T Nation

5/3/1 Using Front Squat


Due to lower back injuries I have decided to use the front squat. I have lack of flexibility in my hips (due to multiple back injuries) and a formally injured back so the front squat feels much “safer” on my spine and puts me in a better position to squat. Was wondering if there would be any changes anyone would make with using the FS instead of the BS in the 5/3/1 with jokers and First set last program. Love squatting but back squats at any kind of a heavy load cause my back to flare up regardless of form. Just curious if anyone has used the front squat with the 5/3/1


I’m using it, just FSL and no jokers but only because I don’t do jokers on anything else either, at least for now. Only change I made was increase training max by 7-8lbs per cycle instead of 10.


Cut out the jokers and all FSL/SSL work should be done for NO MORE than 5 reps. In other words, don’t do BBB with front squats.


I’ve just completed the 3-month BBB Challenge using Front Squats (unfortunately standard Squats just mess up my back, hence the FS alternative). The 5x10 at 70% in the final month were … interesting.
Results were exceptional, perhaps as good as I’ve experienced using any of the templates from Beyond and the original 531–albeit 10 reps is as high as I’d ever go, even with such a moderate percentage.
As Jim stated, 5s PRO seems to be the best option if you FS as the main movement. For PR sets above 6-7, it might be a struggle.



Thanks for the responses. So since no more than 5 reps is recommended for front squats should I use a different assistance work other than first set last. Maybe second set last since the higher percentage used of my TM allows for less reps(i.e. Going no more than 5 reps).


Yes - but obviously only for Leader part of your program. You do not HAVE to do it - we have had insane success using FSL stuff for majority of Leader and Anchor.


Ok. For the front squat I think I will use 5/3/1 and drop the joker sets like you said. Then keeps reps low on the fists set last. I would like to try the leader and anchor stuff but I am fairly inexperienced when it comes to programming like that. I am definitely down for all suggestions however. There is a ton of stuff for me to still learn here even after reading all the 5/3/1 books. Great info. Appreciate what you are doing Jim.


So reading a little more into the programming aspect. Wanted to do the 531 with jokers and FSL. Jim you mentioned keeping reps on the front squat low which led me to the 5’s pro with 2nd set last. Is keeping 5 reps and less on the front squat a permanent thing or just used for the leader and then go back up to pr’s and jokers in the anchor part of the phase. Would that be a good thing to use then for the anchor go back to the 531 with joker and FSL. If so should I do this for all my four big lifts or stick to the 531 programming for the bench, Deadlift and press and use the 5’s pro for the front squat the whole time. Sorry for so many questions, just trying to lay out the next few months properly (making sure I’m not confusing anything because I am fairly new to 531) and get into a good routine before I go back out on deployement where internet/time to plan is hard to come by.


I have used several different 5/3/1 Templates using Front Squats over the years and some work better than others when it comes to Front Squats. When going for PR sets you have to make sure you have proper posture and rack position because that will be the limiting factor in shooting for reps. I noticed 8 reps was usually where the bar kept wanting to slide off of my shoulders but that’s usually where I would cap my PR set. For 6 weeks I used the Full Body Template and did Front Squats 3 times a week. This really helped reinforce proper posture and rack position. The best Template for me in terms of Front Squat is the Advanced Template from Beyond 531. The Spinal Tap variation where you use 3 reps on all sets was interesting for Front Squat but I would use that with caution and a very low training max. I’ve since switched back to Back Squats since I was able to go about 8 cycles without a reset on Front Squat. My Training Max took me to where my Back Squat TM “needed” to be. I squat high bar with a narrow foot placement which is why FS and BS will feed off of each other very well.

Keep in mind I have been using the word “Template” and not Program. I’m not sure how these would fit into the Leader / Anchor style of programming that Jim has suggested lately. There is enough on this forum to be able to piece the new programming together but for me I’m going to wait until the book comes out. This is just my experience with using Front Squat as a main movement using 5/3/1.


Thanks for your replies guys. Appreciate it.