T Nation

Front Squat Form. Emergency Help!

I’m a newb with almost a year training, and now I’m doing front squats because my piece of shit gym doesn’t have a squat rack, only the smith coat rack, which I refuse to use. So now I’m doing cleans and front squats (70kg now).

The problem I think is my upper back, same problem when I was doing normal squats too. It’s not my legs (leg pressing 2 times the 70kg+bodyweight(98kg) with no problem), it’s not my lower back (deadlifting 150kg). I still don’t know much about weightlifting, but I’m almost sure it’s my upper back. When I deadlift I see a bit of a curve in the upper back, and I looked in the mirror today front squatting with only the bar and I still had a big curve up there, with the low back fine.

Is this what it is? If so, what should I do to correct it, traps? I think my traps are up to par though, I shrug with 50kg dumbells with no problem. I don’t know what I should do.

According to
http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/StrengthStandards.htm
I have the strength of an intermediate bodybuilder in every exercise listed except the squat, where I am between “untrained” and “novice”, leaning toward “untrained”. WTF am I doing wrong?

Back stability comes from you upper back. In DL tuck your shoulder blades together. In FrSq make sure the bar is balancing on your shoulders which you will raise up. then make sure your elbows are high. After that you just have to focus on keeping a straight upper back, there’s nothing more to it. Concentrate on form basically. Extra rows might also help build general strength.

-chris

That is my weak link in the front squat, also.

The way I corrected it was: keeping my elbows high, looking straight and getting good shoes.

There are lots of things you can do to help avoid this. The first thing you can do is to front squat more. In my opinion nothing prepares you for front squats like front squats. You can do extra upper back work, but nothing will really give you the benefits of front squatting itself.

The second thing you can do is get some Oly shoes which will bring your hips under the bar more.

The third thing you can do is to learn to sit DOWN between your legs, not back. You need to stay as upright as possible.

The fourth thing you can do is heavy STANDING ab work. I like ab pulldowns using the lat pulldown machine.

You can also try modifying your grip (I assume you’re using the clean grip) - I find I can stay much tighter if I move my grip in.

If you’re not using the clean grip, use the clean grip. Stretch your wrists, the pain goes away after a while.

[quote]Chewie wrote:
That is my weak link in the front squat, also.

The way I corrected it was: keeping my elbows high, looking straight and getting good shoes. [/quote]

Couldn’t agree more. I make sure I drive the elbows so high the bar makes it hard to breath. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor, and squat shoes do help a lot.

[quote]grrrsauce wrote:
Chewie wrote:
That is my weak link in the front squat, also.

The way I corrected it was: keeping my elbows high, looking straight and getting good shoes.

Couldn’t agree more. I make sure I drive the elbows so high the bar makes it hard to breath. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor, and squat shoes do help a lot.[/quote]

the way the bar rests on my shoulders and against my neck when I put my elbows really high actually cuts off blood circulation to my head and chokes me a little, am I doing something wrong, or is there another way?

I used to have this problem and I have client with it now. You are having trouble maintaining thoracic extension with a load. You probably have pronounced kyphosis in your thoracic vertebrae and it really shows when you front squat. I there could be several problems here.

First, your body need to get stronger at maintaining thoracic extension. How I did this was I worked on my back squats, lifting my chest up, you really have got to extremely overemphasize this. Get your fuckin chest way the fuck up, then squat. Take your back squat weight down to where you can get nice and deep keeping your chest up.

Keeping your chest up should help you keep a really hard arch in your lower back, if you can keep a hard arch with your chest up while going deep you are doing it right, go down in weight until you can do this for 3 sets of 6 well! Work on this and slowly bring the weight up. At first you will probably be sore in the area of your back that you are weak. After doing this for two months or so, go back to front squats and see what you can do. It should be markedly better.

Second, the other problem is this. If you are used to back squatting instead of front squatting your quads are not going to have the strength to do what they need to on a front squat, which is sink straight down with your torso as erect as possible. (This is coupled with the back issue which you have to fix as well.)

When you get to the bottom of your front squat your quads wont be able to handle getting back up without some assistance from the glutes and hammies, so you will start to lean forward, of course you know this really fucks everything up and makes the back issue worse, while you are trying to keep the bar up and your choking yourself now, just a complete mess.

You should be able to cross your arms in front on your shoulders with no weight take a stance slightly wider than shoulder width point your toes out and sink down keeping your torso almost perfectly erect. If you cannot do this, your front squatting with not be good at all. Look up dan johns video on google video.

Lots of good advice above. Another bit of advice is don’t give up on them. They’re too valuable to not learn well. Try OHS. Start light. No leaning forward on those.
Or. Balance the bar on your shoulders with your arms stretched out straight in front.

Arms have to stay up and back straight or the bar is coming down. Dan John has great tips on the learning progressions and has probably encountered every problem and has big tool bag full of tools for fixing the squat. Good luck.

TNT

[quote]grrrsauce wrote:
Chewie wrote:
That is my weak link in the front squat, also.

The way I corrected it was: keeping my elbows high, looking straight and getting good shoes.

Couldn’t agree more. I make sure I drive the elbows so high the bar makes it hard to breath. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor, and squat shoes do help a lot.[/quote]

I don’t recommend the arms crossed position in this animated gif, but keeping your elbows high and your body erect is key to performing front squats.

Here are the things that got me front squatting comfortably:

  1. Dan John’s “goblet squats”. I do these all the time at work to stretch my hips out and practice the groove.

  2. Related to that, the thread on here about the “third world squat”, or basically a look at how other people in the world tend to squat on their haunches instead of sitting in chairs as we do. This inspired me to practice goblet squats more.

  3. Doing cleans until I found a comfortable hand/wrist position, and strengthened the bones below my front delts to the point where they can carry weight comfortably.

  4. Doing lots of really light front squats to develop the motor pattern.

  5. Looking up instead of forward. When I look forward I tend to fall forward. When I look up I can keep the weight on my heels and thus get better leg-hip drive and coordination.

  6. Getting that fucking bar in my throat. When I look up, it changes where my adam’s apple sits and I can get the bar in my throat, elbows high, very comfortably.

  7. Internalizing the idea of squatting between the legs. This is done by going back to #1 and doing more goblet squats.

  8. Imagining doing the motion all day long.

I used to be one of those guys who could not go ass to grass whatsoever and latched on to a PL-style squat at first because the ROM was shorter. But now I’ve ditched that in favor of ATG, biomechanically correct squats where I’m not putting up the same kind of poundage as before but my back and hips are much more healthy (strong and flexible and not as prone to injury).

[quote]danian1 wrote:
grrrsauce wrote:
Chewie wrote:
That is my weak link in the front squat, also.

The way I corrected it was: keeping my elbows high, looking straight and getting good shoes.

Couldn’t agree more. I make sure I drive the elbows so high the bar makes it hard to breath. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor, and squat shoes do help a lot.

the way the bar rests on my shoulders and against my neck when I put my elbows really high actually cuts off blood circulation to my head and chokes me a little, am I doing something wrong, or is there another way?[/quote]

You will get used to it. The choking is normal…but the circulation…you might want to work on that. Tightening my neck up seems to help by allowing the bar to press on my sternocleidomastoids rather than my arteries.

You can do arms crossed style…but that is for what people around my town call sissies. Get used to Olympic style in case you ever want to go that route and start doing some Oly lifts.

Besides, the arteries in your neck have a response that when circulation becomes impaired your blood pressure will spike up. Great success!

Squat Rx #15: The Front Squat

If you’re falling forward and dropping the bar as you front squat, here are two tips that will help you more than anything else:

  1. Less Reps
  2. HEAVY, HIGH REP DUMBBELL ROWS!

Hey that youtube video really helped, Thanks Boris!