Leg exercises for men: the front squat

Richard Jordan
20 Feb 2014

Build bigger and stronger quads with classic leg exercise the front squat

The back squat is a great move for building bigger legs, but poor form means many people turn it into a modified good morning by bending too far forward and shifting the emphasis to the hips and lower back. There’s a simple solution to this problem...

‘Front squats, which is when you hold the bar across the front of your shoulders rather than on your upper back, require stricter form because you can’t cheat by bending too far forwards – the bar will drop out of your hands,’ says trainer Nick Mitchell, founder 
of Ultimate Performance (upfitness.co.uk).

This focus on form makes your back more upright in the squat and emphasises your quads, lessening the pressure on your lower back and giving you a bigger range of motion.

Front squat

  • Rest the bar on the front of your shoulders with your elbows pointing forward and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • You can use straps to secure the bar to your hands more firmly.
  • Maintain a natural arch in your back and keep your core braced throughout the move.
  • Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. The deeper you can squat, the better.
  • Drive back up through your heels to the top position.

‘For an extra training effect, try doing one and a quarter reps, so you stop a quarter of the way through as you come back up, then go back down before completing the rep as normal,' says Mitchell. ‘This allows even greater stimulation of the hard-to-hit vastus medialis muscle. The result will be healthier knees and more powerful-looking thighs.’

Variation 1: Overhead squat

Try an overhead squat to make the move more challenging. Squatting while holding the bar above your head with your arms fully extended is a major test of leg and core strength, as well as balance, 
co-ordination and joint stability and flexibility.

  • 
Hold the bar above your head with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • 
Maintain a natural arch in your back and keep your core braced throughout the move.
  • 
Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. The deeper you can squat, the better.
  • Drive back up through your heels.

Variation 2: Goblet squat

If you haven’t yet 
acquired the strength and 
co-ordination to execute front squats properly, the goblet squat is an entry-level exercise that can get you up to speed. Using boxes to increase the range of motion will allow you to ‘open up’ your hips and build strength and stability for the entire movement pattern.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a kettlebell in front of your chest.
  • Keeping your core braced and your knees in line with your toes, squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
  • Stand back up, driving through your heels, to return to the start position.
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