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Old 05-09-2013
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Exclamation Troubleshooting the Front Squat: Grip

A lot of the time I hear people complaining about not being able to front squat because the bar 'chokes them' (with the crossed grip)... And, many who try the clean grip (which is my preference) don't seem to have the flexibility to make it feasible.

Here's a great video that explains the ins and out of grip and hand spacing. A must-watch IMHO:



Addendum: Source: Lyle McDonald's Newsletter Archive (April 2006)

As mentioned in the introduction, the front squat is one of the almost forgotten exercises in recent times. If you see someone performing anything close to a proper front squat in your gym, you work out in a very unusual gym. An excellent way to work the quads and take stress off the low back (relative to back squats), front squats are a movement that you'll rarely see unless your gym has Olympic lifters. Occasionally, you might see them done in the smith machine.

Many people have problem holding a good rack on the bar and, for this reason, I'm going to show a variety of grips so that even the most inflexible can use this movement. Front squats can make a good second leg movement after deadlifts (although lower back fatigue can make the front squats problematic). Because of the difficulty holding the rack, front squats are rarely done for high reps, sets of 5 or triples are best. Many people, depending on wrist flexibility, also have problems with breathing but as long as you hold a good rack, this will get better.

On the topic of racking the bar, there are basically three different ways to hold the bar. Olympic lifters, of course, use a clean style grip as that is how they receive the bar on their shoulders after the clean. However, some bigger bodybuilder or powerlifters types, usually with larger arms and/or inflexible triceps can have problems with this type of grip. The original modified way of holding the bar was the cross arm or Cossack grip. Personally, I've never liked it, I don't feel like the bar is stable. A third option is a semi-crossed arm grip where you are actually holding the bar. All three grips are shown below and, in all three, the elbows are kept high so that the bar is being held on a 'shelf' formed by the shoulders. The bar shouldn't be pushed so far back into the neck that breathing becomes a problem.

Clean Grip


Cossack Grip


Modified Cossack Grip



Once the bar is racked, the next issue is to perform a proper front squat. The feet should be shoulder width or slightly wider with the feet angled out. The movement begins by breaking the knees forwards while squatting essentially straight down, the knees will go forwards of the toes and should stay over the feet at all times (see form error below).

It's crucial to keep the torso bolt upright and this is facilitated by keeping the head up and driving the elbows up throughout the movement; if the elbows drop, the lift will generally be lost out front. Most people will find it easier to perform a full squat to full depth. Starting and ending positions for a properly performed front squat appear below.




Finally, let's look at some common errors in the front squat. As with back squatting, letting the knees break in at the bottom is fairly common, seemingly moreso in women than in men. The reasons for this can be many ranging from weak hip external rotators (some coaches think that weak adductors are the real cause) to simply not actively pushing the knees out throughout the movement. A very exaggerated example of this appears below, you can see how the knees break in and the feet roll to their insides.

A second problem that occurs is dropping the elbows in the bottom of the squat. This causes the torso to come forwards and the upper (and often lower) back to round. Usually, a heavy weight will be lost out front when this occurs. Two examples of this appear below. The rightmost picture is common among lifters with very poor shoulder flexibility, they tend to try to simply hold the bar in their hands rather than getting it into a good rack position on the top of the shoulders.




Finally, for people with limited hamstring flexibility, or who simply do not actively try to maintain a good arch, the lower back will tuck under which can throw a lot of dangerous stress onto the low back. This appears below with a properly performed squat shown next to it.




So... Which grip do YOU prefer?







What have you, or haven't you tried?

Let's hear it!


p.s. Related threads:
http://www.getnarked.net/forum/showthread.php?t=16318
http://www.getnarked.net/forum/showthread.php?t=12379
http://www.getnarked.net/forum/showthread.php?t=4001

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Old 05-09-2013
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Love front squats! It just takes practice. So much more core than back squat it seems.
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Old 05-12-2013
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I always use the clean grip. When I had injured wrists I did it with straps like the second to last picture or without any grip what so ever (arms sticking straight out). I find that the straps or no grip at all really makes cheating impossible while with the clean grip its possible to round the back quite a bit before dropping the bar.
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Old 05-13-2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chest6 View Post
Love front squats! It just takes practice. So much more core than back squat it seems.

Agreed

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Originally Posted by Johan View Post
I always use the clean grip. When I had injured wrists I did it with straps like the second to last picture or without any grip what so ever (arms sticking straight out). I find that the straps or no grip at all really makes cheating impossible while with the clean grip its possible to round the back quite a bit before dropping the bar.
Hm. I've never felt that... the rounding of the back that is.
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Old 05-14-2013
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My upper back is naturally hunched a bit so its a real bastard for me to keep a straight back when front squatting. I'd say my max is like 20 kilos higher than my "pretty max". Need to practice more heavy front squat holds and stuff like that.

Somehow I can keep the bar on my shoulders even if I hunch like quasimodo but it ain't pretty and it doesn't feel right lol
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Old 05-19-2013
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Gotcha mate
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These are all good techniques. I like to cross my hands in front of me. Also doing the front squat with the bar behind your heels is really good and I feel it more in my quads.
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