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Need to Strengthen My Core for Front Squats

So, today I was hitting my Quads and doing Front Squats.
On one of my last set, I hit 315 lbs for 6 with good form, even though it was challenging.
I then decided to increase the weight up to 335 lbs and try it.
I could only do it for 2 reps, because I felt that the bar would simply roll off my shoulders with me starting to lean way too far forward. Even before initiating the squat, I felt my core very strained.
I could not do more than 2 reps, because my core was not strong enough and not because of weak Quads.

So this means only one thing: I need to strengthen my Core big time.
What exercises should I primarily be focusing on to do it?
I’ve done ab-wheel roll-outs and some body-weight core work, like dead-bugs.
Are there any more specific core exercises for me to strengthen my core?

Have a look at this article. Also unilateral farmers walks, decline situps and Shins to bar if you can do them. If not do hanging leg raises until you can get some solid reps on shin to bar and progress from there.

Front Squat to Improve Front Squat (most specific)

  • Set up right. Use Full Clean Grip with closed fist. Maximally secure shelf formed and cues use of the upper back.

  • Breath and Brace properly before every rep descent. During descent drop torso/ maintain bar path as close as possible to straight down/vertical

  • Cue to drive elbows up on the ascent to maintain upper back tightness

  • Stop doing 2 rep maxes randomly while already fatigued. Instead train with plenty of sub maximal volume. Get in good clean reps, ingrain the right motor pattern and get strong at being flat backed instead of rounding out all the time.

If your back is rounding then the above will be helpful.

If your torso is leaning forwards means quads need to be stronger.

Other Exercises (high specificity)

Zercher Squats/Rack Holds/Carries/Deadlifts
Atlas Stones
Paused Front Squat/Front Rack Holds

Isolated “core” work may help but is not very specific to Front Squatting and hence carryover will likely be a bit meh.


Generally your front squat will be limited by how strong your upper back is. Make that stronger and you’ll have fewer issues.


Upside down Hanging sit ups with a weight behind your head.

Find a chin up bar (or something similar). Have your homie keep your feet/ankles secure. You are now upside down. Put a 10-25 plate behind your head. And then do sit ups against gravity. Try to do 20-40 reps.

I do these twice a week (after back squats and deadlift days). Also great way to decompress your spinal column.

And lots and lots and lots of front squats.

I agree with this.

Doing front squats didn’t seem to help me all that much since my upper back was weak.

Now that it’s not as weak, my front squat feels easier.

If you’re front squatting 315lb for reps, I’d imagine that your back squat and whatever pull you do is much stronger than that. So… it’s probably not your core.

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So what exercises should I do for upper back strength?
Snatch-grip deadlifts, high-pulls, Pendlay Rows, Farmer’s Walks?

Dumbbell rows, barbell rows, facepulls, pull aparts, shrugs…

The rows are more for lats, which is mid-back, rather than upper back.

Deadlift variations and pulls from the floor tolerate upper back rounding and the movements don’t mimic the loading of the upper back in the front squat.

Farmer’s walks are better but if you hold the load out to the sides loading of the upper back is again not optimal for improving front squat. Maybe a carry where the load is towards the front of your body would be useful e.g. holding the heaviest dumbbell in the gym on your chest or zerchers

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Sure. When I got better at those, my front squat got better.

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So pick your elbows up higher instead of tucking them in when you row


Is your goal to build big quads or to build a bigger front squat? Because those are two different things. Front squatting 315x6+ while weighing 200 pounds is very good already and front squatting for heavy doubles isn’t the best way to build quads. So, figure out your goal and then decide what you want to do.

What does your training currently look like? The days, exercises, sets, and reps. Especially since the conversation has shifted from “need more core work” to “need more upper back work”, you really need to clarify what you’re doing now and your actual goal, otherwise we’re just shotgunning without context.

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Build big quads. But I do want to set my PR’s from time to time too. I am about 206 lbs and honestly, 3 plates front squat is NOT that much. I was just wondering why those 20 extra pounds made such a big difference.

So you want to know my full weekly program? Okay.
My routine is split into 5 training days:

  1. Quads; 2. Chest + Triceps; 3. Back + Biceps; 4. Shoulders and Traps; 5. Hamstrings

I try to train all 5 days in a row and have the full weekend off for recovery.

  1. Quads: Front Squat, Clean-Grip Reverse Lunge, Barbell Step-up, Hip Thrusts, Calf-Raises
  2. Chest + Triceps: Close Grip Bench Press, Flat Dumbbell Press, PJR Pullover, Cable Pull-down, Decline Dumbell Skullcrushers, Dips
  3. Back + Biceps: Snatch-Grip Deadlift, Overhand Barbell Row, One-Arm Landmine Row, One-Arm Lat Pull-down, Chin-ups, Bicep Cable Curls, Preacher or Spider Curls
  4. Shoulders + Traps: Military Press or Overhead Press, Snatch-Grip High Pulls, ,Dumbbell Front Raise, Cable Lateral Raise, Incline Dumbbell Shrugs, Cable Face Pulls
  5. Hamstrings: Zercher Squats (just started, so going light with these for now, can do 225 lbs for 5), Barbell Lunges, Romanian Deadlift, Nordic Ham Raise (GHR), Hip Thrusts, Calf Raises

This is quite a bit of volume, but the intensity is not the greatest.
For each FIRST exercise of the day listed, I do 5 working sets of 6-10 reps, lowering the reps while increasing the weight. For all the other exercises, I do 3-4 sets with the same rep range. For Calf Raises, I do 5 sets, starting with 20 reps at the lightest and 8 reps the heaviest. For shoulder Front Raises and Lateral Raises, I do 12-16 reps, because shoulders require more time under tension.

And after each training session, I do about 10-15 minutes of conditioning. Since I hate cardio, I do something different: on the lower body (Quad and Ham days) I push or pull a sled (Prowler). And on the other 3 days, I do Farmer’s Walks with either dumbbells or a Trap Bar. Thinking of doing it some Bearhug walks with 45 lbs plates. Yes, it IS a “Bro-Split”, so any objective critique of my routine is welcome.

So this is pretty much my training routine. It has its emphasis on Leg and Back Development. I feel like because these are the 2 largest muscle groups, I need to hit them more often. But barely any direct core work here.

A 1.5xBW front squat for 6+ reps is fairly advanced. Many other coaches would say so as well.

With that in mind, honestly I’d keep your training the way it is as long as you’re seeing muscle gains. PRs will happen naturally as you go along. The 335 seemed so much heavier because, well, it was heavier. Hit a hard 6-rep set on basically any lift then increase the weight 20 pounds, and you’ll be down around 2-4 reps.

You could think about spending 4-8 weeks going strictly strength-focused and then come back to the hypertrophy work, but I wouldn’t bother trying to tweak your current plan if it’s productive otherwise.

Technically, your “quads day” is “legs day #1” and your “hamstrings day” is “leg day #2”, because you’re not just hitting quads or hamstrings on either day.

With the exercises you’re doing, your upper back is getting worked on leg day #1 with the front squats and clean-grip reverse lunges; on back day with snatch-grip deads and the rowing work; on shoulder day with the SGHPs and face pulls; on leg day #2 with the Zerchers; and it’s getting some work during the farmer’s walks and sled pulling.

So I don’t think a weak upper back is holding back your front squat. Direct ab training is almost never a bad idea. There are tons of articles explaining how to implement ab work. Anything that has some flexion work and some anti-“whatever” work is a good place to start. Bang-for-buck, I like Pallof press iso-holds (basically this at a cable station, only holding the “out” position for a 5-10 count), 1-arm planks, and hanging knee raises.

Even just front squat overloads - loading 20ish% on the bar from your heaviest set, unracking it and standing still for a 10-15 count - can build core stability.

Hi there.

Another way to think about this.

As a general guideline, an ideal Front Squat should be about 85% of your Back Squat. I don’t believe you gave your Back Squat numbers, but looking at that ratio might help know if you’re where you’d expect to be with your Front Squats or if you really have an issue with that lift.

In other words, if your FS is only 70% of your BS, then you’d be more concerned about FS form issues.

BTW, that percentage applies FS to parallel.