Lack of quadriceps strength and control can impede knee flexion and mobility, creating a cascade of countering movement imbalances throughout the hips, spine, and ankles. The adductor magnus muscle of the inner thigh also has a role in hip extension. Some athletes, such as pitchers, rely on an upright torso and leg strength to perform; making this a good squatting variation for some athletes. This is because your quads will get maxed out eventually, and you’ll need to shift the loading demands to the posterior chain, which isn’t operating at ‘full capacity’ in other squat variations. However, it means that all of the stress gets transferred to your hip extensors, which requires your glutes and low-back to work much harder. Note, that the below guidelines are simply here to offer coaches and athletes loose recommendations for programming. It is important to adhere to proper front squat technique under heavy loads. This movement can add quality amounts of lean muscle mass to the quadriceps and enhance overall leg development and performance, especially if athletes find their hips become the primary mover in most squats. With a high bar squat, you’ll be slightly more upright. The front squat can be a great way to build muscular endurance in the back, quadriceps, and core muscles. Without having a strong glute medius your knees might cave in during the squat, which would increase the amount of shear force at the knee joint. The bar load will come to a dead stop, and then you’ll push up and back into the bar to drive it off the pins to standing. PowerliftingTechnique.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. To understand what muscles are involved in the wide stance squat I want to look at two studies. Many people might be surprised that the calves have a (small) role in the squat. Even micro movements of the bar can cause instability through the core, which causes your spinal erectors and abdominals/obliques to work much harder to hold the same position. Not everyone who does front squats is doing it to transition to clean & jerks. As a result, several muscle groups in both the lower and upper body are required to overcome the forces on these joints to execute the movement properly. A study by Escamillia et al. Many athletes will benefit immensely from front-loaded barbell squats, however grips and front rack positioning may vary depending on the individual. As you’ll remember, the erectors’ job is to prevent the spine from flexion (rounding). However, the biggest conclusion was that there was greater glute activation in the wide stance squat. The abdominals and obliques are what’s called “antagonist stabilizers” in the squat. 33(6): 984-998. If you want to read why I think wide stance squats are generally better for powerlifting you can read my latest article. Assume a proper front rack position by placing the barbell high up onto the anterior aspect of the shoulders, making sure the bar is supported with the shoulders and upper chest (above the sternum). This is the body’s way to get your glutes and low/mid-back more involved in the range of motion in order to complete the movement. Doing variations on the squat can help you work other muscles, too. The front squat is a uniquely challenging and highly beneficial squat movement that differs drastically from back and overhead squatting. Below are three (3) front squat variations to build strength, hypertrophy, and improve squatting performance. But it’s something worth getting better at if you want to work your quads in a squatting variation. If you’re interested in reading more about whether it’s safe to have your knees travel forward in the squat then take a look at my article where I discuss the biomechanics research. As the knees straighten, the hamstrings are engaged more in order to bring the hips to the bar. What this means is that regardless of the type of stance you have, you’ll still be required at some point to push your knees forward to get the required depth in the squat. The front squat can then be used to increase quadriceps development and strength as it limits the capacity to squat with a more horizontal back angle. The glute maximus is the ‘meaty’ part of the glute that you sit on. A three-dimensional biomechanical analysis of the squat during varying stance widths. Let’s now discuss how to identify any weak muscles in the squat so that you can target them more specifically through your exercise selection and programming. Coach’s Tip: Elbows and chest up…and fight! With the barbell resting in the front rack position, descend into a squat keeping the pelvis neutral and the chest up. To do this, the lifter places their hands out in front of them, like a Zombie, with the bar balanced on the anterior deltoids. For us, front-loaded squats–such as goblet squats and front squats—are easily the best squat variations. If you have long legs, check out my article on How To Squat With Long Legs if you want to see how your quad activation changes for tall lifters. For example, if your knees do not travel forward during the squat, then they won’t experience any stress and your quad muscles won’t be significantly loaded. I’ll break down how different muscles are used in variations of the squat, including the low bar squat, high bar squat, pause squats, pin squat, wide-stance squats, and front squats. This is a great variation for lifters who struggle to maintain positioning in the bottom of the front squat and/or those who have limited leg strength to stand up from the bottom of the squat. This is likely due to your quads being too weak. This is tricky to notice, but it would look like you’re squatting on the front part of your foot to try and bend your knees. Minimize forward lean of the torso, which will force greater loading on the quadriceps. This would be important if you had a mid/top end weakness in the squat. As you grind reps in the squat, you may notice some compensation patterns occurring that signal your quads are fatiguing. As part of your programming, you should select squatting variations that target specific muscle groups that allow you to focus on areas for development. The load in the squat should be directly over the mid-line of the foot as you descend into the bottom. This is a great variation to reinforce an active upper body and torso positioning (vertical) for lifters who may lean excessively forward in the front squat and/or rely too much on their arms and wrists to support the load. The split squat, while not traditionally done with a front rack position (however it can be) is a great unilateral exercise to develop quadriceps strength and muscle mass. This position will force you to maintain an upright torso, even more so than what I described previously for the high bar squat. This just means that your erectors will need to be much stronger if you have more forward torso lean. The glutes are made up of three muscles: glute maximus, glute medius, and glute minimus. You can check out the other articles on MUSCLES USED IN THE BENCH PRESS and MUSCLES USED IN THE DEADLIFT. The effect of stance width on the electromyographical activity of eight superficial thigh muscles during back squat with different bar loads. The front squat can be done with in higher training volumes to build muscle mass and core strength. In the event you cannot perform this with a full grip you can refer to the below modifications section. While the “gold standard” is the full grip, some athletes may have limited wrist and/or shoulder mobility that may impede them from squatting with a full grip. As a result, it’s a much more physically demanding variation. For the purposes of the squat, we’re going to discuss the glute maximus and medius. Lack of front squat training will often result in poor back, core, and quadriceps development and detrimental movement patterning in wall balls, pistol squats, back squats, and the Olympic lifts. This site is owned and operated by PowerliftingTechnique.com. Tempos, pauses, and eccentrics can be done throughout the range of motion to induce additional muscular damage and hypertrophy. In this movement, the lifter places the barbell in the crook of the elbows rather than on the front rack. To set up the front squat, you’ll place the barbell on the front part of the shoulders. You will place the barbell a few inches lower on the back. How many muscles do Squats work? The quads are the primary muscles used to extend the knee. You also need to have strong erectors if you want to prevent your back from rounding in the squat. Learn 13 principles that create more effective powerlifting technique. If you have difficulty in the mid/top end of the squat, you will find yourself able to stand up out of the hole, but fail somewhere above your thighs being parallel. Goblet Squat vs Front Squat: How-To, Differences, Benefits. Additionally, this exercise can be used with heavy loads to increase back, core, and quadriceps strength; similar to the front squat. 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