We’re big proponents of squatting here at AoM — particularly the low-bar squat. The mechanics of the low-bar squat allow you to work more muscles in your posterior chain, i.e., the “chain” of muscles that run up the back of the body. More muscle utilization = more weight moved.
But there are other ways to squat that can provide similar benefits to the low-bar squat. For example, many people do the high-bar squat, which is similar to the low-bar squat, except the bar is held higher on the back.
There’s another variation of the barbell squat that you might try incorporating into your workouts too: the front squat.
Below we dive into why and how to front squat for lower body gainz.
What Muscles Get Worked in the Front Squat?
The front squat works similar muscles as the back squat. However, due to the mechanics of the front squat, it works the quads and the glutes more. Be prepared to have some sore quads and buttisimo muscles after trying front squats for the first time. (Here’s how to deal with this soreness.)
Why Should I Front Squat?
You want to get better at the barbell clean. When you do the clean, you perform a front squat to get out of the bottom of this Olympic lift. So if you want to get better at rising up from the bottom of the clean, you’ve got to incorporate front squats into your programming.
You want a supplemental lower body lift. If you’re an advanced barbell lifter, chances are your programming will have you doing supplemental lifts. Supplemental lifts are similar to the main lifts but done a little differently in order to work the muscles you use in the main lift from a different angle. For example, rack pulls can be a supplemental lift to the deadlift.
A great supplemental lift to the low-bar squat is the front squat. While the low-bar squat works the hamstrings and hips more than the front squat, the front squat works the quads and glutes more than the low-bar squat. Similar movements, but each gives greater/lesser emphasis to certain muscle groups.
You can’t low-bar squat. Thanks to injuries, some people just can’t low-bar squat. For example, some individuals with hip issues find the hip-heavy low-bar squat incredibly painful to do. Because the front squat doesn’t require you to bend your hips, it allows people with hip issues to get the lower body benefits of squats without the pain.
And while the front squat requires you to bend your knees significantly more than you do on the low-bar squat, studies have shown that the front squat actually puts less pressure on the knees than the low-bar squat, which has led one group of researchers to conclude that “front squats may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health.”
So if you’ve had trouble doing low-bar or high-bar back squats, try doing front squats.
How to Front Squat
The Set-Up & Grip
As the name suggests, unlike the back squat that has the barbell sitting on your back in either a high or low position, the front squat is going to have the barbell sitting on the front of your body, specifically across the front deltoids.
The goal of the set-up and grip on the front squat is to make a nice, sturdy meat shelf of your front delts so that the bar can rest across it while you squat. Here’s how to make this trusty meat shelf:
Take a grip on the barbell that’s about shoulder-width apart. Wrap your thumbs around the bar.
Step close to the bar and throw your elbows forward. You’re aiming to throw your elbows so far forward that your upper arms are nearly parallel to the floor. The higher the elbows are, the more muscle mass your deltoids create to form the shelf that the barbell will rest on.
Stand up straight and lift the barbell out of the j-hooks. Bam. You’re in the starting position for the front