Monday, July 21, 2008

The Front Squat Compromise

Front squatting is brutally hard. Moving the barbell placement from the spine of the scapula as in the back squat, to the front rack position and away from the athlete's center of gravity effectively generates an additive crushing rotational force to an already demanding hip and leg extension movement. Moving loads further and further away from the spine forces the athlete to resist trunk flexion while simultaneously maintaining a rigid spine-pelvis relationship. Herein lies the beauty of this greatly hated squat variation.

Here's the forced compromise:
1) In order the effectively handle a large load in racked position, the front squat demands that the athlete maintain as vertical a torso as possible during the decent. That is, the athlete cannot really push their butts back and shift the lion's share of the decent loading to the hamstrings as they would in the back squat. This would result in the dumping of the load forward as a gigantic shear/torque force was loaded on the spine. Try it and see.

2) Thus, in order to keep the load stacked neatly over torso and pelvis, the athlete's knees have to track well forward of the foot during peak compression (the bottom) of the movement. This anterior translation of the knee effectively forces the squatter into a conscious muted-hip position where load is transferred off the hamstrings and onto the quads. Athletes will even compromise their knee positioning here and adopt and much more abducted (knees turned out)knee position than their usual squatting position to minimize the effects of the vertical torso. And, in order to rise up out of the hole, the squatter will temporarily shoot their butt's back and engage their powerful hamstrings to initiate the ascent thereby temporarily negating the benefits of the neatly stacked and balanced torso.

3) The problem with this momentary hamstring shift backwards is that the athlete still has the weight racked well in front of that pesky center of gravity. And with hamstrings on and butt back, the athlete now has to resist an even greater turning/flexion moment through the torso. And it is at this moment that the athlete will...


1) Round their backs and make or miss the lift


2) They will immediately chase the bar by driving their hips forward to regain the vertical, balanced torso.

So what do we want our front squatting athlete's to do?
We want them to get as much hamstring in the movement as possible AND keep the torso as vertical as possible.

What's required:

1) Rigid, rock hard mid-line stabilization. A fence post like spine.
2) Freaky huge quads to handle the load given up by the hamstings.
3) Terrific ankle flexibility to handle the forward driving shins during the vertical torso phase.

The Problem:
Front squatting is hard.
It forces the athlete to solve some rather tough positioning problems.
We love what it does for our athletes.
It reflects a lot of real world "picking things up" activities.

So go get compromised.

Coach kstar

ps. Coach Di is making it look easy.....


Nick said...

You guys are too damn smart for me.

Anonymous said...

The front squat definitely tests your love of crossfit, and your midline. I know personally that when I clear the mechanism and there is only the front squat and me I def feel a PR coming. It can also frustrate the hell out of me because with one failing attempt it can stand above me like a bully showing me that at that moment I failed. But we fall so we can rise again w/ victorious results. I know personally that when high rep front squats are called for it is only my love of crossfit sf and all it encompasses as well as my competitive spirit to always improve that keep me under that bar gladly taking abuse. Im honestly getting a little irritated writing this and thinking about how the front squat can so easily point out glaring weaknesses in midline stabalization, but also encourages me to endeavour to become a fence post and make the front squat my little prison girlfriend. Light Weight!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

^written by Lucas

Hot Shot!!!!!!!

Ross Naughton said...

Lucas, your enthusiasm is contagious and admirable -- little prison girlfriends, etc. -- but can we endeavor to keep our spelling on the south side of the U.S.-Canada border? I mean, fuckin' A. Poseidon's Fist has some standards.

Anonymous said...

Please dont lawyer me on the blog ross, it sickens me, and frankly it sickens poseidon.


Ross Naughton said...

Dang, good point. Don't want to sicken Poseidon. Last person who made that mistake got impaled on a unicorn.

Whoa -- good song title.

Adrian said...

I love you guys.


Adrian said...



Josh Cunningham said...

working w/ K-star I did bench back squats, can the same be done with front squats?

Matt said...

Lucas, Ross and Adrian's dialogue about lawyering, Poseidon and fists got me thinking about that episode in Airwolf when Hawke is flying around after some bad guy. They know each other from Vietnam and they're trying to kill one another. And of course, they're talking to one another as they shoot each other. Finally, the bad guy knows he can't escape, even though he is in a helicopter and decides to kill himself by crashing his helicopter. Before he does this however, he yells, "I know where Sin Jin is!" Sin Jin is Hawkes long lost brother who went Missing in Action in Vietnam. And I'm thinking, Sin Jin, that's a weird name.