T Nation

Front Squat Advice?

First some info on my situation. I am a coach at a large HS in Texas, and in charge of the weightroom and workouts for all football player. When I got here last year the weight program was a disgrace, thru a long process including the head coach leaving, we have started to change the atmosphere and attitude in the weightroom. During the winter and this spring we have focus on major core lifts and have made major strides.

I am already putting an in-season program together for next year and I am thinking about using front squats during the season rather than back squats at least once a week.

We will still do back squats early in the week, but I’m thinking that by doing front squats later in the week or the day after the game we can reduce the risk of injury but still get the strength benefits. Is anyone else doing this?

I would say the only hurdle your going to face with the front squats is the form. Most athletes have a really hard time with the arm position needed to perform this lift properly. Other than that, I see no problem with switching back and front squats up. Just watch the loading and your athletes should be fine. The key is to start rotating in the front squats now, so when doing them in-season they aren’t brand new for the athletes.

[quote]Steamroller wrote:
First some info on my situation. I am a coach at a large HS in Texas, and in charge of the weightroom and workouts for all football player. When I got here last year the weight program was a disgrace, thru a long process including the head coach leaving, we have started to change the atmosphere and attitude in the weightroom. During the winter and this spring we have focus on major core lifts and have made major strides.

I am already putting an in-season program together for next year and I am thinking about using front squats during the season rather than back squats at least once a week.

We will still do back squats early in the week, but I’m thinking that by doing front squats later in the week or the day after the game we can reduce the risk of injury but still get the strength benefits. Is anyone else doing this?[/quote]

Good timing on this question. Thib just did an article “7 Exercises From Thib’s Toolbox”. Look for the lumberjack squat.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1524088

And check out the related forum. It talks of the advantages to using it for athletes.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1524097

I completely agree, it takes a little while to get the form down, but once you find your groove its a great lift.

I would probably start with just the bar and have your athletes focus on form.

We have been doing front squats with the after school lifting group, which about half of the athletes attend. They had a hard time at the beginning due to poor wrist flexion and shoulder mobility to keep their elbows high.

Most of the lifters that have been coming to after school are able to handle this now. What about allowing them to use a modified form with the arms crossed or in the middle?

I think it’s a good idea as long as you include plenty of posterior chain dominant assistance work. Especially since the previous coach was shitty, there’s a good chance that many of the athletes would probably be quite quad dominant.

As far as the form, you could either have them use “bodybuilder” style with the arms crossed, or my new personal favorite method of using wrist straps. There is a picture of this technique near the end of the first page in this thread.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do;id=1426280&pageNo=0

Other than that, make sure to reinforce that they hips should be moving back first rather than knees bending first.

-Matt

[quote]Steamroller wrote:
We have been doing front squats with the after school lifting group, which about half of the athletes attend. They had a hard time at the beginning due to poor wrist flexion and shoulder mobility to keep their elbows high.

Most of the lifters that have been coming to after school are able to handle this now. What about allowing them to use a modified form with the arms crossed or in the middle?[/quote]

With HS athletes, we’ve found that we can get away with different arms positions. If you have a kid whose levers or flexibility is terrible, use the “bodybuilding” style while you work on the flexibility.

We haven’t had any problems, but we use the FS as an assistance or supplementary exercise and not as one of our main lifts, so the percentages are lower. We’re also using this to build weak muscles (i.e. quads) rather than go for max weight. So take it for what it’s worth.

Or you can use straps, like regular weightlifting straps, and have the athlete hold onto the end of the strap and have the other end wrapped around the bar. That way they can still have elbows up but their hands don’t have to come as low. I’m not too comfortable with this but maybe it could work for you…

I teach my guys that if they have the bar in the right place and their elbows up, they shouldn’t really need their hands. You can demo this by getting the bar in the right spot, putting your hands out in front of you, and front squatting. Of course this is not going to hold true when they use very high numbers but it has gotten the point across.

[quote]Steamroller wrote:
We have been doing front squats with the after school lifting group, which about half of the athletes attend. They had a hard time at the beginning due to poor wrist flexion and shoulder mobility to keep their elbows high.

Most of the lifters that have been coming to after school are able to handle this now. What about allowing them to use a modified form with the arms crossed or in the middle?[/quote]

Something to think about: One of the trainers on the site has suggested using lifting straps (wrapped around the bar) to help with wrist flexibility. The athlete is going to hold onto the strap, his hand in a neutral grip. His elbows will still be kept high.

EDIT: My bad, ChuckyT mentioned this same idea.

I have used the bodybuilding style before and may try this with some of the lifters.

Matt, the first thing I did when given control of the program was put in good mornings and stiff leg deadlifts. I also have though about walking lunges with dumbbells or the barbell, and I even fished out the out back extension machine from under the bleachers and I am working on getting some band so we can do glute-ham raises and reverse leg lift with the bands on the ankles.

[quote]Steamroller wrote:
What about allowing them to use a modified form with the arms crossed or in the middle?[/quote]

I had this problem at first, i didnt have the wrist flexibility. After working on it i got the flexibility in my wrists, which will also benfit me on the football feild, with tackling.

if you let them use a modified form they will never develop the wrist flexibility.
I say you should go over the form with them and not use heavy weights untill they get it down and get the flexibility in their wrists.

It hurts at first but after awhile they will get it

I agree that as a strength coach, you should try to emphasize the front squat being performed with the proper grip and arm position. If you plan on using cleans in your programs, there is a major carryover in skill on the catch if you perform the front squat correctly.

I have seen too many athletes who have trouble with max loads because their catch on the clean sucks. Learning the right way from the start will help athletes feel more comfortable catching big weights while doing cleans. Just my two cents.

[quote]Steamroller wrote:
I have used the bodybuilding style before and may try this with some of the lifters.

Matt, the first thing I did when given control of the program was put in good mornings and stiff leg deadlifts. I also have though about walking lunges with dumbbells or the barbell, and I even fished out the out back extension machine from under the bleachers and I am working on getting some band so we can do glute-ham raises and reverse leg lift with the bands on the ankles.[/quote]

My only qualm with the arms crossed front squat is that the biceps can be used to make up for lack of proper positioning and upright posture. I like that with the straps, I have more instant feedback on how good my technique is.

I’d be careful with good mornings especially if you’re coaching a large team with limited staff. I think that the coaching required for this lift to be executed safely and properly must be quite precise and individual.

-Matt

i’m not a coach but i don’t think it takes any longer to learn the form for front squats than back squats. in fact i think it actually takes less time than learning to back squat properly.

the form is practically built into the lift. all you have to do is suck it up, squat lighter weight, and stick with it for 2- 3 weeks at the most and you’ll have it down. how many people have back squatting down in 2-3 weeks ? i’ve seen guys with the same mediocre to shitty back squat form for YEARS. we all have. those guys never seem improve and they’re probably all the same guys who say they can’t front squat for whatever reason.

some people just perceive front squatting as more difficult because technically there’s not as much room for error as with the back squat, they can’t screw around with it, and it exposes their weaknesses more. but all you have to do to learn it is suck it up and lower the weight. for your effort you’ll become a better back squatter than you would have otherwise.

Altering grip spacing, altering how much of the hand is actually on the bar, determining which way the elbows should point and proper level of shoulder elevation (shrugging up to the bar) are all variables you can alter when coaching your athletes in the Front Squat. Some athletes will have problems with racking the Front Squat no matter what you do due to unfavorable anthropometrics.

You will also encounter a problem with athletes rounding their upper backs. This is often caused by two factors: one muscular, one neurological.

  1. Weak upper torso (muscular)
  2. Being unaware of how to keep the back arched (neurological)
    I have found using the Overhead Squat very helpful for teaching and reinforcing good torso alignment.

If the athlete can perform an Overhead Squat with arms locked to at least a parallel position, with the wrist, elbow, shoulder and ear in a line, they possess the ability to keep their back in proper alignment for a front squat.
Good Luck

i’m a big fan of front squatting…because quads are a weak link for me and it helped my form (and for oly stuff)

but am i the only one who gets sore knees from them?
i dont want to stop but they really take a toll on me after a while (maybe i’m going a bit too low and bouncing, but i dont think i’m relaxing anything to allow for this to be an issue?)

If any of your athletes has an elbow or wrist injury, I’d definitely recommend the bodybuilder grip front squats. I prefer to do clean grip, but after dislocation I wish someone would have reminded me that there’s more than one way to grip it.

As a HS athlete I found stiff legged deads alot easier to learn than good mornings. I’m also going to guess and say that it has a better carryover to the tackle or double leg takedown than loading on the back.

I haven’t seen one kid in our weightroom use either good form or a decent weight on goodmornings. On stiff leg deadlift I was getting 225 no problem. That was coming off a torn hamstring with a back squat of about zero and a front squat of 225-245.

If you think you’re bouncing, you could set the pins at the bottom of your squat. Tap the pins so your knees don’t have the task of stopping and reversing the momentum of the weight. You also lose quite a bit of elastic force which will lower your weight, but is good if your joints are beat up.

Guys this is what the forums are all about. Thank you for all the input and advice. It has made me think about all the different athletes I work with. I’m going to stick with making the lifters use the clean grip for front squats and adjust on an individual basis.

I’m definately going to talk to the HC and try to work front squats in next year. I’ll make sure we have them in and some form work before the summer gets here, and make sure they are in the summer program.

Teaching the good mornings and stiff leg deadlifts were tough. I am the only one on staff that really knew how to do and teach them at the beginning, but now some of the coaches can at least teach the basics and spot when there is breakdown in form. Also most of the upper level athletes know and can help coach the younger.

Thanks again guys

For me, the front squat was a very easy exercise to learn. In fact, I had a MUCH harder time learning to correctly back-squat, it took me a solid month and many different positions of my feet to finally be able to squat comfortably. When I first picked up a barbell and tried to front-squat, I had very good results.

One last bit of advice to everyone out there. Make it easy on yourself if you have to teach others form…teach an athlete to front squat before the back squat.

Although, once and a while you will have an athlete who can’t transfer the form as easily, most will be able to perform great back squats once they master the form on front squats.