The barbell front squat is one of the most challenging moves in the gym, challenging your core to stay active for the entire time, and attacking your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It’s a challenging move to learn, too.
But you don’t need to run away from it. And if you use this approach from Sean Garner, C.P.T., you won’t need to overload the bar with weight to benefit from the move, either. In a recent Instagram post, Garner broke down a front squat method that’s joint-friendly and one of the best ways to perfect your form, the slow-tempo front squat.
Here’s your game plan: Instead of rushing through reps, you’re going to use a 5-5-1 tempo. That means you’ll set up in front squat position, but when you lower you’ll be going extra-slowly. Your goal is to take a full 5 seconds to lower your torso until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Then you’ll hold in that position for 5 full seconds, before pressing back up as quickly as possible. When you’re in that bottom position, focus on spreading your knees outwards, honing your squat technique in the process.
Slowing your tempo lets you push your muscles to the max using an ultra-heavy weight. That can save you from both knee and back pain, especially if you’re still working to master the front squat movement. You’ll also be honing your form with the slow tempo; by slowing the motion, you won’t be able to cheat or bounce as much so you’ll build stronger body control and hone your mind-muscle connection with the movement.
You also won’t have to do a ton of reps to benefit from this front squat training. Each rep will have your leg muscles fired up for a full 10 seconds, so even if you only bust out 5 reps, your legs will have spent a full 50 seconds under tension from the weight. Garner’s visibly tapped after just 5 reps; you can aim to do 5 sets of 5 reps, resting 2 to 3 minutes between each set.
Don’t have a barbell for this? No problem. You can do this with a pair of heavy kettlebells as well, holding them at your shoulders in good front rack position. Or grab a heavy dumbbell and hold it with both hands at your chest in a goblet position.
Either way, find ways to integrate this tempo method of front squatting into your workouts. Your legs will thank you.