You might be finding that every time you front squat, the barbell just doesn’t seem to stay in place.
How can you prevent the front squat bar from slipping? The barbell may be slipping because the bar is in the wrong spot, your upper body isn’t positioned in the right way, or your shoulders are sweaty. To fix this you will need to learn proper bar placement, include upper body warm ups, practice the positioning, switch your grip, and/or possibly change your shirt.
The front squat is a great exercise for both strength and muscle building goals so you don’t want to spend your life avoiding it because the bar keeps slipping that can be addressed with some short and long term fixes. It may require some patience and short term discomfort, but like most new skills, it will get easier the more you practice.
You might also be interested in reading my article on Is The Front Squat Bar Choking You? Try These 5 Tips.
Is The Front Squat Bar Slipping? How To Know
If you were to release your hands during the front squat and just rely on your shoulders to hold up the bar, it should continue to stay in place. If you can’t do that, your bar is probably slipping or at risk of slipping.
In a front squat, like a back squat, the bar should feel completely motionless on your shoulders throughout all reps and sets. At no point should it feel like you’re one movement away from it rolling down into the creases of your arms.
If you’re still not sure if the bar is slipping during the front squat, notice whether the bar starts and ends the set in the exact same position and whether your hands and elbows end up in the exact same position as where they started.
Additionally, if you do front squats with a crossed arm grip, one side may begin to slip and cause the barbell to feel heavier on one side due to the uneven load.
In short, if your arms and upper body start making small adjustments with each passing rep it may be because they are compensating for a slipping bar and you have some work to do.
Reasons Why The Bar Is Slipping During Front Squats
The barbell may be slipping down your shoulders for a couple of different reasons that all mostly come down to the way your upper body is set up throughout the lift.
There are 5 reasons why the front squat bar is slipping off your shoulders:
- Your bar placement is wrong
- You’re using the wrong grip choice
- You lack upper body mobility
- You lack core strength
- You have sweaty shoulders
Your Bar Placement Is Wrong
Wrong bar placement is common because the spot where it should sit can be a little uncomfortable and may feel like you’re doing it wrong. The bar should actually be sitting on top of your shoulders, right at the base of your neck. It should be as close to your neck as possible without actually constricting any airflow.
You’re Using The Wrong Grip For You
You may have the right placement, but then the grip you have chosen isn’t doing its job and/or isn’t the right grip for you at this time given your upper body mobility. There are four grip options with front squats including: standard grip, modified standard grip,cross arm grip and strap assisted grip.
You Lack Upper Body Mobility
A lack of mobility may be seen as the underlying cause for issues with bar placement and grip. Plenty of lifters, like myself, do know what the right form is, but physically don’t have the capability to come into the position with ease.
While shoulder and wrist mobility is usually blamed, thoracic spine mobility is often the underlying culprit for difficulty holding the front squat bar. Your thoracic spine is your mid back region and stiffness here may be restricting your ability to stay upright throughout the front squat.
A lack of wrist, shoulder and/or thoracic mobility will ultimately compromise your bar placement and put you at risk of losing control of the barbell.
Your Lack Core Strength
In order to keep the bar from slipping your body must be upright and stable while doing the front squat. This can be compromised if you are not able to keep a strong brace and you end up caving forward as a result.
You Have Sweaty Shoulders
Assuming you have proper bar placement, an appropriate grip and good mobility, it may be possible that your shoulders are just too sweaty causing some unnecessary slipping throughout your sets.
8 Tips To Fix The Front Squat Bar Slipping
Here are my top 8 tips for fixing the barbell slipping while front squatting:
1. Place the bar higher up on your shoulder
2. Keep your elbows up
3. Widen your grip
4. Use a strap-assisted grip
5. Warm up your shoulders, wrists and thoracic spine
6. Practice the front rack position
7. Learn how to brace and breathe
8. Wear a cotton t-shirt
1. Place The Bar Higher Up On Your Shoulders
The bar should be placed on top of your shoulders, above the collar bone and right at the base of the neck. Ensure you’re keeping your head and neck elongated throughout the movement to avoid pressing your neck into the bar or the bar into your neck.
2. Keep Your Elbows Up
Pay attention to your elbows throughout the squat and keep them up so that your arms are parallel to the ground. Your elbows shouldn’t be tipping down as you sink into the squat, if you have the bar placed in the right spot and can maintain this position it should stop the bar from slipping.
3. Widen Your Grip
If keeping your elbows up is currently impossible with a standard grip, try widening your hands and grabbing the bar with 2-3 fingers wrapped under the barbell. This may relieve some pressure on your wrists while still putting you in a good position to front squat.
4. Use A Strap-assisted Grip
While a standard grip can be seen as the ideal, it just may not be possible for you at this time due to mobility restrictions. A strap-assisted grip may be a good alternative if you don’t have the mobility for a standard or modified standard grip.
Although a crossed arm grip is typically what lifters resort to when they can’t maintain a standard grip, crossing of your arms creates an uneven surface for the bar to rest on and may increase your chances of having it slip.
5. Warm Up Your Shoulders, Wrists And Thoracic Spine
As part of your dynamic warm up routine before lifting, make sure to prioritize your upper body, especially your shoulders, wrists and thoracic spine. Some basic dynamic warm ups for your shoulders include shoulder dislocations with a dowel and band pull aparts.
For your wrists, start with simple rotations and also consider including light, slow eccentric wrist curls. The latter will not only warm up your wrist but if you have a history of wrist fractures like myself, it can help the joint feel less restricted in the extended position.
If these exercises are a challenge or do not improve your positioning consider working on these drills multiple times a week.
Related Article: Front Squat Mobility: 17 Must-Do Exercises
6. Practice The Front Rack Position
While mobility drills and warm ups will help get you a bit more comfortable in the front rack position, long term change will come from specificity. Therefore you should practice holding an unloaded barbell on your shoulders with a standard grip multiple times a week to get your joints used to the positioning.
Make sure you are not feeling any sharp pain or overextending any joints and work within your limits when doing this.
7. Improve Your Brace
While both back and front squats require a good brace, loading the weight in the front places more stress on your core. Therefore, it’s imperative you know how to properly breathe and brace to avoid both injury and the bar slipping.
A good brace consists of breathing into the stomach and then applying a 360 degree pressure around the torso, keeping it as rigid as possible. Beyond just practicing bracing during the front squats, some exercises to include if you need more practice include weighted planks, bird dogs, stir the pot and the pallof press.
Wearing a powerlifting belt can improve your brace as well. Click to read my top belt recommendations.
8. Wear A Cotton T-shirt
If you’re running into issues with the bar slipping due to sweat you may want to switch to wearing a cotton t-shirt instead of a sleeveless tank or a shirt made from sweat-wicking material.
For the same reasons you want to wear a cotton t-shirt for heavy back squats, it may also help with your front squat as the material will provide extra friction and make it harder for the bar to slide out of position.
As I stated in my article on Does Powerlifting Cause Acne, sweat can be a main cause for acne, so wearing clean gear is important for prevention.
In short, the bar should not be slipping at any point during your front squats and the reasoning comes down to how your body is positioned from the waist up. It may not always be a quick fix, or an easy one, but the front squat is a great exercise so finding a way to do them without the bar slipping is worth your time.
However, if you’re finding the learning curve to be too large and don’t have dreams of becoming a competitive weightlifter of crossfitter, you can check out these front squat alternatives.
Interested in learning more about how the front squat compares with other exercises, check out our complete guides:
- Safety Bar Squat vs Front Squat
- Goblet Squat vs Front Squat
- Trap Bar Deadlift vs Front Squat
- Zercher Squat vs Front Squat
About The Author
Elena Popadic has worked within the fitness industry for over 6 years, is co-host of the Squats and Thoughts podcast and trains and competes as a powerlifter. She has a BSc in Life Sciences from McMaster University, a Postgrad Certificate in Public Relations from Humber College and is currently pursuing a MSc Occupational Therapy at Western University. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.