CrossFit Front Squat Olympic Lifting

CrossFit Front Squats.  What they are, why you need them, and how to master them. The Front Squat is a weight lifting gem from Olympic lifting and embraced in CrossFit. It combines convenience, efficiency, and functionality. It’s one of Paul’s 10 essential exercises. Here’s everything you need to know about the Front Squat.

Sand & Steel CrossFit’s Workout of the Day for August 26, 2019 was:

Front squat 5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1-1 reps
Practice SLIPS for 20 minutes.

Subscribe to our Workout of the Day

This article is all about front squats, particularly how to execute this CrossFit Workout of the Day.  What about SLIPS?  SLIPS is a great activity to improve mobility and core strength.  SLIPS stands for Scales, L-Holds, Inversions, Planks, and Stretching.  We’ll be featuring an article on SLIPS soon.

What is the CrossFit Front Squat?

YouTube video

It’s a squat with the barbell in the front rack position, e.g. on the shoulders.

Why the Front Squat in Olympic Lifting & CrossFit?

The bottom front squat is the receiving position for the Olympic Lift Clean & Jerk.  After an Olympic lifting has completed the first and second pull of the barbell onto the shoulders, he or she will be in the bottom of the front squat.  We practice the front squat so that we get better at the barbell clean.  If you want to get better at Olympic lifting, you need to get better at the Clean.

It’s safer than the Back Squat.  The back squat is an amazing exercise.  It’s also on Paul’s Top 10 list.  The front squat is much safer to perform, because the barbell is front of you.  It’s much easier to bail on a front squat, than a back squat.  Sure, one would need to have good technique on the front squat for it to be safer, but all things being equal, the front squat is less likely to generate accidents.  True, you can always toss a barbell behind you (dump the bar) on a back squat.  This could potentially hurt another CrossFit in your box though.  You could also, not throw the bar far enough and have the bar crush your back.  For this reason, we recommend athletes use safeties when performing back squats.  Safeties are nice with front squats as well, but not quite as necessary.

The CrossFit Front Squat works the entire legs and core.  Particularly, it works a lot of lower back (to maintain an upright torso), and the quads.  Unless your have exceedingly great mobility, the barbell is generally and inch or two in-front of your midline.  Now, CrossFit safe movement standards will tell you the barbell should be on your mid-line.  For many people, that require more ankle and thoracic mobility than is available to the CrossFitter.  I can front squat over 300 pounds easily, eventhough the bar is slightly in front of my midline.  I wear a powerlifting belt to help my core stay engaged and just brace hard against the spinal flexion force the bar creates.  As I improve my ankle mobility, my front squat max increases as well.

The Front Squat from Olympic lifting is a barbell complex base station.  There are maybe 100 different exercises you can do from the front squat position.  Mainly they are Presses, Jerks, Lunges, and Thrusters.  That’s only 4 … but there many variations of these movements.  Plus, one can always program-in a clean-to-front squat for more variation.

The Front Squat sizes up your athletes strength & mobility.  Like the overhead squat, the front squat tells us a lot about an athletes mobility.  Everything from spinal strength, to shoulder mobility.  It’s an excellent diagnostic tool to find out potential weaknesses, so that you can work on them before they become injuries.

What is the Proper Way to Do a Front Squat?

YouTube video

Front Squat Setup

  1. Shoulder-width stance
  2. Hands just outside the shoulders
  3. Loose, fingertip grip on the bar
  4. Lift the elbows high — elbow up

Front Squat Execution

  1. Sit Back with your hips first
  2. Main your lumbar curve, no butt winking (see demonstration video).
  3. Keep your knees out over your pinky toes
  4. 10-15 degrees turnout of the feet.
  5. For a full range movement, your hip crease must descend lower than knees
  6. Keep your heels on the floor
  7. Maintain the front rack position for the entire movement
  8. The barbell should be balanced in the middle foot — along the front plane.
YouTube video

CrossFit’s Front Squat Workout 190826

Front Squat 5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1-1 reps

Practice SLIPS for 20 minutes.

Scaling Workout 190826 for Brand New Members

4 Rounds Warmup:

  • 3 10-second Pause Plate Squats
  • 10 Behind the head Sandbell Squats
  • 10 Sandbell Goblet Squats

The above workout is very different than the Rx workout in terms of movements and stimulus.  That’s OK, because you have to scale a workout to where someone is that day.  Not every person should be doing a 1 rep-max front squat.  Granted, most-everyone probably should be training so that they can do a 1-rep max front squat.  You might not be there yet.  If you’re not, try this scaled version.

General Warmup for Front Squat Heavy Day

  • 90 Second TRX or Olympic Rings Jump Squats
  • 20 straight leg sit-up + reach to toes
  • 20 Sandbell Good Morning
  • 1:00 Jump Rope single-unders
  • 10 Wall Facing Squats
  • 10 Prying Squats
  • 2:00 Minute Ankle Dorsiflection Mobility

Specific Warm-up for Front Squat Heavy Day

Using an empty barbell:

  • 10/10 Behind the Back Elbow rotations
  • Yoga Block Assisted Bent Elbow Shoulder Flexion
  • 5 Frankenstein squats
  • 2 x 5: 1 & 1/4 front squats

Building up to Start this Front Squat Heavy Day

So the rep scheme is 5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1-1 reps.  So when we start the first rep of 5 is should be around 70%-80% of your one rep max.  So you need to “build up” or “warmup” to this weight.  How do you do that?  Well you systematically and efficiently add load to your front squat until you are at 75% of your ORM.  If you don’t know your ORM, you’ll pretty much need to guess at it.  There isn’t a standard formula for that though.  Technique, body type, mobility can play a big role in determining your one rep max (ORM) for the Olympic lifting front squat.

Suggested “Build up” sequence for CrossFit Front Squat Heavy Day 190826

  • Set 1: 10 front squats at a light load
  • Add Plates
  • 7 reps at a moderate load
  • Add More Plates
  • 5 reps at a moderate load
  • Add More Plates
  • 5 reps at a heavy load

Your first set of 5 reps that count come next.  Should be at ~75% of your one rep max.

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