It’s hard enough to get new bodybuilders to consistently use standard barbell squats, particularly with good form and safe weights. The front squat, with all its awkwardness and discomfort, is often the last exercise a bodybuilder will admire and want to emulate. However, if your goal is to develop an outside sweep on the quadriceps, then you are going to want to include this movement.
Completing front squats can be difficult. You are going to be using a lot less weight than normal. You should start with 85 or 135 pounds the very first time you complete the movement. Stand with your arms crossed in front of you, with your hands arriving at your upper chest. Place a towel under the bar, then balance the bar where your upper chest and collarbone meet. There is a small groove where the weight will fit, and if you find it, the movement won’t be all that painful.
Complete your squats as you normally would, with a smooth range of motion, slow and deliberate repetitions, and with a depth that stops at 90 degrees, parallel to the ground. You will want to keep your repetition range in the 10 to 15 area, as this movement does create a little bit of an imbalance not seen with standard squats, where the barbell is allowed to sit on the back naturally. Holding it to the front lets you isolate the outer thighs, but at a price of reduced balance, comfort, and surety.
Never allow the weight to sit directly upon either the heads of the deltoid, or worse, the actual AC joint. Many bodybuilders have found themselves faced with months or years of cortisone shots and massage therapy treatment stemming from an incident in which they carelessly let the barbell sit upon their shoulder areas. Use a towel, and keep the weight further up on your upper chest.
If you are able to convince your gym owner to purchase a bent bar designed for front squats, you can eliminate most of the discomfort that comes with free barbell front squats. This padded, U-shaped bar allows you to place the barbell on your back as normal and squat away. The only difference is that the bar shifts the weight to a spot closer to the front of your body. This affects the outer thighs as desired.
The front squat requires you use less weight, so there is no risk of it ever overtaking standard barbell squats in your routine. Rather, the movement should be used as a support for standard squats. Maybe you would like to skip regular squats once a week and use leg presses in their place. The use of lighter-weight front squats later in the workout may complement this choice perfectly. Or, if you realize (from your own assessment or that of the judges) that your legs lack sweep, then you need to introduce this movement into your routine. Don’t wait until you’ve been embarrassed in an ab-thigh pose. Rather, start front squatting now!