T Nation

Front Squats and hand positioning

Tomorrow is CT’s OVT leg day and it calls for front squats. Last week I did them for the first time with my wrists under the bar and my elbows straight out in front of me, but it felt really awkward. Does anybody have some tips or tricks to overcome the awkwardness? It almost feels like my grip is what is holding me back, not the weight.


I found that it got much, much better with practice. It’s just something you adapt to. I feel much stronger with front squats then I do with back squats now.

Just keep those elbows high.

i just shove my fists into the bar and keep my elbows up.

Hollywood, what’s up, brutha. You’ll find that that particular form that you’re utilizing is practiced by strength-training athletes and in strength rooms across the country.

However, there is another method that you might try. This one requires you to position the bar in the same place, but this time cross your arms in front of you such that your right hand is basically touching your left shoulder (but acutally pushing the bar back), while the left hand is on the right shoulder (i.e. bar).

Again, the principle of keeping your back straight and the elbows high holds here as well.

The former method that you describe requires greater flexibility in the wrists and shoulder joints, as well as overall stabilization, and is thus the preferred approach. I, however, resort to the latter method.

Yeah, Ryno is right…Keep your elbows high, this is key! This will keep your back straight and keep you from pitching the weight forward. I used to compete in the olympic lifts, and one piece of advice I can give you is to really work on your flexibility in your wrists. Get under the bar like you would rack it for front sqauts, and press your elbows up towards the sky. hold for about 15-20 seconds, repeat about 2-3 times. You should find that within about 2 weeks you should feel much more comfortable under the bar. Good luck.

i love the front squats, definitely need to have good flexibility. Another problem that i have is that the bar hits up against my collar bones or neck sometimes. you guys have any remedies for that. laters pk

I have to agree with Timbo on this. The arms-crossed variation is a lot more comfortable and easier to work with. pkradgreek, i’d suggest just adjusting your grip so that your hands are over the opposite shoulder. When you bring your elbows up, your delts should rise up above your collar bone, giving the bar a good mount to rest on.

IMOP the main objective is a striaght back so the load is in the quad instead of the hams and back, therefore whatever and position alows you to keep your elbows up and back striaght while maintaining control over the weight is your goal.

I agree w/ Timbo, crossing your hands seems to feel better in the wrists, but the elbows will tend to drop as the set progresses.

I grab the bar w/ my arms crossed, my thumb and two fingers on each hand are doing the gripping. It still digs into the delts, but give an take.

PK, have you tried wrapping a towel around the bar? That should assist.

Some time back I posted a question about just this, and received some GREAT replies. In my case, I had some wrist issues. Here’s the thread in its entirety:

brider 2002-01-11 17:33:37
I’ve got a question regarding the grips used in front squats. I’ve recently re-introduced them into my routine as a pre-exhaust for the quads prior to standard back squats and deadlifts. I sprained my right wrist about 3 months ago (hyperextended it), and it still bothers me when doing the clean grip. I’m finding that with the cross grip, the bar either chokes me (passing out isn’t a good option), or rests too far down the delts and just plain hurts to the point I’ve gotts stop the set. I haven’t tried the Sting Ray – any input on that contraption? – or towel wraps, but I thought I’d put this out there for some feedback. And please, if your advice is to just suck it up and do the lift, then save yourself the keystrokes and go on to the next post.

Eric 2002-01-11 18:37:21
About three months ago, I began to incorporate front squats into my quad workout on a consistent basis. I can honestly say that it was the best training decision I’ve made in a while. Now, I use them 3-4 times out of every five workouts in place of back squats. I just don’t feel back squats in my quads, but with front squats I’ve both felt it, gotten stronger, and put 2" on my quads (although Mag-10 helped as well). I use the cross grip. Just off the top of my head: you may be setting the pins too high at the start. I set the bar at lower pec height, come from underneath it and allow it to slide up my anterior delts onto my pecs (which are flexed). Also, make sure to keep your head up. Otherwise, you are the one initiating the choke, not the bar. Be sure to keep your arms at or close to 90 degrees. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to adjust during the set by jerking it upwards (almost like a gripless high pull). Obviously, with this much weight on you, it’s hard to make this adjustment perfectly. Until you get the hang of it, I wouldn’t use it as a pre-exhaust. It’s best learned with light weights, so I incorporated it at the end of my workouts at first. I wouldn’t go below six reps, either. If you’re looking for a good way to use it as a burnout set, do three sets back squats, 3 sets leg presses, 3 sets leg extensions, and then use the front squats for 20 super slow reps (painful, especially the next day-but definitely worth it). One thing I can’t advise you on is the bruises I get on my anterior delts, which is a physiological thing out of my control. I’m not worried, though, as I don’t walk around with my shirt off in the winter, and I have a tan to blend them in in the summer. Hope this helps. Good luck, and don’t give up.

Drax 2002-01-11 18:54:43
You can do them without touching the bar with your hands at all, just hold your arms straight out in front of you. Make sure the bar is in that divot your delts make though.

Joey Z. 2002-01-11 20:51:58
I am currently employing an X-handed grip. (The inside of my hands is about 8 inches apart.)… While being careful to keep the elbows high, I GRIP THE BAR FIRMLY and pull the shoulder blades together which helps stabilize the upper back and keep the shoulder joints TIGHT! I balance the bar high on the chest, resting it in a groove between clavicle and the upper-pecs. This posture helps me distribute the load over a larger area: the anterior deltoids, clavicle/ upper pecs, and fingers/hands. (It’s also easy on the wrists) I love your method of doing front squats before back squats. (It truly works as a GREAT pre-fatigue!) When I do them your way, I find it a lot easier to go super deep on the back squats afterwards (and my quads blow up like balloons). I would also love to hear some feedback on the “Sting Ray!” My gym has a “Manta Ray” and nobody uses it because most find it VERY awkward. While using the “Manta Ray,” I feel like I’m going dump the load off my back at any moment during the set. I have heard that the “Sting Ray” functions much better for front squats than the “Manta Ray” does for backs. Is this true…?

Skizac 2002-01-11 23:02:47
I own a Sting Ray. I’ve tried front squats with many different grips and with the Sting Ray, but I can’t find a good way to do them that doesn’t have me leaning over too far at the bottom of the lift. The Sting Ray is very taxing on the delts, as the bar sits accross the anterior delts, farther away from the center of gravity than with an olympic or X grip. I find that when using it, my delts fatigue faster than my legs.

The end result was that I started out using a wierd grip, with the hands supinated, and keeping the fingers BETWEEN the bar and my shoulders. This allowed me to get used to the motion at lower weights and stabilize my stance, THEN work on the proper grip. When I started upping the weight, my fingers couldn’t take the pressure any more, so I changed. I now use a crossed arm grip, but can go handless (as in take my hands off the bar and only have the delts holding it) should the need arise. Keep at it, it’ll come.

Wow, thanks for the great replies guys! I wasn’t even sure if the post had made it through because the page had errored out when I posted it last night.

I’ve tried the arms crossed method before and felt comfortable with it, but decided to try the clean grip in the last workout. I will start tonights training with a clean grip, but have a feeling I may be switching back to the arms crossed as so many of you suggest.

Again, thanks for the very informative replies, gentlemen!


Another thing – I think Hatfield’s “Safety Squat” bar essentially puts the load into a front squat position, but the bar actually goes on the back (similar position to a normal back squat). Not absolutely sure about this, but you might want to check it out on his sight


Here’s my two cents . . .

I’m not realy a big fan of the cross-handed grip, as it gets rather difficult to use once you start getting into the really heavy weight. Here’s a trick I learned from one of the competitive olympic lifters in our gym, which makes it alot easier on the wrists. Keep the regular “elbows forward” position (like when you rack a power clean), but instead of trying to wrap all of your fingers firmly around the bar, only use your middle three fingers to hold the bar in place - and keep the pinky and thumb totally off the bar. Therefore, the bar should be resting across the delts/clavicle, with the tips of the middle three fingers sort of hooked around the bar, and the elbows held high.

I’m not the greatest at explaining things in words, but I hoped that this will at least give you another option.

Keep working on your hip/back/shoulder flexability and your ability to front squat with a clean grip will come. You might also want to look at the form of some o-lifters to see how they’re holding the bar. Most keep their hands slightly outside of their shoulders and twist their arms (elbows) up and in. When I first started front squats I didn’t know about the proper way to hold the bar, so I was keeping my elbows straight with my hands and I was constantly losing the bar ( and my balance) forward. Once i watched a few o-lifters do cleans and front squats, i figured out the problem and FS became much, much easier.

try to take two DL straps and choke them around the bar at the same position where your hands would be at, so the straps are hanging off the bar. As you approach the bar simply grab the straps close to the bar and rotate your elbow forward like you were going to rack a clean. My athletes who have poor wrist flexability like this because they can get into a good position and it tends to be more stable than the crossed arms. Hope this helps.

Stretch your lats.