To have a set of quads that truly sets you apart from the rest of the crowd, you need to broaden your exercise horizons. The easiest way to do this is to just flip your squat around. The front squat, where you hold the bar on a "shelf" across your front delts, shifts the focus to the quads by forcing the torso to remain more upright throughout the range of motion. It can be uncomfortable at first but if grainy, bellowing quads are on your wish list, it's worth it to push through and master this alternative to traditional squats. Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, owner of a dozen world records in powerlifting, offers a few of his best performance-boosting tips for the front squat.
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Some people insist that the only way to build size in your legs is to train with higher volume. More reps, they say, equals more growth. Bryant doesn't necessarily agree. "To get stronger you need more sets and less reps per set," he says. "This will let you produce maximum force each rep. CAT, or compensatory acceleration training, calls for you to lift your submaximal weight with maximal force. So if a max is one rep, more sets with less reps gives you more ‘first reps.'" Training this way also helps to make up for the natural sequence of fatigue during the front squat. "The rhomboids will tire out from isometrically supporting the bar during front squats, long before the thighs."
TRAIN YOUR ABS
In the effort to build bigger quads, some guys start to ignore everything else, up to and including abs. Squat big to get big, they'll say. But this can be shortsighted for those looking to boost front squat numbers. "Front squats require strong abdominal muscles," says Bryant. "Body weight crunches won't cut the mustard. To really boost torso-stabilizing core strength, you have to include hardcore weighted movements like suitcase deadlifts, landmines, standing weighted crunches and decline Zercher sit-ups."
One common form deficiency front squatters experience involves the arms, not the legs. "Once the bar is in the rack position, focus on keeping the elbows as high as possible so your upper arms are parallel to the floor," Bryant says."Roll the bar onto your fingertips. Don't grip the bar with your hands. The bar should be touching your throat in the rack position. Think strength-building, not comfort.Coming out of the hole, drive your elbows up as you simultaneously drive up the hips.If not, you can lose the weight. Because of the position of the bar, you really can't cheat up the front squat."
To build up your front squat, there are other exercises that you can do to strengthen the chain of muscles involved. "Accessory work should include exercises for the upper back so you can support the weight such as rows, pull-ups, face pulls, and scapular retractions."
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is a featured training expert and writer here at ProSource and co-author (with Brian Dobson) of the Elitefts.com best-selling ebookMetroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics.He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting.
Has anyone had any experience with this variation on the traditional squat? Did you get the results you were looking for? Tell us your opinion of the front squat in the comments field below!