What Is The Optimal Scapular Position In A Front Squat?

September 14th 2019

Front Squats are a compound exercise and are utilized to develop lower body muscles. It challenges numerous muscles and is essentially a full-body lift. Front squats challenge the gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius, and quadriceps. The front squat impacts the quadriceps the most. It pushes the lower body to build strength. According to research provided in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, lifters that are prone to knee injuries or have knee limitations, the front squat proved to be more beneficial than other squats. To maximize your results from the front squat exercise, it is imperative that your technique runs like a well-oiled machine. From your stance to your thoracic spine and arms have to work in sync to perform this exercise correctly.

Front Squat Scapular Position

You need to focus on maintaining a stable mid-back position. This does not mean you should be overtly contracting your lats, shoulders or rhomboids. However, maintaining high elbows, where your forearms are parallel to the ground, along with establishing proper core and mid-back tightness will put your scapula in the correct position to front squat.

Proper Technique For The Front Squat

Good technique will allow a lifter to get the most out of front squats. Proper mechanics of the front squat exercise will create abdominal development. It is important to start with “air squats” (front squats without a bar or squats without any weight on a bar) to perfect your technique. There are some important starting tips that will help improve your technique. First is to find your “starting position,” which is accomplished by adjusting your stance a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes should also face out a tad. 

When you decide you are ready to add a barbell, find your grip that should also be a little wider at shoulder-width apart. Once you obtain a bar, place on the front of the shoulders, a common mistake is using your arms to support the barbell; a clean grip is essential. Your forearms should not be vertical to the floor.

It is vital to keep your chest up and elbows high. The elbows should be positioned high enough where your triceps remain parallel to the floor. Next, flex your core and take a deep breath. Be sure to keep your feet flat on the ground and push down to the ground with your heels. You want to squat low enough to the point your thighs are slightly below parallel. Be sure to concentrate your knees outward as you lower into your squat; this is critical with the use of heavier weights. If not, your knees will collapse inward, which will increase your chances of injury.

Posture and Proper Scapular Position During The Front Squat

Remember, keep your chest raised and back tight. Your elbows need to raise when you are pushing out of the squat driving the elbows up to accelerate to the top. Your back should be hyperaware of your upper and midback. You should maintain an erect upper and midback position. Be sure to keep your upper and midback tight and not release your core. Tightening your core and back will keep your scapular position on point and prevent you from falling forward and dropping the bar. 

Posture will play into your thoracic muscles remaining tight when performing front squats. It is critical to execute proper position throughout the exercise. Fluid scapula and clavicle movement are required for effective front squats. This includes a smooth upward rotation to ensure the elbows are up and the bar stays in the proper position. 

Engaging the lats can also improve your scapular position. According to Iron-Oak Fitness, “[k]eeping the lats engaged while slightly elevating and protracting the scapula will help increase midline stabilization. This helps to create a solid “shelf” for the barbell to rest on.” The front squat tackles tightness in the upper back and stabilizes the scapular position. 

Ways to Improve Your Front Squat Technique and Exercise Variations

Beginner lifters find that the mechanics and movement of the front squat can expose flexibility concerns in the hips, knees, ankles, and wrists. Variations of the front squat can help beginners’ sort through hand placement and address mobility issues which can progress into proper and comfortable form. 

Achieving an appropriate rack position is necessary for front squats. This position is the basis for frustration and pain reported by lifters. If you are unable to get into a proper rack position, it negatively affects your ability to push through the exercise. There are ways to promote and work towards a better rack position. A blog post for coaches from Invictus Fitness explains, “[t]his is usually caused by some tight muscles throughout your upper body such as the latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, and triceps. The wrist flexors are also a common culprit.” Therefore, it is crucial if you experience tight muscles to stretch your triceps and lats regularly. 

Some variations include front squats with the wall, straight arms, crossed arms, or front squats with straps. Each variation can help perfect scapular position, which is critical to obtaining the results the front squat can produce. It is okay to work with an empty barbell or “air squats” until you’ve executed proper form and discovered your scapular position. 

Let us wrap things up

There are more than a few benefits to implementing front squats into your workout routine. It is a great, all-encompassing exercise for beginners and seasoned lifters. The front squat is known to produce robust and solid quadriceps. This makes the front squat a more beneficial exercise than leg extensions to build your quadriceps. The front squat is also easier on your thoracic spine as it puts less pressure on your lower back compared to back squats. 

Front squats with upright scapular position and torso strengthen your abs and obliques to enhance your ability to take on more weight to build your strength to its optimal level. It develops mobility in your upper back, shoulders, and hips. Front squats can correct that tight feeling in your lower back that were potentially induced by other lower back exercises. 

Hopefully, you learn more about your front squat scapula position and what it takes to maintain a good rack position.

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