Jason Li, Exercise Science BS, USAW LVL2, Catalyst Athletics LVL1, NSCA-CPT
The front squat is one of the key accessory exercises in Olympic Weightlifting. If you want to be good at weightlifting, you need to have a great front squat. However, the position of the barbell in the front squat compared to the back squat offers some unique challenges that need some consideration when trying to lift more. If you are struggling to get your front squat numbers up, here are 3 exercises that you can throw into your program.
1) Front loaded Reverse Lunges
The barbell front loaded reverse lunge is one of my favorite accessory exercises because it helps address many of the issues that make a front squat more challenging than the back squat. Doing higher repetitions while holding the front rack can help develop more comfort in this position. Spending more time in the front rack generally can help improve flexibility in all the associated joints of the upper body to be able to hold a more secure position that can translate to heavier lifts. The lunge variation acts as excellent specific trunk training as it encourages maximal bracing in a very upright position that is similar to a front squat, thus allowing a high degree of carryover. On the same note the typically more upright position of the body places more emphasis on the quads than the back squat. The lunge is a great quad dominant exercise that precisely focuses on using the quads to move. As you can see, the front loaded reverse lunge helps to improve your front squat through multiple means.
2) Slow eccentric Front squats
Slow eccentric lifts are a great addition to an athlete’s program early on in their contest preparation as it extends the time under tension, which helps to stimulate building of both connective tissue and muscles. Much like the front loaded reverse lunge the extra time under is tremendous for developing the trunk and thoracic spine extensors to maintain a strong posture throughout the lift. In addition to all the physiological benefits of a slow eccentric front squat, this is also a great variation to help correct any bar path issues that are creating a less than efficient movement. For all intents and purposes, the front squat is a vertical movement. The liter’s joints of the involved limbs will go through various degrees of flexion or extension but the bar path should remain along a more-or-less straight perpendicular path relative to the floor. The slow eccentric front squat can help athletes focus on moving the barbell along a more efficient path and allow enough time for them to figure out how to position their bodies to produce that.
3) 1-and-¼ Front squat
A typical squat has two sticking points; The bottom and when the hips pass slightly above parallel. Both positions are where the extensors that are responsible for helping the lifter stand up a front squat are the largest mechanical disadvantage. This front squat variation provides “extra practice” in those challenging positions. For every rep done, it essentially equates to two repetitions done at the bottom and at the “above the knee” position. In some cases, this is preferable to just increasing the volume of front squats since this not only can provide a similar hypertrophy effect but also allows a more specific focus on the areas of the lift that the athlete is struggling with. This is a great variation to include in your training if you happen to have the common sticking points in a typical front squat.
These are 3 great lifts to help improve an athlete’s front squat. The keys to a great front squat are mobility, position, and overall strength. The three accessory movements I suggested in this post help to target those exactly. Hope this post was helpful for you and let’s get on with the squat party.