T Nation

Help with Front Squats


A little background first, so please bear with me.

I've been working out since I joined T-Nation, but progress (in terms of building muscle and strength) has been agonisingly slow due to injuries in both shoulders and knees, pretty much since day one.

I've tried bodybuilding and power-lifting style training methods, and I find that the volume of the former, and heavy (relative) weight required by the latter, has my shoulders and knees aching most days. I'm at the stage where I am ready to give up on these training styles as they clearly do not agree with my body, and I do not want my shoulders and knees operated on just yet (I'm 25).

In recent months, I've become very interested in Olympic lifting, and as it was a style I had not yet tried, about 2 months ago, after watching videos of Donny Shankle and Pyrros Dimas for inspiration, and technique, I started practising full cleans and power cleans. It also gave me an excuse to wear my little used Adidas lifting shoes.

So, to my actual question...

When I front squat from the catch position, it feels good - little to no knee discomfort, and the bar feels like it is seated nicely on my shoulders, with my elbows reasonably high. It feels like a powerful position, and I feel that I can accelerate the bar upwards.

However, when I perform front squats from a rack, there is more knee discomfort (especially on the descent), more strain on my wrists, and I don't feel I can be as explosive.

Also, butt wink seems to be more prevalent on the latter, although I have no video to confirm this, and don't fancy looking sideways into a mirror while squatting.

Furthermore, within the past six months (maybe more), I've been experiencing some lower back pain, for the first time ever. It's not severe, in fact it is most certainly moderate. I feel it mostly on bent-over rows and after deadlifts. Could this be related to "butt wink" and/or increased squatting volume?

I am assuming "butt wink" is present, and I am trying to strengthen my glutes and abs, and stretch my hip flexors and hamstrings (I do sit down a lot). Can't remember exactly where I found that advice, possibly Elliot Hulse's YouTube channel.

I've worked up to 6 sets of 2-3 reps with 50kg, which felt easy. I am determined to take this slowly and get the technique perfected before getting ambitious with the weight. My plan is to add 2.5kg per week, until I notice form deteriorating, at which point I'll stay at that weight until it feels comfortable.

I want to get into jerks and snatches too, however, the lunge position hurts my right knee, and I don't feel stable overhead squatting with weight yet. I can overhead squat with a dowel/broomstick and an empty bar though.

Should I just focus on cleans and front squats for a while, and leave out the snatches and jerks?

I am aware of some mobility issues which affect one's ability to lift properly, but for me, rather than stretching, practising the movements has done more to improve my mobility than anything else. I guess, what I'm saying here is that I hate stretching! Also, my shoulder pain has all but disappeared since I started doing cleans.

I'll try and get some footage of my technique tomorrow.

Thanks in advance.


Here is some footage of me performing some cleans. Yes, it’s baby weight, I know, but I want to get the technique right first.


Start with your chest higher, work on your t-spine mobility
Hips start too high
Your weight is too far forward instead of on the heels throughout the movement
Try pushing your knees out as well as forward - it’s probably why you get knee pain.


Thanks. I’ll try your suggestions. However, I think I spoke too soon about my shoulder pain disappearing. They are quite painful today, so I won’t be in the gym for about a week.