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Front Squats: Bustin' me up

Word. Using the ‘Bodybuilder’ style grip (bar on shoulders, arms crossed over the bar) during front squats, I seem to have injured my left shoulder. Feels like a problem with the joint…it hurts like hell during incline d-bell press and military press. I tend to be pretty meticulous about form and never use bouncing or jarring movements, so my feeling is that the weight of the bar simply stressed the joint in a manner it’s not used to. Is the bodybuilder grip generally regarded as hard on the shoulders? The Olympic grip is pretty tough but maybe I’m better off practicing it or using ‘the rack’ grip as suggested in the Forgotten Squats article. One more thing, does anyone lift the same amount in front squats as they do back, or is it normal to lift less in the front squats? Any thoughts or opinions?

Definately, start trying to use the olympic grip. I use to hate front squat until I started doing cleans. All of the sudden, I got comfortable in the rack position and front squats felt great. I wasn’t losing the bar and I had no pain in my shoulder. Just make sure to stretch out your wrists and warm them up before front squatting.

Another option I've used with some of my basketball players with poor wrist flexibility is a dumbell front squat. Clean the dbs up, resting one side on your delts and using a hammer grip and then squat away.

Finally, I cannot front squat as much as back squat. Back squats allow for a more stable bar placement and significantly more posterior chain involvement.

More muscle & less bar stability issues = more weight lifted with back squats.

I use straps with front squats, a tip I learned from Poliquin back when he wrote for Muscle Media. It definitely beats the crossed arms style, and I can handle alot more weight that way.

Please describe how you use straps to support more weight more comfortably. Do you strap over or under the bar? What is your hand placement like? I want to work my quads more using front squats, but the delt strain and protecting my lower back that was injured a while back, seem to make front squats less effective for me. Thanks for any help.

make sure you first try the O-lift style with the bar in “the rack” position. Please fill me in whether you have flexibility problems with this. In faith, Coach Davies

Jason - Thanks for the advice. I’m not sure I can safely clean dbells heavy enough to effectively work my quads, but it sounds like a well designed position for holding them. I’m looking forward to trying this out…Coach - I’ve tried the rack position with lighter weights and really liked it. I found my wrists ached at the end of each set, but not a really ‘bad’ pain, just felt like some pretty extreme stretching and went away quickly. It might take a while to work up to heavier weights this way but I liked it much better than a regular olympic grip. I just watched ‘Pumping Iron’ (kicks ass), and was surprised at how narrow a stance Arnold uses during squating. It seems like this would also increase the use of the quads over the glutes/hams. I wonder if narrow stance back squats could be as effective as front squats for quads.

Wrap the straps roughly shoulder-width around the bar. Keep your upper arms as close to parallel as possible, support the bar on your delts just as you would with the Olympic-style grip, but clench those straps with your palms facing each other. It’s tricky, you have to weigh the tension on them. I usually keep my knuckles in contact with my jawline. And keep your elbows up! It’s not difficult to get the hang of really, I definitely prefer doing front squats in this manner. Good luck!

Thank you for the explanation Chris. I will give it a go Wednesday on my quad dominant workout. Do you pre-exhaust your quads with extensions or anything, or are you able to handle sufficient weight with straps to effectively work your quads?

No, no pre-exhaustion or anything like that. I forgot to tell you to make sure you never do more than sets of 6 reps when performing front squats. I do them in a 5x5 format. That same Poliquin article I mentioned said that the rhomboids will fatigue isometrically before the quads do! But definitely give those straps a go, be sure to perform plenty of warm-up sets to get it right. And keep those elbows up! Front squats are my absolute favorite exercise. I get more out of them than anything else for legs!