The Cable/ Bar Guy racking a Squat Clean,
the same bottom position as for a Front Squat.
When incorporating leg exercises into one's training schedule, the FRONT SQUAT is probably the purest test of usable leg strength there is. Unlike the back squat, where a trainee has a tendency to lean forward, and use more of the back sided muscles than might be desired, the front squat keys more on the muscles that straighten the leg, namely the quads.
When performing front squats the most effective way to hold the bar is in your hands. In fact, when performing any athletic oriented weight training exercise, the rule that should apply is:" Do as much as you can while standing on your own two feet while holding the bar in your own two hands".
One can not call them self a COMPLETE STRENGTH ATHLETE if you do most of your exercises sitting down, laying down, or leaning up against something. This just doesn't equate to "real world" situations.
Now, if you can't seem to master holding the bar, don't give up. If you persevere the flexibility will eventually come. To front squat efficiently, you will need to be flexible in your ankles, knees, back, shoulders, arms, and wrists. If you're tight in any one of these areas then you will have work to loosen yourself up.
PRE FRONT SQUAT STRETCHING EXERCISES
CALF STRETCHES: To loosen up the Achilles tendon of the ankles, stand on the edge of a block or step. Then let your heel drop down gradually below the top plane of the step. Do this progressively and statically for 5 to 6 reps. Progressive means working your way down. Don't stretch fully on the first rep. Just a little on the 1st and all the way by the 5th rep. Statically means to hold that stretched position for several seconds.
KNEELING SQUATS: Here you kneel down on the floor and just sit back to where your glutes touch your heels. Hold statically for 5 to 10 seconds. Generally about 3 times is enough for these.
SIDE LUNGES: Stand with your feet 3 to 4 feet apart or about twice shoulder width. Now progressively lunge sideways from one leg to the other holding each lunged position for 5 to 10 seconds. Do this about 5 reps. These will loosen up both the hips and knees together.
WRIST STRETCH: To loosen your wrists the best thing to do is just hold a light barbell and practice raising each elbow up in front of you.
Remember, you may have to persevere to get good flexibility to perform front squats efficiently. In the meantime don't abandon this great exercise if you're a little tight in certain areas. There are several alternative ways to hold the bar.
BALANCE WHEN FRONT SQUATTING
It's important when you front squat that you squat down in as upright a position as possible. If have trouble doing this you may need some higher heels on your shoes. Now, when you elevate your heels for front squats, I recommend no more than a one inch difference between your heel and the ball of your foot! More than that could put stress on your Patella tendon and the Anterior Cruciate ligament of your knee joints.
When front squatting you must keep your arms up where your humerus' are parallel with the floor. If you drop your elbows you will round your back forward and probably lose the bar. Now. if you can't hold your elbows up while holding the bar firmly then loosen your grip and allow the bar to sit just over your fingers. However, the bulk of the weight on the bar should NOT be supported in your hands, but rather it should supported over your front deltoids and clavicles.
ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF HOLDING THE BAR
1. THE NO HANDS FRONT SQUAT
If you really want to test your leg strength try the No Hands Front Squat. Just balance the bar across your front delts and your clavicles with your arms held straight out in front. Now squat down. You must maintain an upright position on these. If not, the bar will end up on the floor. So you may want to use spotters, or at least bumper plates.
2. THE VISE GRIP HANDLES.
If you still want to get the benefits of front squats, but haven't quite obtained the flexibility to hold the bar in your hands, try the vise grip handles. Just get two sets of Vise Gripping Pliers (The rounded pipe jaws work the best). Then just clamp them on the bar a little wider than shoulder width. To protect the knurling just place a small strip of cardboard between the vise grips' jaws and the bar.
Now, presto, you have two handles to hold onto. Using these will enable you to maintain the normal front squat position, but with less stress on the wrists and elbows.
3. ARMS CRISS/ CROSSED 4. HANDS CLASPED TOGETHER.
Two methods of holding onto a front squat, that really AREN'T accepted by most iron game purists, are the Arms Criss/ Cross and the Hands Clasped Together.
On the first you just cross your arms above the bar and then hold on by pressing against the bar with the opposite hand over the opposite shoulder.
On the second just clasp your hands together and raise them up to the front of the bar and push against it.
Both of these methods of holding a front squat should be last resorts, as should that contraption called the front squat harness. Try to stay away from crutches.
When doing front squats sets and reps are up to the individual. The most common set/ rep scheme is 5 to 6 sets of 3 to 5 reps. Higher reps are tougher, but they can be very rewarding. I found I made my best gains on front squats by doing 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps.