The front squat as an effective exercise for more muscle
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Why the front squat is the true king’s exercise
The squat is often referred to as the absolute king exercise. That means that it is the most important exercise of all. We are talking about the barbell squat at the back, where the barbell bar is held behind the head on the trapezius muscles. It can move a lot of weight and a large part of the total muscle mass of the whole body is trained.
Low-bar bend and high-bar bend
We distinguish two types of barbell squat at the back. In the version of the powerlifter, the so-called “low-bar” version, the bar lies very low on the back deltoids. The movement is more like a hip flexor than a squat:
When bent, the pelvis sinks strongly backwards down and the upper body approaches the parallels to the ground. This movement mainly uses the gluteal muscles, the rear leg muscles, and the back straighteners. With this version, most people can use higher weights than the high-bar bend, which is preferred in weightlifting.
It is called because the rod is very high on the upper parts of the trapezius muscles. The movement is performed with a relatively vertical upper body, which puts more stress on the anterior leg muscles and gluteal muscles.
The trunk muscles work more stabilizing than moving and the spine load is a lot less than the low-bar. Since the movement is performed on other muscle chains, less weight is usually handled.
The squat is not optimal for everyone
Which version is better for whom depends primarily on the length and leverage of the musculoskeletal system. The ratio of hull length to leg length plays a role, but also the ratio of thigh to lower leg. Furthermore, it is a matter of mobility, coordination, trunk strength and well-being, which version one chooses.
Although the squat is really a very effective and functional exercise that trains a lot of muscle groups at the same time, breathing and the cardiovascular system is not optimal for everyone. Anyone can learn to do a squat, I dare say, but not everyone benefits from this exercise.
There are naturally gifted Beuger types. With them, the length ratios are right, the body’s center of gravity is low, mobility and coordination are made to bend. Such Beuger natures usually have a relatively long torso, short legs, long thighs, short lower legs. The focus is deep, often they already have a compact physique.
Then we have the exact opposite: Tall, tall people, with relatively short torso, long legs, short thighs and long lower legs, from slender to gaunt stature, to make it extremely clear. Such people often have a hard time bowing. The movement feels complicated, the movement just does not go around properly, keeping the coordination costs a lot of concentration and energy.
No matter how hard they try, the pay is often small in terms of strength and leg development. Apart from the cost-benefit factor, the squat, especially in terms of particularly ambitious lifts, often represents an increased risk of injury here.
The Front Squat – The Queen of Squats
If the squat is the royal exercise, the front squat is the queen of squats! Everyone can learn the front squat, even those who are not bent. In contrast to the back squat, which is very difficult to accomplish in certain physical predispositions and then only slightly profitable, anyone can learn the front squat and work effectively with it.
The weight is not behind, but held in front of the body: The rod is not on the neck and presses from above on the spine but is held by the shoulder girdle and sternum in front of the spine. In addition to the legs, the back extensors, especially in the upper back and the entire abdominal muscles are intensively trained.
The front squat is a better benchmark for leg strength than the squat at the back, and it trains the leg muscles more directly and intensely. Why is not she more popular than the squat at the back? Quite simple: Because you pack a lot less weight right from the start. The front squat is a very honest exercise: the weight is in front of the head and neck and lies in the hollow between the anterior deltoids and the clavicles. The hull must be straight all the time, otherwise the weight will fall forward.
In the squat at the back can be moved by a shift of the leg muscles on the usually much stronger buttocks and hip muscles much more weight, as in absolutely correct execution with vertical upper body. This is not possible with the front bend. Here you can bend only as much as trunk and leg strength really allow.
As a result of the vertical upper body position, virtually no shearing forces occur; the spine is loaded almost continuously axially during the movement sequence, that is to say from the top. This requires the entire core musculature to maximum stabilization work and indeed absolutely functional: stabilize at an elongated spine.
Front Squat = An exercise that improves upright posture
The front squat is one of the exercises that improve the regular posture while also doing the regular posture. The front squat requires an upright posture with an elongated and nearly vertical spine. That’s our natural and original attitude. As children, we still practiced it. Look at a toddler picking up something off the ground and you will witness a perfectly executed squat with a vertical upper body.
The movement happens in the hip, knee and ankle joints, not in the spine, which remains upright and elongated. A function that we have forgotten at some point, but which is brought back to life by the front squat. On the one hand we get used to an upright posture and on the other hand we train the necessary muscle groups as we need them: stabilizing and balancing during a complex whole body movement.
An honest and sincere high service
How do you best train the front squats now? In the beginning you should start very easily, preferably with the empty rod. Technology and coordination are the nuts and bolts. Anyone can do that. I recommend the grip version, which also use weightlifter, with elbow bent forwards resting the rod in the inside of the finger and palm on the anterior deltoid muscles. As a result, the thoracic spine is erected the whole time.
The necessary flexibility can be achieved with daily exercise within one to two weeks. It is really easy to start and focus on the vertical, elongated spine during the movement.
Then it’s about “getting between your feet” while keeping your upper body upright. At the point where you pull the buttocks back and down in the back squat (when you go deeper than parallel to the ground) and shift the weight more to the gluteal and hamstring muscles, the upper body stays upright in front squat. Shift the load to the front leg muscles and pull the pelvis between the feet using the leg biceps.
At the same time, the elbows and sternum are actively pushed up to the ceiling. This ensures that the sternum and upper back do not tilt down when lowering the pelvis. This is one of the major differences between the front squat and the squat at the back: the “dive under the load” and remain upright and long stretched. In doing so, other nerve tracts and muscle chains are activated than when bending behind.
Over time, the body recalls this natural “squat down and straighten up”. The entire leg muscles are trained effectively and functionally. By the way, also the back of the leg and the buttocks musculature are intensively trained, as it is often claimed as an argument against the front squat, they train only the front of the leg.
Training parameters front squats
The front squat is best trained with high frequency and low volume, especially few repetitions per set. The upper back and abdominal muscles are usually the limiting factors, which is why many do not like the front squat or can not cope with it.
These areas have to get used to the new strain, but they should not be overwhelmed because otherwise they can no longer do their job optimally. Therefore, the repetition numbers per set should not exceed 4. Better yet, one concentrates on 2 repetitions per set. Then you complete as many clean sets of 2, as the weakest link in the chain, usually the upper back, allow.
The weight should be slowly increased, never too fast and at the cost of execution quality increase, which can throw a rather long time back or worse: you get used to a bad technique and keeps it!
When the technique is in place, you can slowly work out how much you can bend cleanly and correctly twice. Stay on the safe side, too, and focus on a lighter weight rather than a heavier weight. Then you can start building the necessary muscle mass by making as many clean sets of 2 as possible with 80-85% of the tested maximum. A total repetition rate of 15-25 repetitions provides the growth impulses.
How to start with the front squat?
Personally, I would always put a new exercise at the beginning of the training, regardless of the content of the training that day. In this case, come before each workout a few sets of front squats. The ability to concentrate and the energy level are still the highest at the beginning and no muscle groups have been fatigued by other exercises. Think of it as a warm-up, it only takes a few minutes.
When technique and motion control are in place, you can increase the weight from sentence to sentence, to the maximum. This is followed by 3-4 weeks, still bending at the beginning of each session, but using different percentages of the tested maximum. Intensity and volume should vary daily by feeling.
If you are stable here, you can use the front squat as a main leg exercise, but even advanced should not do too many repetitions in a row and rather switch to cluster sets.
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