If you’re an athlete there’s no question about it - you need to front squat! No squat variation has a better crossover to athletic performance than the front squat. It’s much safer on the knees and back and is a great way to train your vertical acceleration - think about jumping up for a rebound in basketball or going up to hit the ball in volleyball, for example. For sports where jumping is a key component there's no comparison - the front squat rules. But it also can greatly aid your horizontal acceleration. After all, it's those same muscles that work triple extension vertically that work it horizontally as well.
What muscles am I talking about? Those muscles that extend - or straighten - the hip, knee and ankle. So the glutes, the quadriceps, the calves as well as those big, strong hamstring muscles. And the front squat takes care of all of those muscles, although I definitely add auxiliary work for the calves and hamstrings.
By loading the bar on the front of the body versus the back it puts a greater load on the quads versus the posterior chain. And here's a great addition as well - the front loaded position of the barbell causes the abdominal muscles to really work overtime. If they didn't you would fall forward flat on your face lying in a pile of embarrassment and sadness .. and probably pain. Point being, the front squat is amazing at developing abdominal strength.
"The front squat is amazing at developing abdominal strength."
It also teaches and prepares athletes for the clean and power clean by reinforcing their shoulder and wrist mobility. So I use the front squat as a precursor to ever teaching someone the power clean. The Front squat is an awesome lift for head-to-toe mobility.
Regarding mobility, this one reason may be the limiting factor to why you cannot do a front squat or have trouble executing it efficiently. The primary mobility concerns I see are lack of mobility through the thoracic spine, the ankles and the hips. I love the seated good morning to help with hip mobility. For your thoracic spine, try this! And for all around mobility, not many people beat K Star! This video by K Star on improving your ankle mobility - primarily dorsiflexion - will be key.
The Front squat is an awesome lift
for head-to-toe mobility.
The front squat is also amazing if you're a chronic back squatter. And if you’ve hit a plateau with your back squat work through a cycle of front squats and consider that plateau busted.
Athletes, get some variation of the front squat in your training regimen today!
*Pictured is one of my 8th grade basketball athletes.