I tried them for the first time last night and what an ego buster it was. I was trying to do sets of 10, so I figured I’d start with about 60% of what I can do on back squats for that many reps. So I proceeded to load 205 onto the bar and wow, barely got back up with 1 half rep. So I swallowed my pride and dropped all the way down to 145 and barely knocked out 6 good reps. So I threw my pride straight out the window and finally got to a comfortable weight at 125. Does this sound normal to anyone or am I doing something terribly wrong. My form seemed good once I got used to the movement, but it seems like I should be able to handle a little larger load than that.
it is very common to have a hard time with front squats the first time you do them. Some things that I have found to transition better are:
If you perform high bar back squats versus low bar (powerlifting type squats) you will have an easier time transitioning to front squats because the loading and posture are much more similar. Also the flexibility developed during high bar back squats (particuarlly in in hips, groin and knee, has a lot more carry over. If you have been performing your squats low bar style like a powerlifter, this will allow you to go much heavier because of the leverage advantage the low bar placement provides. However there will be less carryover to a front squat.
Feel and technique have alot to do with front squats also. Remember, the front squat is a skill, much more technical and complex than a bicep curl. Just as you would not expect to go on a golf course the first time and outplay tiger woods, don’t expect to front squat and be better than the russian olympic team. It is gonna take some time to learn the skill of front squatting and depending upon several factors (your back squatting style already mentioned) it could take a few weeks or few months to get completely comfortable.
Work on developing better flexibility in your wrists and shoulders by simply doing the lift over and over under load for weeks at a time. Depending on how much non functional hypertrophy you have this could take a while. But just keep practicing the lift and eventually your body will adapt. Forget about specific wrist stretches, just do the exercise.
ONe final not, you would be a fool if you don’t get christian thibodeau’s book, the black secrets (available on t-mag). He has a whole chapter devoted to learning the olympic lifts from the ground up which is very good. He includes specific olympic lift joint and muscle mobility exercises that will facilitate your progress immensely.
If you were attempting to use 60% of your 10 RM and got 205, then your 10 RM is about 345. I think that is very strong, and you should definitely be able to do more than 125 for 10 on the front squat.
It is most likely a matter of getting used to the movement and finding a comfort zone within sets. The more you do them, the more weight you’ll be able to do, no doubt. With a back squat that strong, you’ll probably be able to get up to 205 x 10 on the front squat (just a guess).
My back squat is pretty strong, still breaking some old habbits, trying to get lower than I used to. I was guilty of being a half squatter for years. Over the past 6 months I have been working on technique and making sure I do full squats. For the record, I do use a low bar technique on my back squats and I have done sets of 8 with 365. So I was just guessing when I came up with 205 for 10. I will continue to work on the front squat, even though the weight I used was low, I got a great lower quad pump that I’ve never really felt with back squats even using strict form.
I use a sting ray device when front squatting. It distributes the bar pressure and makes it more comfortable. More comfort = more weight, for me at least.
try placing the bar as far back into you throat as you can (without cutting off the blood or air supply!). you’ll find that you’ll take the strain off your wrists, your elbows will be high, and your upper body will be better able to stay erect when squatting.
The other posts on this thread offer good advice as I had a similar experience in that I had to really use light weight until I dialed in the technique and adapted to the movement.
My advice would be to not sorry about the big weight, but how much you feel it. As with anything focus on the technique and feel at 1st, make sure your hitting the muscle(s) correctly,
then progress comes.
yeah its humbling! But well worth it. Sure, front squats are about as much fun as watching grass grow, but they are definetely a staple on my leg routines. After awhile, you will get used to them and the uncomfortableness will go away. Just stick with it brotha!
I’ve read that the 1RM in the front squat should be approximately 85% of your best effort in the back squat. If this is true, than you definitely should focus on the former lift for awhile, as difficult as it may be. I’m guessing by the numbers you’ve given that your weakness is in the quads.
I myself PREFER the front squat over the latter. Much more quad activation for someone who is of classic ectomorphic proportions.
Thanks for all your help and suggestions. I will keep at it and hopefully my quads will catch up with hip flexors and lower back. I never realized how under developed my quads were strength wise. Would any ancillary movements help speed up the progress? i.e. leg extensions, hip sled?
Just stick with front squats (say in the 3-5 rep range) and forget about the hip sled and leg extension. Those two exercises will contribute nothing to the carryover strength you’re looking for.
Since its such an intense postural movement I find it very hard to do 10 rep sets with front squat and even when going higher rep usually use 8.
You’ll be surprised that below parallel Front Squats are an incredible hamstring exercise. Given your description, I would suggest you perform 1 1/2’s as noted in a article I wrote called “Forgotten Squats” in which you combine it with barbell Hack Squats.
Let me know if I can help -
Pete is correct. Very few trainees can maintain posture in the front squat beyond 8 reps due to fatigue of the smaller scapular retractors.
Practice practice practice is really the best advice. Issues of balance, posture, squat depth will all come if you keep at the exercise. I’ve come so far along in a matter of a couple of months.
I find myself using much heavier weight than I ever thought possible and going down lower than ever before, while maintaining better posture. Just stick with them.
I’m looking to get into those BB hacks…they look awkward though.