T Nation

Front Squat Grip

I had a few questions on the grip for a front squat, many of the articles I’ve read here and other sites talk about incorporating the front squat into program design and briefly on the grip (with photos etc).

From what I’ve read and know there are 3 principle grips:

  1. Clean Grip
  2. Cross Arm Grip
  3. Grip using straps (is this even a recognised grip?)

I started with the Cross Arm grip because I didn’t have the flexibility for the clean grip. Now I’m using straps. I have perhaps less than 2 months experience with the Front Squat.

My questions were:

  1. Is the clean grip better to use and practice for the long run? I heard it improves O lifts as well which I want to incorporate in my workouts when I learn the proper technique.
  2. Is using the cross arm or “straps” grip going to develop “bad habits” for technique.
  3. Would stretching exercises improve the ability to perform the clean grip? The inflexibility lies in the forearms, triceps or both?

Sorry for all the questions and thanks for the responses in advance.

While I’m sure there are more experienced people that can chime in, in my experience I would say:

  1. In the long run, I doubt there are major differences if you’re only looking to front squat. If you’re going to do Olympic style weightlifting, the clean grip is mandatory - no way around it. Also, it’s useful to know so you can take a bar off the ground for clean and press and all manner of other things.

  2. I’ve never used straps, but after using the cross-grip during a hand injury, I’d say no. I found I was placing the bar further forward on the shoulders than with a clean grip (in order to get the hands crossed like a genie), but my feeling was that it just makes you work harder to keep upright and keep your upper back tight. The clean grip (with elbows high) reinforces the “chest out, upper back tight” position.

  3. I guess the inflexibility could be both shoulder and wrist. The only stretches I ever performed for the clean were forearm flexor and extensor stretches. This worked to alleviate some of the pain associated with learning the grip - although mostly it was just using the grip itself. It might help to bring your hands out a little bit wider. I’d say it’s not essential to keep all the fingers on the bar either (especially the pinky) as long as the elbows remain high.

Hope this helps.

[quote]aut-x-rs wrote:
While I’m sure there are more experienced people that can chime in, in my experience I would say:

  1. In the long run, I doubt there are major differences if you’re only looking to front squat. If you’re going to do Olympic style weightlifting, the clean grip is mandatory - no way around it. Also, it’s useful to know so you can take a bar off the ground for clean and press and all manner of other things.

  2. I’ve never used straps, but after using the cross-grip during a hand injury, I’d say no. I found I was placing the bar further forward on the shoulders than with a clean grip (in order to get the hands crossed like a genie), but my feeling was that it just makes you work harder to keep upright and keep your upper back tight. The clean grip (with elbows high) reinforces the “chest out, upper back tight” position.

  3. I guess the inflexibility could be both shoulder and wrist. The only stretches I ever performed for the clean were forearm flexor and extensor stretches. This worked to alleviate some of the pain associated with learning the grip - although mostly it was just using the grip itself. It might help to bring your hands out a little bit wider. I’d say it’s not essential to keep all the fingers on the bar either (especially the pinky) as long as the elbows remain high.

Hope this helps.[/quote]

Thank you kindly for patiently explaining.

Now that you mentioned it, you’re 110% right on the feeling with the straps, I’m working hard to maintain balance and position the bar correctly during the lift (with straps).

I will heed your advice on the stretching, performing it regularly (1/day and during training) I hope will be good frequency to be able to a clean grip in 1 to 2 months. I did Aikido many years back and we used to do many wrist exercises to strengthen the wrists and could be useful here too.

I will work hard to condition my arms for the front squat. Thank you.

[quote]aut-x-rs wrote:
although mostly it was just using the grip itself.[/quote]

This.
For me personally I found the best thing was every time I went into the gym, I just did a quick wrist, and triceps stretch then loaded the bar up and put it in position then held it there in a clean grip without squatting. Although I reckon sitting at my desk and stretching out my wrists all the time helped too.

In my experience (not much) I’ve found using a clean grip is the most comfortable for me, as with the crossed arm bodybuilder style I’d end up with the bar rolling down my shoulders if I was fatigued; with the clean grip I find it easier to keep my elbows up which stops it happening.
However I’ve also found I’m more susceptible to letting the bar roll onto my carotid artery just behind my collar bone, and went through a stage of almost passing out when I walked it out so that’s something you may want to watch out for.

That’s just my 2c - I’m pretty sure Hungry4More uses a BB style and he Front squats a ton more weight than I do so don’t write it off at all.

As far as leg develop goes ther will be no difference.

Theres no harm in doing the clean grip for the real light sets then as you ramp up to cross your arms or add straps. Do whatever you need to do to squat properly. Thats pretty much it.

[quote]kanew wrote:

[quote]aut-x-rs wrote:
although mostly it was just using the grip itself.[/quote]

This.
For me personally I found the best thing was every time I went into the gym, I just did a quick wrist, and triceps stretch then loaded the bar up and put it in position then held it there in a clean grip without squatting. Although I reckon sitting at my desk and stretching out my wrists all the time helped too.

In my experience (not much) I’ve found using a clean grip is the most comfortable for me, as with the crossed arm bodybuilder style I’d end up with the bar rolling down my shoulders if I was fatigued; with the clean grip I find it easier to keep my elbows up which stops it happening.
However I’ve also found I’m more susceptible to letting the bar roll onto my carotid artery just behind my collar bone, and went through a stage of almost passing out when I walked it out so that’s something you may want to watch out for.

That’s just my 2c - I’m pretty sure Hungry4More uses a BB style and he Front squats a ton more weight than I do so don’t write it off at all.
[/quote]

Thanks for that kanew. I started with the cross grip first. I read in Cressey’s Maximum Strength book about position the bar close to the neck such that it’s almost choking (sorry, is this what you meant by carotid artery?), he also suggests (like many) to keep working at it and get beyond the conditioning stage.

I did 4 x 8 yesterday with a 40X0/4010 tempo. Set 3 and 4 were hard, but I think my hands were feeling it a bit too from gripping the straps. I alternated with single leg curls 4 x 8 using the same tempo and 90s rest period between sets.

[quote]BONEZ217 wrote:
As far as leg develop goes ther will be no difference.

Theres no harm in doing the clean grip for the real light sets then as you ramp up to cross your arms or add straps. Do whatever you need to do to squat properly. Thats pretty much it. [/quote]

Thanks for the advice Bonez. I’ll keep working on the FS, it’s nearly 4 weeks of it on the current program. I’ll keep stretching my forearms whenever possible and experiment with clean grip on lower weights and the warm-up. Will focus on the squat form, I’m doing ATG currently.

[quote]XanderBuilt wrote:

[quote]kanew wrote:

[quote]aut-x-rs wrote:
although mostly it was just using the grip itself.[/quote]

This.
For me personally I found the best thing was every time I went into the gym, I just did a quick wrist, and triceps stretch then loaded the bar up and put it in position then held it there in a clean grip without squatting. Although I reckon sitting at my desk and stretching out my wrists all the time helped too.

In my experience (not much) I’ve found using a clean grip is the most comfortable for me, as with the crossed arm bodybuilder style I’d end up with the bar rolling down my shoulders if I was fatigued; with the clean grip I find it easier to keep my elbows up which stops it happening.
However I’ve also found I’m more susceptible to letting the bar roll onto my carotid artery just behind my collar bone, and went through a stage of almost passing out when I walked it out so that’s something you may want to watch out for.

That’s just my 2c - I’m pretty sure Hungry4More uses a BB style and he Front squats a ton more weight than I do so don’t write it off at all.
[/quote]

Thanks for that kanew. I started with the cross grip first. I read in Cressey’s Maximum Strength book about position the bar close to the neck such that it’s almost choking (sorry, is this what you meant by carotid artery?), he also suggests (like many) to keep working at it and get beyond the conditioning stage.

[/quote]

Yeh, it’ll sit against your throat sometimes, that’s not what I meant though; just something you’ll have to get used to - I don’t mind it too much.
The artery bit is where the bar will just sometimes settle in a certain position behind my collar bone and I’ll end up getting really light-headed; a couple of times I’ve dropped into the squat only to find myself standing a couple of seconds later with absolutely no memory of squatting.
I asked it about on here and was told it was quite common and if it happens just re-rack it and reposition the bar. I’ve found it doesn’t happen as often now as I’ve learnt how to position the bar on my shoulders better.

[quote]kanew wrote:

[quote]XanderBuilt wrote:

[quote]kanew wrote:

[quote]aut-x-rs wrote:
although mostly it was just using the grip itself.[/quote]

This.
For me personally I found the best thing was every time I went into the gym, I just did a quick wrist, and triceps stretch then loaded the bar up and put it in position then held it there in a clean grip without squatting. Although I reckon sitting at my desk and stretching out my wrists all the time helped too.

In my experience (not much) I’ve found using a clean grip is the most comfortable for me, as with the crossed arm bodybuilder style I’d end up with the bar rolling down my shoulders if I was fatigued; with the clean grip I find it easier to keep my elbows up which stops it happening.
However I’ve also found I’m more susceptible to letting the bar roll onto my carotid artery just behind my collar bone, and went through a stage of almost passing out when I walked it out so that’s something you may want to watch out for.

That’s just my 2c - I’m pretty sure Hungry4More uses a BB style and he Front squats a ton more weight than I do so don’t write it off at all.
[/quote]

Thanks for that kanew. I started with the cross grip first. I read in Cressey’s Maximum Strength book about position the bar close to the neck such that it’s almost choking (sorry, is this what you meant by carotid artery?), he also suggests (like many) to keep working at it and get beyond the conditioning stage.

[/quote]

Yeh, it’ll sit against your throat sometimes, that’s not what I meant though; just something you’ll have to get used to - I don’t mind it too much.
The artery bit is where the bar will just sometimes settle in a certain position behind my collar bone and I’ll end up getting really light-headed; a couple of times I’ve dropped into the squat only to find myself standing a couple of seconds later with absolutely no memory of squatting.
I asked it about on here and was told it was quite common and if it happens just re-rack it and reposition the bar. I’ve found it doesn’t happen as often now as I’ve learnt how to position the bar on my shoulders better.[/quote]

Bump.

I’ve gone well into the 400’s on front squats, and never blacked out. Maybe my body just doesn’t black out easily, but I’m guessing you just had the bar TOO far back against your throat…the opposite problem most people have. Setup is everything with front squatting.

Bump

Another grip that you might want to try is using the thumbs. Put our hands palms together thumbs pointing up (think ‘praying’) hook the thumbs under the bar (I usually curl my fingers in or overlap them for comfort) you’ll still need to keep elbows up.I guess it similar to using straps.

Any of you use one of these: http://www.jackalsgym.com/store/img/bbFSHarness.png

We have one at my gym and I tried it once. I didn’t like the way it imbalanced me but even moreso I didn’t like how it felt between my legs, sorta restrictive. Some of the Elite guys use it when they do front squats though, of course they don’t do front squats very often.