I’ve been on a slight hiatus…
Seriously, I was attacked by some virus monster and have been totally out of commission since last Thursday, when I first felt the slightest scratch in my throat. That scratch turned into a full blown monster Thursday night, leaving me feeling like death until, well, about 12 hours ago.
Now I’m on the upswing!
I haven’t stepped foot in the gym for 8 days now, which is really unfortunate because my lift last Wednesday was a total Beast. I finally hit 145 on my squats again for the first time since September, and it felt…dare I say it… fairly easy?! I hadn’t felt that good on back squats in months, and I attribute it partially to resting more lately, but also adding in some serious reps on my front squats. As much as I used to hate them, the front squat can be an enormously helpful tool for improving your other compound lifts, most notably the back squat.
If you’re familiar with CrossFit, you’re definitely familiar with the front squat.
I avoided them for a long time, mostly because if you’re not used to them, it’s awfully uncomfortable to have a heavy barbell situated on your clavicles/deltoids. And it gets even less comfortable as more and more weight is added to the bar. Although once I stopped being a huge baby and just sucked it up, I found that each time I did them, having the barbell in the front loaded position got much more comfortable. The body does adapt to repeated stresses, ya know.
So anyway, why are we talking about this? Because it’s an important lift, that’s why. And also because I don’t think I’m alone in avoiding them. So why might the front squat be a valuable lift to add into your training?
1. You will probably improve your back squat. If you’re like many people, you may lean forward a bit too much on your back squat. This is likely due to 2 things: tight hip flexors, as well an anterior abdominal wall that is weak as sh*t. If your core is not strong enough to hold you upright during your back squat, it’s going to hinder your form and limit your potential. Front squatting works your core like crazytown, which will increase your abdominal strength for future back squat sessions. Since I have started incorporating front squats into my program, my back squats have felt infinitely easier. Did I ever think of myself as having a “weak” core? HELL NO. I can plank for days. But apparently, that doesn’t count when you’ve got a barbell loaded with your bodyweight across your back.
2. You will improve your core strength. Ahem. Notice I said “will”, and not “can” or “maybe”. As noted above, the front squat is a beast when it comes to strengthening the core and anterior abdominal wall. I won’t get into spinal compression here, or the dangers of spinal flexion exercises like crunches. But just know that anti-flexion and anti-rotation exercises for the core are the bees knees. The front squat just happens to be king of all of those exercises, and then some. As I said above, I can plank for days. But the first time that I front squatted with an appreciable amount of weight? My abs were SORE. I’m talking serious DOMS. And I don’t think my abs have been sore since I first learned how to snowboard, which was years ago.
3. You can’t cheat. Cheating on the back squat is easy, and many people do it. Leaning too far forward is one of the main ways that people cheat, aside from going through about 30 degrees of knee flexion and calling it a day. With the front squat, you can’t lean forward, or you’ll lose the bar. Really. And no one wants to be that guy. While yes, you can cheat and only go through a tiny range of motion if you really want to, I’ve actually found that my range of motion (and the ease of getting to proper depth) on my front squats is better than my back squats. Likely because of my core issues noted above.
Before we go I just want to make sure that everyone knows I am in no way bashing the back squat. It’s one of my absolute favorite lifts, and while is an extremely important lift, especially when training for absolute strength (and why else would you train), the front squat is an excellent accessory lift. It can be a little bit humbling, as you’ll never be able to lift as much with a front squat as you can with a back squat, but as far as I’m concerned, many of those who frequent the weight room could use a little humbling now and again.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the front squat, here is a video of Molly Galbraith (who is basically my weight room hero) crushing them for 210 x 3. Watch and learn, folks.
Of course, if you’ve never done this lift before, start with a weight that you know you can handle, and be sure to use proper form in order to avoid injury.
Do you use front squatting in your lifts? Or do you avoid them like the plague like I used to? Do you find that front squats improve your back squats? What’s a lift or exercise that you used to avoid but now you love it?