In the never-ending debate regarding what type of squats are best for athletes and regular gym-goers there is one crucial thing that needs to be addressed from the outset: The type of squat you favor or do in the gym should reflect your goals.

So, for example, if your goal is to open up your hips, teach yourself better squatting technique, and limit the shear and compressive force of heavy weight on your back, using a front squat would be more then ideal. If your goal was to increase vertical jump and your 40-yard dash time, the quarter squat has been shown to help you do these most effectively.

Jump squats, back squats, goblet squats—they all have a place in your training regimen, how much emphasis you decide to place on them simply depends on what you hope to accomplish in the gym.

Here are five benefits of front squats for athletic performance.

1. Easier on your back (plus all the benefits of regular barbell back squats).

I have never met an athlete who could front squat as much as they could back squat. It’s not a strength issue so much as a mechanical issue.

This decrease in strength actually plays into the favor of athletes who are already training 20+ hours a week on the field or during their swim practices in the pool—front squats actually end up doing the same amount of muscle recruitment as traditional back squats with less weight. In other words, you can still get strength and power gains without having to load up the barbell and add shear to your back.

2. More closely imitates athletic movements.

When lifting in the gym the big goal should be to reflect the movement patterns you are trying to strengthen and build upon on the field of play. As an example, a basketball player, who largely jumps with a shoulder width stance, as well as unilaterally, would want to perform movements that power up those particular actions in the gym (step ups, and shoulder-width squats).

Front squats, because they require you to be more forward and on your toes, more closely align common athletic movements. The resistance in sport almost always happens in front of you, not behind you. Front squats help mirror this.

3. Better overall body positioning.

Front squats are awesome for postural reasons as well. Because the bar is in front of you it forces you to puff your chest out and assume a straighter back. All too often you will see athletes put a barbell on their back and end up collapsing their torso forward at the bottom of the lift.

What happens then is that they need to do a “good morning”—placing great strain on their low back—in order to get out of the movement. Additionally, athletes with tight hips will find that they can get lower with front squats as the elevated chest helps them to sink into position better.

The Next Step:

If you are wanting to incorporate the front squats into your workout routine, but aren’t sure where to start, here are some quick pointers.

Assume a natural squat width stance. Thighs and toes should point in the same direction. This will help your knee from twisting during the movement.

Start with goblet and air squat (arms extended in front of you), to get used to squatting with load in front of you.

 

Your core will get a heckuva workout—so remember to keep your core nice and tight through the whole movement.