The front squat is one of the most athletic exercises out there. The back, hips, arms, etc., the list could go on and on. So why do most people not do them, because they are a tricky exercise.
People often lack the proper front squat mobility necessary to successfully perform the movement. In this post, we’ve got you covered. All of the common problem areas are covered with some helpful tips and tricks to get you on your feet (and hopefully with a barbell on your chest too).
Without a strong foundation, no great structure will stand the test of time. For front squat mobility it all starts with the feet, more specifically, the ankles. Now i’m not going to into too much detail due to the fact that I already wrote an article about ankle mobility, but I will cover a few things.
The first thing is to mobilize the ankles with simple stretching exercises, such as standing ankle mobility drills.
The third thing is to make sure you do not have a collapsed arch.
A collapsed arch will cause the knee to cave in when the weight gets heavy and/or you go ass to grass (which you should). There are numerous ways to fix this.
You could purchase orthotics inserts into your workout shoes if you want a quick fix. Keep in mind though that this will only put a “band aid” on the problem and wont actually fix it.
To fix the problem first realize that it is a motor control issue. Walk with your feet straight, toes facing forward and tuck your butt under your hips. Practice this every day and make it a habit.
Once you understand how to move and walk correctly, then strengthen the weak muscle groups. The muscle group primarily responsible for this is the tibialis posterior.
A simple exercise to strengthen this muscle group it foot towel grabs. Place a towel on the floor in front of you and scrunch it up with your toes and make a fist with your foot. Perform this every day and even place a weight on it when it gets too easy.
The hip is usually the second area of concern with squat mechanics. Since most people sit behind a desk for work, the problem usually involves tight hip flexors and under developed/activated glutes.
A simple hip flexor stretch will do the trick for the hip flexors in most cases, but in case it doesn’t, here is an even more brutal hip flexor stretch from Kelly Starret. Be forewarned, that stretch is a workout in and of itself.
The glutes are a different story. These guys need strengthening. However, they need to be strengthened in a functional way that resembles the squatting motion. Mini band squats should do the trick.
Another exercise that improves glute activation very effectively for squatting is the Airborne Lunge. The exercise mimics similar mechanics to the pistol squat, but it is not as difficult.
By addressing both ankle and hip problems, the knee will be less likely to experience any pain/discomfort, since most knee problems are just symptoms of poor ankle/hip mobility.
When you hear the word core, you are probably be thinking of your abs, and you would be right….kinda. The true core of the body involves the abs, lower back and hips working together as one unit.
All of the crunches and sit-ups in the world will be useless to develop real practical strength for heavy squatting. What is really needed is a strong core.
How do you do that? Well, you need to train the abs hips and lower back to brace and stabilize the trunk. Exercises that train the core this way are usually pretty hard (which is why most people don’t do them).
Exercises that do this include the dragon flag, LaLane pushups, ab wheel rollouts and RKC Planks. Like I said before, these exercises are not easy, but they pay HUGH dividends if you take the time to learn them. Also make sure to breathe properly.
When the bar is racked on the top of your chest, your going to learn pretty quickly that you need to strengthen and mobilize your upper back to handle the weight.
Mobilization can be done quite easily with a foam roller. Simply lie down face up on a roller and get the roller just above your shoulders, now from here, bridge your hips up and bring your arms overhead until they touch the ground. Now from here lower your hips SLOWLY until you can’t go lower. When you find peak tension, hold for 1 minute.
Strengthening the t-spine and upper back for front squats is often misunderstood. Sure, chin-ups and pull-ups may help a bit. But they are not going to really strengthen the rack position.
A simple, but effective exercise to fix this is rack holds. Rack a barbell with weight 10-20% heavier than your 1RM and lift the bar out of the rack and hold for about 20-30 seconds. This will prepare the spine to strengthen itself and learn properly how to handle heavy weight.
The external rotators, more specifically are the culprit for shoulder mobility. Out of all of the problems for front squat mobility, this one is the easiest to spot.
The olympic grip rack position is the one that should always be used when performing front squats. For a recap, olympic grip is when your elbows point straight ahead and your forearms are parallel to the ground. This grip style is going to give you the most bang for your buck (not California Style).
To mobilize, simply place your hands on the bar, hands outside your shoulders (the wider the better). From here, roll one of your elbows under the bar and raise your upper arm as high as you can. Make sure your elbow is pointing forward and only do this with one arm at a time. Hold for about 30 seconds to 1 minute each arm.
This should provide adequate mobility for the front rack position.