squat justice without getting sciency.

The front squat is performed for two big reasons, among others. First, it is an integral part of the clean, and the clean is virtually unmatched at building explosive power. It’s a simple yet convincing equation–the bigger your front squat, the more you can clean, the more you can clean, the more powerful you are.

The second compelling reason is that the front squat builds tremendous midline strength. There is really nothing like it. The barbell on a front squat is held way out in front of the body’s weightlifting centerline, which stretches from the middle of the foot up through the scapulae. The further in front of this line the weight is, the more pressure there is on the back to ‘break’, thus increasing the need for midline stability. A lifter rarely fails on a front squat due to insufficient strength to lift the weight, but rather due to lost of midline stability.

There are several cues to help maintain midline stability. They are all, as one might imagine, inter-related. The most important is high elbows. A coach is constantly exhorting his or her lifters to get those elbows up up up. High elbows mean triceps horizontal while deep in the hole. Any downward loss of high elbow integrity means that the back must take up the slack caused by the elbows dropping, and on heavy loads it simply cannot.

A lifter deep in a front squat must also keep his or her weight from coming up on the toes. If the knees come forward excessively, the lifter’s weight will transfer forward, off the heels and onto the ball of the foot. Again, this usually results in a missed lift as the back cannot cope with the increased demand for midline stability. This also happens when the elbows drop.

Another important cue for the front squat is to push the knees out. If the knees drop in towards each other, the lifter’s weight usually shifts to the inside of the foot and towards the ball. Again resulting in a missed lift as described above. Pushing the knees out not only preserves knee health, but it recruits more muscle to help with the lift, namely the muscles on the inside of the thigh.

For a much more scientifically, but quite articulately, written post from one of the CrossFit greats, Kelly Starrett, about the front squat, click here.

If you want to see what strong looks like, check out Reza rather casually front squatting 607#.

What are your experiences with the front squat? Please post to Comments.

Workout:

Front Squat

Do two very light warm up sets of 5 reps, then:

7 Sets of 3 Reps, with the final 3 or 4 sets being working sets with 3RM weight.

Then:

5 Rounds

100m Row Sprint

30 seconds rest between each sprint in which time do 10 pushups.

Post squat weight and row times to Comments.