Christine Envall Female Bodybuilder Australia

Front Squats

A few years ago problems with my patella tendon meant I could no longer squat with the amount of weight I need to to keep my legs developing. That was when I discovered the FRONT SQUAT. This seems to be an often forgotten version of the squat which is also fantastic for building quad muscle. I find I can get as much work out of the front squat with about half the weight as what I do on a squat. Now that my knees are better I have gone back to regular squats, but that is only because these front squats really are a tough exercise!

To do a front squat, step under the squat bar so that the bar rests across your upper chest. You will need a thin layer of padding (a folded towel is adequate) to prevent the bar from causing pain unless you have an extremely thickly muscled upper chest and deltoids. Cross your arms in front of the bar and bring your hands up so that they touch the opposite shoulder and the bar is secured in place by your forearms.

Step out of the rack with the bar across your chest. Take a parallel foot stance, with your feet about shoulder width apart. Remember to keep you elbows up or you will soon find the bar slipping and you won't be able to hold it. It can take some getting used to the position that the bar sits when you do this exercise.

To start the exercise, squat down as you would with a regular squat. Keep your back straight and upright (looking up at a point high on the wall will help you do this). Be sure not to lean forward as you squat as you will lose the bar. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Going deeper can lead to knee problems.

Use the strength in your legs to push back up to the starting position, again, keep you back straight, head up and elbows up (to keep the bar in place).

I have found this exercise puts a lot of work onto the front part of the thigh, particularly the 'teardrop' (vastus medialis) and centre thigh (rectus femoris). I have also noticed improved development in my tensor fasciae latae (?) (the square flat muscle on upper outer thigh), which I never got from regular squats.
A lot of people find that squatting over-develops the glute muscles, but I have found that the front squat doesn't do this. This makes the front squat a great option for those people who don't like to squat because it makes their backside too large.
I also find this exercise has strengthened my lower back a lot, and helped with the muscle development in that region.

Remember, you can't handle as much weight with a front squat as you can with a regular squat, so don't start on your usual squat weight. It will also take some time for you to get your balance with the exercise. I do these with a free bar, but there is no reason why you can't use the smith machine. Using the smith machine will also help to keep you upright while you learn the movement.

Treat the front squat as you would a squat when deciding how many sets and reps to perform.


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