Lift - Front Squat Technique: One Cue That Has Been A Game Changer

Being a tall skinny ectomorph I'm aware that my biggest weakness in weightlifting is quite simply ABSOLUTE STRENGTH and really strength in general. 

My goal for 2018 is to finish a meet with a 186kg/409lbs total which would be 16kg/35lbs higher than my first meet about 3-years ago - if you've been reading my posts you may remember after my first meet I began training for marathon distance canoe races (25-90 miles) and Stand Up Paddleboard Races (5-6 miles)! 

Over the past 6-months or so I've been focusing on improving both my Overhead Squat and Front Squat because I believe these two lifts are the biggest limiting factors. This post will only talk about the Front Squat, one particular cue that has been a game changer for me, and a couple training strategies that have increased my Front Squat by 11kg/25lbs over the course of these past 6-months.

First, I want to begin with a video by Max Aita of Juggernaut Training Systems breaking down Front Squat technique with Colin Burns. On a side note, Juggernaut Training Systems and Greg Everett's Catalyst Athletics are hands down my two go-to resources for everything weightlifting. 

Now watch & learn! 

In addition to the tips above, the most recent game changer for me has been one cue - TUCK! Throughout my years of training the most common answer I would hear about how to increase my squat, whether front or back, has been:

Strengthen the always ambiguous "CORE"

So, what does that mean? For me, it's not about finding the particular accessory exercise that will improve my squat, but rather it's about mastering the MOVEMENT and understanding what my body is/is not doing to maintain optimum position. The only way I could effectively do this was by taking video of myself while squatting and seeing what was going on. Below are two videos I took during a 5x5 session (5 sets x 5 reps @ 80%). Watch and analyze:

What did YOU see? Maybe a few things, but my focus is on that sticking point I have about midway up. Using Coach's Eye, a great app for analyzing angles, I saw about almost a 20 degree difference in the angle of my hip at that midpoint on the way up! Visualize this:

  1. Pause my video at that sticking point during my ascent
  2. Draw one line starting at my hip, where the head of my femur lies in my "hip joint", and draw it through the end of the bar
  3. Draw a second line, again starting at the same point on my hip, but running straight along my femur through my knee cap
  4. THAT angle made up between those two lines at my hip was about 63 degrees WITHOUT holding that Posterior Pelvic Tilt tension (top video) compared to 85 degrees WITH holding that tension (bottom video).

So, what's the significance?

When I DID NOT hold tension through the entire squat in what I'll refer to as my "lower abs" and glutes I ended up in a position where the lack of tension in that area caused my hips to drift backwards. When that happened, in order to correct the drift and get back into a more optimal position, I needed to re-engage those Posterior Tilt muscles, "lower abs" and glutes - You can actually see this happening.

In the second video, I consciously held tension through my "lower abs" and glutes through the entire Range Of Motion. This tension "locked" my hips in a more optimal position and prevented my hips from drifting back. This is why the second video SHOULD look smoother even though it was the last set of my 5x5!

Hope this makes sense and was helpful!

- Jared