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A less popular version of the classic leg day exercise, the front squat is an assistance movement that could be implemented in your training routine to diversify the way you train your legs and maximize their growth.
After thousands of reps of back squats, switching up things and placing the bar in front can be more difficult than you imagine. Although the fundamentals of the exercise do not change, the way it’s executed will differ a bit, therefore some issues may occur.
Without a doubt, learning the fundamentals of an exercise and having a proper form should be prioritized, but after those aspects are taken care of, throwing a lifting belt on can help you to get the most out of an exercise.
What Are The Benefits Of Front Squats?
Besides the advantage of switching things up which can help you to get more enthusiastic about the leg day than the usual routine of back squatting, with this variation of the exercise the quads stimulation is increased while the posterior chain is resting.
Another advantage of doing front squats is the help provided for Olympic lifts. For example, the Clean and Jerk involves a front squat. We all know that practice makes perfect, thus if you want to get into Olympic weightlifting, the front squat is one of the exercises to focus on in order to get stronger at the main movements.
What Can Go Wrong With Front Squats?
Leaning Forward is probably the most common issue. Because the bar position is in front of you, some people tend to lean forward, especially at the bottom part of the movement. This can happen for various reasons, but it’s mostly caused by big weights. In this situation, a lifting belt can help you to handle the situation better.
Another problem might be keeping the bar racked, but that depends totally on your grip and it has nothing to do with a belt. If you encounter this problem, the best solution is to experiment with different types of grip. (arm-crossed or clean grip)
For a better understanding of the basics of front squats, I recommend that you watch Jeff Nipard’s video, in which he explains the whole concept really well.
Should You Wear A Lifting Belt For Front Squats?
If you choose a belt suitable for front squats, then putting one on can prevent you from leaning forward, especially at the bottom of the movement. On top of that, wearing a belt will prevent hyperextension of the lower back and allow you to create more intra-abdominal pressure.
The problem that might occur with a belt for front squats is the incapability of reaching a full range of motion due to the thickness, width, and sturdiness. A thick leather belt can limit your mobility and create discomfort, thus it is recommended to avoid powerlifting-style belts when it comes to front squats.
Overall, the best advice is to do what is most comfortable for you. If you find a belt helpful, and it does not affect your mobility, then you should obviously stick with it.
What Kind Of Belt Is The Best For Front Squats?
A skinny type of belt does not restrict your mobility but still offers enough support to make a significant difference. Leather belts with smaller width in the abdominal area than in the back and less than 7mm in thickness are perfect for front squats. In terms of width, the best choices are 3-inch and 4-inch. Another solid option is a nylon belt, which is more comfortable, but most of the time a leather one is superior in terms of support.
The idea of using skinny belts for front squats is implemented by most Olympic weightlifters in their training, although the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) rulebook allows a maximum width of 12cm compared to IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) where the maximum allowed is 10cm.
A powerlifting-style belt has its benefits for sure, but using one for front squats is not the best idea.
If you feel discomfort when doing front squats with a 4-inch wide leather belt, the best shot is to try a 3-inch one, which limits the belt from digging into the ribs. For problems such as discomfort in the hips area (belt digging into the hips), a nylon belt with a contoured design might solve this problem.
Choosing the right type of belt for front squats and implementing it in your training can make a serious difference in terms of keeping your upper body upright and increasing your strength, but the benefits can continue.
The belt can act as an external reminder to get tight and it can help you to be more focused on using the quadriceps, which is the main muscle targeted by front squats. For the leaning forward problem, warming up really well before the actual workout can have a positive impact, especially if you include some hip mobility exercises.
Stretching is another thing to take into consideration which has a lot of benefits and can help you have better mobility during training.