You can spice up your squat training, build a stronger core, increase lower body strength, and improve posture. Simply switch up your squat style and add front-loaded squats into the mix.
#1 DEVELOP A STRONGER CORE
Experts estimate that 80 percent of us will experience a back problem at some point in our lives. A whopping 540 million people are thought to be dealing with back pain right now. In the United States alone, back pain accounts for 2.6 million emergency visits each year, with almost $50bn spent annually on the issue. It’s also one of the most common reasons for missed work.
Kinesiology researcher, Dr. Gillian Hatfield says most low back pain can be pinned on low back muscle weakness. The front squat is an excellent way to improve our core strength because of demands placed on the erector spinae muscles to maintain the high chest position. The front squat can increase strength in this region, helping us to reduce some of the risks associated with lower back pain.
TIP: Given the front squat places additional demands on the core, you will notice it feels more intense than the back squat as we utilize muscle groups in a slightly different way to achieve the same movement. Try starting with a lighter weight to adjust to the new positioning of the barbell. As you start to feel more comfortable with the movement, increase the weight over time to increase the benefits from the added stimulus.
#2 INCREASE LOWER BODY STRENGTH
Want to avoid a plateau in your training? Changing the position of the barbell provides a different training stimulus to generate new muscular challenges. When the barbell is held in a front squat position, the load is forward of our center of gravity. This forces our stabilizers to react to this new position to control our trunk position. Meanwhile, our primary target muscles – the quads and glutes – adapt to driving vertically against the change in the direction of resistance. Researchers have found increases in quadricep activation and less trunk incline with a front squat, as opposed to a back-loaded squat.
#3 IMPROVE MOBILITY AND POSTURE
Sitting for long periods hunched over a computer screen increases our risk of developing kyphosis – the condition of having an increase in the outward curvature of the spine in the upper back. Postural kyphosis is aggravated by poor posture, and that’s where exercises like the front squat can help.
Lifting the barbell in a front rack position recruits the muscles of the upper back and increases the demands on the thoracic extensors to maintain the high chest position. This thoracic extension can help to correct kyphosis – the rounded shoulders that often present in office workers.
HOW TO SET UP THE PERFECT FRONT SQUAT
- Hold the bar in front of your collarbones
- Keep your elbows forward and maintain a lifted chest
- Create a squeeze between your shoulder blades to support your thoracic spine
- Keep your abs braced
- Hips sit back and down
- Eye gaze stays straight ahead
- Knees out
The key is to keep the chest lifted so the thoracic extensors maintain a strong foundation for the lift.
THE FRONT SQUAT MISTAKE TO AVOID
With the elbows forward, it is easy to let the shoulder blades roll toward the front creating a rounded upper back. By maintaining a slight pinch in the muscles that run between our shoulder blades we can control this position and be more stable.
If this is too difficult – remember – you can always start with a plate with the elbows under your wrists.
One of the easiest ways to give the front squat whirl is to try one of the latest BODYPUMP workouts. Glen Ostergaard, BODYPUMP Program Director, says the addition of the front squat is “Fun, challenging and gives a modern training feel,” and it is just one of the ways BODYPUMP continues to evolve.