August 21, 2021 9 min read
Squats are a necessity in nearly any gym routine. Not only are they great for building lower body strength, but they are essential for working on your physique or getting better lower body endurance.
One popular squat variation is the barbell front squat, which can get you some massive quads and really hone in on your lower body strength.
If you’re not sure exactly what front squatting is, not to worry. While it may sound self-explanatory to some, it can be hard to imagine how a front squat works. With a front squat, you’ll still use a barbell much like you would in a traditional squat.
However, that is pretty much where the similarities end. The form is quite different and instead of sitting the barbell on your back or shoulders, the barbell will rest on your chest.
While conventional squats are the most popular, front squats have several benefits compared to a traditional squat, such as a diminished load on the knees. This is not to say if you’re doing conventional squats you should give them up altogether. However, if you suffer from certain issues, front squats may be better for you.
Benefits of front squats include:
Of course, there are some limitations to front squats:
If you find front squats too difficult or are in need of some change in the gym, there are several great front squat alternatives that will provide similar benefits.
Goblet squats are an amazing way to prepare the body for full-on front squats. The difference? Use a dumbbell or kettlebell in place of the barbell. This will allow you to work on form rather than trying to balance a long bar across the chest. Goblet squats are also a great option for on-the-go exercise.
Here is how to do a goblet dumbbell squat:
The Zercher squat is awkward but it works. The barbell is held in the creases of your elbows rather than being supported by the chest. It's not recommended for everyone because it is uncomfortable, however this discomfort can be mitigated by using a bar pad.
The form can be odd, so here’s a good breakdown:
A favorite for building the glutes is the Bulgarian split squat. These are another movement with difficult form, but once you get them down get ready to see amazing results.
Bulgarian split squats aren’t easy, but the best way to tackle them is to just do them. Your form will get better, but avoid adding heavy weight if you aren’t confident with the movement.
There are many definitions of hack squat floating around in gym discourse. In order to save you the confusion, hack squats generally refer to a squatting machine. This is not the Smith machine, which you’re probably familiar with, but a different machine that may resemble some sort of Medival torture device.
All jokes aside, the hack squat is an amazing way to get a great lower body workout in.
To do a hack squat:
If you’ve ever done a few sets of lunges you know they are no joke and you can basically plan on not being able to use stairs the day after. Often forgotten about and neglected, lunges are an amazing addition or alternative for any lower body routine. And the great thing? The form is relatively simple.
To do a lunge, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, step out in front of you with one foot, allowing the knees to bend into the lunge. Keep your front knee aligned with your ankle to form a 90-degree angle
Maintain good posture throughout the movement. To come back to the starting position, simply stand up straight again.
Hack squats aren’t the only machine that is amazing for your lower body. Leg presses are another great way to work on your legs.
While machines have their drawbacks, you can use the position of your feet to change your targeted muscles. Another plus is that form is simple, so you can really pack on the weight.
The leg press machine typically requires a position in which you are laying down. There is a large foot pad to place the feet on. Simply push the pad up and drop the safety bars on either side. This will allow you to move the pad in a controlled manner down towards you.
Next, press the footpad back up. Although you’re lying down, be sure to engage the core and pay attention to the compression on your back. There really isn’t much else to it!
Smith machines are a good tool to utilize when you’re feeling unsure or timid in both strength or form. They can also be a lifesaver if you don’t have a gym buddy to spot your big lifts. The Smith machine really allows you to play around with what feels best for your body without the added pressure of controlling a barbell.
Like most squat variations, front squats can easily be done on the Smith machine.
Here’s how to do it:
If you really like your back squats, high bar squats are a great front squat alternative. Simply place the bar on the trapezius muscle and go to town.
Single-leg squats, also known as pistol squats, are incredibly difficult if you don’t already have some established lower body strength and mobility. However, if you can do single-leg squats, you have the potential to further your gains tremendously with this leg exercise.
A single-leg squat requires stability as much as strength. To begin, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Next, lift one leg out in front of you, simultaneously squatting with the other leg. It is best to have a buddy spotting you as the potential to land on your you-know-what is high.
Squeeze the core and maintain a good, stable posture, slowly lowering yourself down. Once you’ve reached a good deep squat, power up through the leg to stand up.
If you are looking for a front squat alternative that is completely squat-free, you can try deadlifts. Deadlifts are a popular compound lift that promotes lower body strength, much like squats.
You’re also going to get a good back workout, as well. While deadlifts cannot completely replace squats, they can be a good option if you cannot perform squats for any reason.
Front squats are a great exercise for building lower body strength. Whether you want to boost your endurance, build muscle and explosiveness, or up your game in your CrossFit exercises, front squats can help you get there.