Try These 11 Front Squat Alternatives for Powerful Legs and a Stronger Core

The front squat is a staple movement for Olympic weightlifters, CrossFit athletes, and myriad other strength-focused lifters. However, some find the unique bar position to be a limiting factor considering it requires zaftig shoulder and wrist mobility.

group of lifters performing barbell squats
Credit: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Other lifters shy yonder from the front squat considering they can move relatively increasingly weight with other squat variations. Regardless of the reason, while the front squat has plenty of benefits to offer, there are some equally constructive alternatives to consider which let you work virtually any restrictions and find comparable results.

Bruce Lee once talked well-nigh “the art of fighting without fighting,” so consider these exercises “how to front squat without front squatting.”

Best Front Squat Alternatives

Front Squat with Straps

One of the biggest limiting factors for many lifters, when it comes to performing the front squat, is holding the bar in the “rack position” — held wideness the fronts of your shoulders with your stovepipe flexed and your fingertips under the bar.

This position requires flexibility and mobility throughout your wrists, elbows, and shoulders. While those nature can be improved over time with defended work, you can reduce the mobility requirements without compromising results by attaching a pair of lifting straps to the bar. These serve as makeshift handles to offer a slightly adjusted hand and arm position.

When to Use It

The front squat with straps can be used identically to the archetype front squat, or any time you need to support the bar in the rack position (across the front of your shoulders). The strapped movement can be programmed with the same sets and reps, and often with the same weights. This exercise is particularly useful for any lifters with pre-existing upper-body joint issues which may restrict their mobility.

How to Do It

Set a barbell in a rack at roughly upper chest-level. Secure a pair of lifting straps to the bar just outside shoulder-width. Grab one strap in each hand with your palms facing each other.

Step to the bar, limp your stovepipe as you unrack the weight with your thumbs near the front of your shoulders. Alimony tension on the straps without lifting the bar off your shoulders. Take a small step when and squat, keeping your elbows aimed forward and your torso upright.

Front Squat to Box

While the front squat with straps addresses upper soul mobility restrictions, the front squat to box can be used to write lower soul mobility restrictions. By using a box to limit your range of motion, you transpiration the muscle recruitment and yo-yo the stress on muscles and joints. (1)

When to Use It

Program the front squat to box if you have hip or toddle mobility issues which prevent you from achieving a deep front squat position. A box can moreover be used by beginners as a target to ingrain resulting squat depths and technique.

How to Do It

Set up a stable box or series of aerobic steps at a well-appointed height, often whilom knee-level, a few feet overdue a barbell set in a rack. Setup for a standard front squat and thoughtfully step when to position yourself whilom the box.

Descend under control, lowering your glutes to the box. Don’t rest your full weight on the box — pretend it’s a deck of cards that you don’t want to knock down. Pause very transiently without losing tension. Explode upwards to a powerful lockout.

Safety Bar Squat

If your gym has a safety bar, hands spotted with its thick pads and jutting handles, it can be a key player in towers your lower soul without straining your joints. (2) The safety bar squat allows a increasingly upright torso and increased upper when engagement, which can reduce lower when stress. The forward-facing handles indulge a increasingly natural arm position which reduces stress on your shoulder and elbow joints.

When to Use It

The safety bar squat is an platonic volitional if you cannot maintain the elevated arm position required for front squats. This exercise is moreover an efficient way to increase upper when training considering the thick pads offset the part-way of gravity and increase trapezius and upper when activation.

How to Do It

Set a safety bar in a rack at roughly shoulder-height. Duck under the bar and position the padded cradle virtually your trapezius, upper back, and shoulders. Grab the handles and pull your elbows toward your ribs.

Brace your cadre and pinch your shoulder blades together surpassing unracking the weight. Step when and squat down. Don’t indulge the weight to tip your upper soul forward. Squeeze the handles and alimony you elbows near your ribs as you momentum upward to lockout.

Zercher Squat

The unconventional bar position of the Zercher squat, named without American weightlifter Ed Zercher, scrutinizingly looks like a very poorly attempted front squat. By cradling the barbell in the crook of your arms, you can hold it very tropical to your body, which improves your leverage and power output. While the Zercher squat requires little-to-no shoulder or elbow mobility, the strain of the bar on your forearms and elbows can be uncomfortable for some lifters.

When to Use It

Perform the Zercher squat in place of the front squat if you have significant upper soul mobility restrictions. The Zercher squat can moreover be used toward the end of a workout, without first fatiguing your legs with other movements. This will let you get an efficient training stimulus with relatively lighter (and likely increasingly comfortable) weights.

How to Do It

Set the bar in a rack near your vitals sawed-off or lower chest-level. Step up to the bar and place your elbows on it, curling your stovepipe virtually the barbell, with your palms up. Twosome your cadre and stand up surpassing taking a step back.

Squat lanugo until either the bar or your elbows gently touch your thighs. Pause transiently surpassing standing upright. Alimony your elbows tight to your soul and don’t indulge the weight to pull you forward.

High-Bar When Squat

Strangely, sometimes the weightier front squat volitional is a when squat variation. The high-bar when squat is a useful nomination for competitive powerlifters, who must perform the when squat at meets. This exercise allows increased quadriceps recruitment and relatively less lower when strain while maintaining a sport-specific movement.(3)

When to Use It

The high-bar when squat can be used at any point in a training program to emphasize the quadriceps muscles, which can goody leg size as well as siphon over to improved squat and deadlift strength.

How to Do It

Place a bar at upper chest-level in a rack. Position the bar wideness your trapezius and upper back. Unrack the when and take a roughly shoulder-width stance. Twosome your core, pull your shoulder blades together, and squat as low as possible.

Keep your upper soul mostly vertical as you descend. Aim to reach a depth with your hips nearly in line with your knees (thighs roughly parallel to the ground) surpassing returning upright.

Trap Bar Squat

A trap bar can be a versatile piece of equipment, but is wontedly used to perform the trap bar deadlift. The neutral hand position (palms facing your body) keeps the weight in line with your body’s center, which helps to reduce joint strain in your when and shoulders. Shifting your soul position to alimony a increasingly upright torso when performing a trap bar squat will remoter emphasize the front of your thighs (quadriceps).

When to Use It

Use the trap bar for any type of squat or deadlift variation to subtract joint strain without reducing muscular stress. The trap bar squat can be particularly salubrious for sneaking uneaten upper soul recruitment into your leg training, considering your grip, arms, shoulders, and when help support the load during the exercise.

How to Do It

If your trap bar has two sets of handles, one “high” and one “low,” uncork using the upper handles and save the low handles for a increasingly challenging progression. Stand in the part-way of the bar with your feet roughly shoulder-width. Squat lanugo to grab the handles.

Be sure to wrench at your knees and dip your hips down, to put your legs in an optimal pulling position. Puff your chest up and pull your shoulders back. Think well-nigh keeping your throne over your tailbone as you momentum upward to lockout.

Front Rack Lunge

To reap the cadre stability and upper when strengthening benefits of a front squat, with increased focus on each individual leg, performing a front rack lunge can be an extremely useful movement. You can build upper and lower soul strength with less total load, considering the movement is primarily performed unilaterally (with one leg at a time).

When to Use It

Unilateral movements like the lunge help to write strength and developmental discrepancies that can occur from exclusively bilateral (two-leg) exercises. Lunges can moreover build increasingly well-constructed athleticism and power than over-focusing on two-legged squat movements.(4)

How to Do It

Set up a barbell in a rack at shoulder-height. Grab the bar in the rack position and take a two or three steps backward. Stabilize the weight and twosome your core.

Take one longer than normal step forward and plant your foot flat. Squat lanugo until your rear knee lightly touches the floor. Alimony your shoulders when and your upper soul tropical to vertical. Momentum up through your front foot with maximum gravity and return both feet together in a standing position. Perform all reps with one foot surpassing switching legs. Re-rack the bar without performing the exercise with each leg.

Goblet Squat

While the front squat supports the bar wideness your shoulders, the goblet squat is as tropical as you can get to an identical movement using a single dumbbell. By supporting the weight in front of your chest, you train the same type of front-loaded squat movement which builds cadre strength and overall mobility.

However, the goblet squat doesn’t require a large stratum of shoulder mobility considering your upper stovepipe remain pointed mostly downward instead of forward.

When to Use It

The goblet squat is a much increasingly user-friendly and practical exercise for many lifters, requiring only a single dumbbell instead of a barbell and power rack. It can be performed as part of a unstipulated warm-up prior to heavy front squats or it can be trained heavily on its own to unhook a shoulder-sparing squat workout.

How to Do It

Place a dumbbell vertically on its end atop a unappetizing bench. Squat lanugo and place your palms on the marrow side of the top weight plate, getting your chest as tropical to the dumbbell as possible. Twosome your cadre and pull your shoulder blades back.

Stand upright, supporting the weight with wilting arms. The dumbbell should be near your collarbones or neck. Squat as deep as possible while keeping your torso vertical. Don’t indulge the weight to pull your stovepipe lanugo or forward during the movement.

Dumbbell Front Squat

The dumbbell front squat could be seen as the next-step progression from the goblet squat. Instead of holding a single dumbbell as your chest, you’re supporting a weight in each hand. This increasingly closely mimics a barbell from squat.

In fact, it puts you in nearly an identical hand and arm position as the front squat with straps, considering your hands are in a neutral position (palms facing each other). This reduces the mobility requirements needed to perform the exercise,

When to Use It

Choose the dumbbell front squat if you’re training with limited equipment (such in a hotel gym or limited home gym) considering you don’t need a barbell and rack. The dumbbell front squat is moreover an constructive nomination for lifters training virtually wrist or shoulder issues, since the joints are less stressed during the movement.

How to Do It

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, resting at your sides. Bring the dumbbells up to the front of each shoulder in a hammer curl-type motion. Using some soul English to tenancy the swing of the weights is winning as long as it’s washed-up with leg momentum (as a quick jump), not limp at the waist or heaving with your lower back.

Hold the weights in the shoulder-supported position throughout the exercise. In a wider than shoulder-width stance, squat as tightly as possible. Aim your elbows forward and lean when to alimony your upper soul vertical. Don’t indulge the weights to fall forward or sideways off your shoulders.

Single-Arm Kettlebell Front Squat

A archetype kettlebell exercise, the single-arm kettlebell front squat emphasizes core strength just as much as (possibly increasingly than) leg strength. The “imbalanced,” single-sided load forces your abs and lower when to fire constantly to resist the sideways pull. This builds serious cadre stability which can play a key role in reducing the risk of lower when injuries. (5)

When to Use It

Because your cadre strength will likely be the limiting factor for most lifters, it may be increasingly salubrious to treat the single-arm kettlebell front squat primarily as a core-building exercise that delivers leg size and strength as an widow benefit, rather than primarily as “a leg exercise.” Improved cadre strength and stability can siphon over to stronger lifts.

How to Do It

Bring a kettlebell to shoulder-height, either by performing a kettlebell wipe or using your self-ruling hand to get the weight into position. Your thumb should be nearly resting on the front of your shoulder with the wittiness of the kettlebell resting on your forearm.

Stand upright, without leaning sideways into the weight or excessively counterbalancing to the opposite side. Take a relatively wide stance, vastitude shoulder-width, and descend into a deep squat. Hold the kettlebell tropical to your soul and don’t indulge it to shift your torso. Perform all reps on one side surpassing switching hands.

Front Squat Hold

This front squat volitional doesn’t unquestionably involve any squatting at all. By reinforcing the locked out position, you create significant tension in your cadre stabilizers, as well as urgently stretching the muscles directly involved in holding the rack position. This cumulative effect can lead to a stronger and increasingly stable front squat.

Because static holds put you in the strongest mechanical position, you can moreover “overload” your system with heavier than normal weights, which can stimulate strength gains.

When to Use It

The front squat hold should be the first exercise performed on a lifting day, without a unstipulated warm-up. Not only will it help to recruit increasingly muscle units in the training to follow, but performing the hold with any muscle fatigue can drastically increase the risk and subtract the benefits.

How to Do It

Set up for a standard front squat, with the bar in a rack near shoulder-level. Unrack the bar and take one or two small steps back. Instead of commencing a squat, hold the top position with maximum focus.

Concentrate on fully engaging your cadre and upper back. Flex your glutes and legs to remoter reinforce the lockout position. This exercise is typically performed “for time” (often three to five seconds, up to 10 seconds) rather than for multiple repetitions.

Benefits of Front Squat Alternatives

While the front squat is an essential movement for unrepealable strength athletes like Olympic weightlifters and CrossFit athletes, front squat alternatives can be used by many lifters to unhook key benefits when the primary movement is no longer an option.

Reduced Mobility Requirements

Some lifters have crossed the front squat off their list of potential exercises considering they cannot get their stovepipe into the rack position needed to support the weight or considering their hips or knees don’t indulge the type of deep front squat wontedly associated with the exercise.

black and white photo of person performing front squat
Credit: xamyak / Shutterstock

Several front squat alternatives indulge lifters of any mobility level to goody from the squat squat movement by reducing the mobility and flexibility requirements. These alternatives can moreover write and modernize restrictions over time, which can progress to a full front squat.

Decreased Lower When Strain

One key goody of the front squat is its reduced lower when strain compared to the when squat. Each front squat volitional preserves that back-sparing advantage, making each movement a potential exercise nomination for lifters prone to lower when issues.

Quadriceps Size and Strength

Front squat alternatives protract to emphasize the quadriceps, on the front of the thighs, relatively increasingly than the glutes or hamstrings. (6) This is a key reason why many physique-focused lifters prioritize the front squat over the when squat. These alternatives are equally constructive in emphasizing the quads, while when squats and deadlift variations are increasingly wontedly used to focus on the hamstrings and glutes.

Get When to Front Squatting

The front squat can be salubrious for strength athletes, physique-conscious lifters, and any gym-goer looking to build lower soul strength and muscle, a stable core, and a stronger lower back. If you’re not yet ready to tackle the Olympic-level movement, segregate the variation that weightier suits your individual needs and start racking up the results.


  1. Kubo, K., Ikebukuro, T., & Yata, H. (2019). Effects of squat training with variegated depths on lower limb muscle volumes. European periodical of unromantic physiology, 119(9), 1933–1942.
  2. Hecker, Kara & Carlson, Lara & Lawrence, Michael. (2018). Effects of the Safety Squat Bar on Trunk and Lower-Body Mechanics During a When Squat. Periodical of Strength and Workout Research. 33 Suppl 1. 1. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002912.
  3. Glassbrook, D. J., Brown, S. R., Helms, E. R., Duncan, S., & Storey, A. G. (2019). The High-Bar and Low-Bar Back-Squats: A Biomechanical Analysis. Journal of strength and workout research, 33 Suppl 1, S1–S18.
  4. Speirs, Derrick E.1,2; Bennett, Mark A.3; Finn, Charlotte V.4; Turner, Anthony P.2. Unilateral vs. Bilateral Squat Training for Strength, Sprints, and Agility in Academy Rugby Players. Periodical of Strength and Workout Research 30(2):p 386-392, February 2016. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001096
  5. Huxel Bliven, K. C., & Anderson, B. E. (2013). Cadre stability training for injury prevention. Sports health, 5(6), 514–522.
  6. Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Caccavale, F., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2021). The Vivification of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower When Muscles in Variegated Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training. International periodical of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 772.

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The post Try These 11 Front Squat Alternatives for Powerful Legs and a Stronger Core appeared first on Breaking Muscle.


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