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The Ultimate Lower Body Exercise

Posted Sep 26 2010 11:18pm

Front Squat

If you could pick one exercise for your lower body what would it be? For me it was a question that took some thought and analysis coming down to the front squat or the deadlift….

After some debate the winner came to be the front squat as it is a better isolator of the lower body muscles whereas the deadlift will also use a load of upper body strength to make the movement flow. For me the front squat when using weight wins out everytime over the conventional back squat, for the following reasons:

  • There is LESS Spinal Load and Flexion - Basically meaning our spines are subjected to less abuse, this is a great thing as the spine needs to last us for a lifetime and the last thing it needs is regular compression from heavy weights.
  • Free Abdominal Training - While the back squat does cause the abs to work, it is not to the same extent as the front squat. Keeping the upper body erect with the weight in front of you keeps the abs working hard.
  • Less Chance of Bad Form - The front squat gives less margin for error, meaning Front Squat wrong and you will lose the bar. The same cannot be said for the back squat which allows you to slouch forward and even arch the back.
  • Great Leg Development - Front Squats are probably the best quadriceps movement going, they also use the hamstrings and glutes to stabilise while reducing strain of the hips.
  • Less Lower Back Pain - The main problems with back squats is the amount of strain they put on the lower back due to compression, and the instability of the bar on the back. This puts rotational force on the lumbar spine which front squats avoid.

The front squat also emulates natural squatting a lot more than a back squat, if you were to do a bodyweight squat now with your arms out in front of you and your torso upright it would be exactly how you would be doing the front squat in terms of form.

The benefit of the front squat though is that it builds real, functional strength. Sure you can’t lift as heavy as when doing back squats but it keeps form good and movement deep and has the whole body working. Front squats are the ideal way to start full body workouts, something as simple as 3 sets of 10 reps using Front Squats, Bench Press and Pullups can give you a superb workout that can build size and strength.

As always though form is greatly important, This is one of the better videos I came across on YouTube:

If you are new to the gym it would be worth asking one of the trainers to quickly show you how to front squat. The key is to start light or even with just an olympic bar as the mechanics of the movement can feel off if you have never done it before. Also some people get confused as to how to place their hands and elbows. In terms of Grip I prefer to use the Clean Grip which is what Scott is using in the video above, this works better for most gym goers as it is the safest grip.

A few years ago I switched from back squats to front squats and never looked back. It is funny that now when I try back squats they seem odd and feel weird, either way the change has led to great full body development and huge improvements in my athletic performance.

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