T Nation

Front Squat Stance

hi all, I’m not a powerlifter but I figure this is probably the best place to post this as this must be where all the biggest squatters hang out. I promise I’ll slink back off to the bodybuilding section once I’ve got what I need…

So because of back problems I haven’t been able to train squats with any degree of consistency until quite recently, so I’m fine tweaking my form. I can front squat to a box (no pause) without it bothering my back so that’s what I’ve been doing.

Problem has been that it has really been hurting my knees as the weight has gone up. It’s pretty frustrating having your back feel fine just for your damn knees to start giving you problems!

What I’ve found though is that if I make my stance mega wide and turn my toes out loads I’m ok. I also have to push my knees out something fierce! Like really really push those bad boys out, to the point where in the bottom position of the squat my groin feels like I’m doing the splits. Knees don’t hurt at all doing this.

My question is: Should I just go with my mega wide stance and not worry about it? Are there ways I can fix this issue so I can make my stance a little narrower? I’d prefer a narrower stance for the sake of my quads but really the most important thing for me is just to be able to keep squatting so if it’s just a case of my levers dictating that I have to use the wide stance then so be it.

thanks

When I first started squating my knees hurt a lot, but after a few weeks of squating 3 times a week they felt a lot better. I mean, you might just have to narrow your stance and wait a few weeks until you adapt.

Some thoughts.

  • Can’t you try to fix your back? Sure it is hopeless?
  • Knees shouldn’t hurt. Might be a form issue. Have you tried raising your heels?
  • Why front squat to a box? Have you tried it without it? Stopping too high might piss off your knees.

@HGH yeah I guess maybe it could just be because they’re not used to it, I dunno though seems a bit risky just to try and power through…

@IF I don’t think my back is hopeless necessarily, it’s just a pain in the arse losing training time because I’m injured, so I think it makes the most sense to stick with the variation most likely to keep me healthy. I haven’t tried raising my heels, that might be worth trying although seems like it would just be treating the symptom, not the cause. I use the box to gauge depth only, there’s no pause. It is set to a decent depth. That’s actually another reason why I front squat instead of back squatting: much easier to hit a sensible depth.

Also check out the Oly forum. They do a lot of front squats.

And I find pausing a front squat on a box will take a lot of stress off the knees. Might even give you more posterior chain development which maybe lacking from not doing back squats.

do you think you could “sit back” further? I’ve had knee pain for the last couple of months and have basically dropped all quad movements. It seems like you’re the same way, the more you disengage your quads on the lift the less pain you have. I’m going to give a shit ton of IT band rolling + hip flexor stretching + TKEs a try before squatting today and hopefully that’ll help

I could probably sit back further. I suspect my ankle mobility sucks.

there’s no pain with the wide stance, I’m just not sure if that’ll set me up for problems further down the road…

I don’t know if turning your feet out really far is a good idea. I think stance width is really a matter of personal preference, but that the real danger to your knees is going to come from them caving inward. The further you turn your toes out, the harder you are going to have to jack your knees out in order to keep them from swooping in. Also, having your toes pointed more forward will help you keep your back in a nice position, which is probably important due to your back issues. Work to keep your toes pointed more forward and jack your knees out hard as a motherfucker, whatever stance width you choose.

My guess is just that you aren’t used to the more forward, more quad-active position of front squats. If it’s an achiness (not a sharp pain) in the knees, my bet is that it’s nothing to worry about. As long as you’re keeping your heels planted and your knees jacked out, you’re probably not actually injuring your knees. Sometimes joints just ache haha. If you’re really nervous, just progress slowly. Don’t handle any weights that are too heavy for a while, and see if it gets better the longer you do it. If it does, you know you probably just needed to adjust and work out the kinks.

Also, I second the “ask an olympic lifter” idea. They’d know best.

[quote]rds63799 wrote:
I could probably sit back further. I suspect my ankle mobility sucks.

there’s no pain with the wide stance, I’m just not sure if that’ll set me up for problems further down the road…[/quote]

Hopefully he doesn’t mean sit back more on the front squat, because that’s a very bad idea.

Enlighten me if I misunderstood, though.

[quote]N.K. wrote:
I don’t know if turning your feet out really far is a good idea. I think stance width is really a matter of personal preference, but that the real danger to your knees is going to come from them caving inward. The further you turn your toes out, the harder you are going to have to jack your knees out in order to keep them from swooping in. [/quote]

Actually, turning the toes out makes keeping your knees out easier, not more difficult. Your knees want to follow your toes.

[quote]Dr J wrote:

Actually, turning the toes out makes keeping your knees out easier, not more difficult. Your knees want to follow your toes.[/quote]

Not past a certain point.

If front squatting with a wide stance works for you, then just do it. I’m so tired of the “oh you HAVE to do this and this and blah blah”. Just do what works for you. If it doesn’t work…change it until it does. If it keeps on working, keep on doing it.

[quote]strongmanvinny wrote:

[quote]rds63799 wrote:
I could probably sit back further. I suspect my ankle mobility sucks.

there’s no pain with the wide stance, I’m just not sure if that’ll set me up for problems further down the road…[/quote]

Hopefully he doesn’t mean sit back more on the front squat, because that’s a very bad idea.

Enlighten me if I misunderstood, though.[/quote]
You are supposed to sit back in the front squat.

OP, for what it’s worth, I worked up to a 3RM in back squats yesterday and a 5RM in front squats after. My knee felt fine after. I took a couple months off squatting and just worked on my hams and glutes. Before squatting I foam rolled my IT bands, wore knee sleeves, stretched my hips, went on the stairmaster for 10 mins (similiar to TKEs), and did all my hamstring exercises.

Have you exhausted all possible options for knee health? My knee is feeling odd today (no pain thankfully) so I’m going to add in daily TKEs, more foam rolling/mobility work, and give squatting with elevated heels a try. If squatting with heels elevated helps then I may invest in lifting shoes. I think my ankles/hips are too tight for me to squat deep without putting excessive stress on my spine and knees.

[quote]browndisaster wrote:

[quote]strongmanvinny wrote:

[quote]rds63799 wrote:
I could probably sit back further. I suspect my ankle mobility sucks.

there’s no pain with the wide stance, I’m just not sure if that’ll set me up for problems further down the road…[/quote]

Hopefully he doesn’t mean sit back more on the front squat, because that’s a very bad idea.

Enlighten me if I misunderstood, though.[/quote]
You are supposed to sit back in the front squat.[/quote]

I do not believe this to be true. Sitting back in the front squat opposes the entire function of the movement. The fact that the bar is positioned in front of the base of support means that in order to keep the bar from falling out of it’s racked position, the squatter must squat in a manner where the lumbar spine is almost inhibited. I mean, think of that. Sitting back in a front squat…that’s like telling somebody to perform a good morning without sinking hips. You have to squat with all the bend in the knees or else your thoracic extension goes to nothing, and in my opinion, front squats only serve the purpose of strengthening your thoracic extension and providing explosive leg power for an athlete. But believe me, I can so sit back in a front squat, I just enjoy front squatting heavy weights! Seems impossible to do that if I were to sit back in the movement…just my perspective though.

you have a lot more expertise in this than I do. I should’ve clarified that you need to sit back to an extent, obviously not as much as on a back squat. Personally I need to think sit back and down when front squatting, instead of following some shitty blogger’s advice of just sitting down. If I sit too far back I have to round my upper back (is that what you mean by losing thoracic extension?) or I lose the bar, but it’s entirely possible for me not to sit back enough and just bend at the knees excessively, which is horrible for them.

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
you have a lot more expertise in this than I do. I should’ve clarified that you need to sit back to an extent, obviously not as much as on a back squat. Personally I need to think sit back and down when front squatting, instead of following some shitty blogger’s advice of just sitting down. If I sit too far back I have to round my upper back (is that what you mean by losing thoracic extension?) or I lose the bar, but it’s entirely possible for me not to sit back enough and just bend at the knees excessively, which is horrible for them.[/quote]

Sitting back causes your lumbar spine and hips to take a load that it physically cannot handle in the front squat. The reason it cannot is because the bar is over the base of support, meaning the only way for you to actually maintain the bar in the racked position (aka not dropping the bar off your shoulders mid-rep) is to squat in a manner that is analogous to olympic atg high-bar squats (i.e. a squat initiated with almost all knee bend!). What I mean by ‘losing thoracic extension’ is that using a queue such as sitting back in the FS would totally diminish your upper back/thoracic spines capacity to function in the lift, which is ABSOLUTELY A MUST to front squat heavy weight!

An ideal stance for front squat:

A. Head straight, down wouldn’t elicit a maximal response from the cervical spine, and up too much would probably cause damage to those sensitive in that area.

B. Toes pointed quite a bit out for obvious reasons, wouldn’t say feet width makes too much of a difference, personal preference I guess?

C. Try keeping a ‘neutral’ core in the motion. Because the bar is in front of base of support, you can’t rely on your inter-abdominal pressure as you would with a deadlift or a back squat. Keeping them tight seems to be the best method.

Have fun?!?!

Single leg an option?

thanks for all the replies guys.

As for sitting back, I squat down to a box (no pause) which I think means I’ll sit back a bit. Not really sure how much further back I could go but I’ll certainly try.

Maybe it’s just my lever lengths mean I have to squat wide…

i can help you on this as i am a powerlifter with experience in oly lifting.

jump as high as you can. the feet position you use when you jump is the one you will use for squatting. it should be about hip width - slightly wider or slightly narrower. grab the bar with the clean grip and focus on keeping your elbows up. the front squat is as much a upperback exercise as it is a leg exercise. now go down low right down til your hammies touch your calves, dont use a box that should only be used when wide stance squatting in my opinion <- IN MY OPINION OK? ITS MY OPINION.

what this ATG squat does is maximum quad and glute activation. try it, your glutes will be shot and your quads will be jelly after this. now push your feet into the ground vertically with as much power you can muster and lockout. repeat this procedure. stop when your form starts going to shit because front squats must be done with near perfect form every single rep.

take note that you should be putting in concious effort to keep knees from going past the toes. dont flare your knees when doing this because it will put more stress on the knees. you have to push directly into the ground and not trying to rip the ground apart like in powerlifting. the knee pain you are experiencing comes from having tight quads or tight hammies. get a foam roller and massage quads and hammies everyday. also make sure to stretch them everyday. your knees will get better. if not then there is a more sinister cause to it

Check oly section if you haven’t done that.

My advice would be to start by elevating the heels in a relatively narrow stance. Watch the oly lifters on YouTube, all the good ones are pretty narrow stance and all have oly shoes with an elevated heel. If you should copy anybody in fs it should be them.