Performing front squats with straps is a practice popularized by powerlifters but is now commonly used by bodybuilders, gym-goers, injured weightlifters, and those that lack wrist/shoulder mobility.
What is a front squat with straps? A front squat with straps is a squat performed with the bar on the shoulders while holding onto straps that are secured on the bar. Front squats with straps allow you to hold the bar symmetrically at the same time as minimizing stress on the wrist, shoulders, and elbows.
Front squat with straps is an ingenious way to allow anyone to have some form of front squatting on the menu for training. If you cannot or do not want to perform front squats with crossed arms or an Olympic style clean grip, then this is the perfect version for you.
In this article, I will be providing you a comprehensive guide on what it is, how to perform it and why you should even do it. I will also go through some common problems you may come across and how you might go about solving them.
Sometimes people replace the front squat with the safety bar squat. Check out my comparison of the Safety Bar Squat vs Front Squat.
Front Squat With Straps: What Is It?
The front squat with straps or strap assisted front squats is a way of executing the front squat popularised by bodybuilders and powerlifters. It is performed with the bar across the front of the shoulders like regular front squat but with less demand on upper body mobility.
Front squatting with straps has a lower barrier to entry as you do not need as much wrist or shoulder mobility compared to front squats with standard grips as adopted by olympic weightlifters.
It may be more advantageous than a front squat with crossed arm grip as may not be as comfortable and you may dislike the asymmetry that comes with that.
Find out more about front squats with our ultimate guide.
4 Benefits Of Front Squat With Straps
Here are 4 benefits from using straps to grip the bar during front squats:
- You can still squat whilst nursing elbow or wrist injuries
- You can front squat without the prerequisite mobility for clean grip
- You can front squat symmetrically unlike the crossed arm hold
- You can front squat without having big arms affect your grip
1. You can still squat whilst nursing injuries
If you recently injured your wrist, elbows or shoulders that puts regular grip front squats not possible, front squats with straps may be a perfect pain free alternative.
You continue to front squat and not change the routine much if you previously had it in your training program.
The front squat with straps is also a great way to prevent the barbell from slipping from your shoulders.
2. You can front squat without the prerequisite wrist mobility
Having poor wrist or shoulder mobility may mean you cannot bend your wrists back or bring your arms high enough to get your fingers under the bar for a regular grip.
Front squat with straps will closely replicate the front squat with a regular grip.
Whilst you train front squats with straps, there will be an opportunity for you to work on your mobility so that you can eventually transition to regular grip front squats.
Side note: some people prefer to do Zercher squats compared with front squats if they have wrist mobility issues.
3. You can front squat symmetrically unlike the crossed arm hold
A very popular way of performing front squats is with crossed arms. This is commonly seen among bodybuilders and regular gym goers.
One of the biggest complaints is that due to the asymmetrical nature of crossing the arms to hold onto the bar, the bar is sometimes slanted. Front squat with straps offers the perfect solution to this.
4. You can front squat with larger arms
If you are someone with larger arms, you may find that your size is restricting your ability to hold the bar regularly in front squats. Commonly people with big arms physically cannot bend their elbows back enough to reach the bar so the front squat with straps would still allow them to perform front squats.
Some people find that while front squatting the barbell chokes them. If that’s you, check out my other article where I discuss causes and solutions.
How To Front Squat With Straps (Step by Step)
Step 1: Setting up the barbell
First, set the barbell with the desired weight on a squat rack to a level that the barbell is around armpit or mid chest level.
Step 2: Attaching the straps
There are many types of weightlifting straps that you can purchase. The most ideal weightlifting straps for the purpose of front squats with straps are the lasso type weightlifting straps. Find out more about our recommended lifting straps in this article here.
To attach the straps to the bar, you need to simply wrap the strap around on the bar and loop the flat end through the strap’s loop.
Pull the strap through the loop all the way until the strap is tight on the bar.
Adjust the straps symmetrically and slide the straps so that the distance between the straps is roughly the same as the distance between the bony ends of your shoulder. *insert relevant picture*
Step 3: Gripping the straps
Wrap the dangling end of the straps around your fingers or hands once, ensuring that there is not physical overlapping of the straps.
WARNING: Not physically overlapping the straps, ensures that you are able to perform a safe escape in case you fail a repetition.
Once an appropriate grip is made on the straps, bring your hand under the bar, up and then back above the bar. Keep your tight fisted grip above the bar as you get ready to bring yourself under the bar.
Step 4: Getting under the bar
When you get under the bar, bring the bar across your shoulders and above the collarbone.
Bring your elbows under the bar then forward. Keep them as high as possible whilst keeping the bar as comfortably rack across your shoulders as possible.
Step 5: Unracking and stepping out
Bring your hips under the bar, take a deep breath in through your nose into your core and hold your breath.
Once your breath is held, brace into your core and stand up. Let the bar settle from wobbling.
Once the bar settles, take one step back directly behind you and take the other foot diagonally behind you whilst finishing the second foot in a position that you would squat in. Adjust the first foot sideways, and try to finish in a position that mirrors the second foot.
Your feet should be anywhere from pointed forward to 30 degrees out. Find out more about how much your toes should point out during squats here.
Step 6: Squatting and standing up
Reset your breath and bracing routine if you need to once you have found your squat stance.
Then squat as deep as you can whilst maintaining a relatively flat back or to just below parallel. Do not squat any lower if your lower back starts to round.
Keep the pressure of your foot to be around mid foot throughout and knees in line with your feet.
Try to keep the upper arms from shoulder to elbows to be parallel to the ground as much as possible.
Do not allow your elbows to fall down during the front squat.
Step 7: Racking
When you have finished your set of repetitions, you can walk the bar forward until you feel both ends of the bar make contact with the rack. Continue to face forward when you do this.
When you feel confident both ends of the bar have made contact, you can rest the bar onto the rack.
If you can’t do front squats, you may be interested in our list of 10 Front Squat Alternatives.
4 Common Issues When Front Squatting With Straps
Here are 4 common issues when front squatting with straps:
- Knowing how to fail a repetition safely
- Not tightening the strap to the bar enough
- No pulling onto the straps too hard
- Knowing where exactly to position the straps
Issue 1: Failing a repetition
It is important that certain health and safety precautions are made when performing front squats with straps.
In an ideal world, we do not fail our repetitions but in reality it may happen. The best case scenario is that we have access to a squat or power rack that has safety bars. Ideally you would control the bar down to the safety bars before escaping.
If you did not have access to a rack with safety bars and you were to attempt to escape, it is important that you escape backwards whilst throwing the bar forwards.
It is particularly important that you have not wrapped the strap around your fingers too many times or too securely otherwise the bar will drag you to the ground. The straps should be able to immediately escape your grip when you let go.
Issue 2: Not tightening the strap to the bar enough
If the straps are not tightened to the bar enough, you may risk the bar rolling around your shoulders when you pull onto the strap. You will not want that to happen mid repetition when you execute it.
Issue 3: Not pulling onto the straps too hard
You do not want to be pulling too hard on the straps when the bar is resting on your shoulders. This happens commonly with people who do front squat with straps for the first time.
The stability of the bar comes from the bar resting on the front deltoids and the elbows raised so the upper arm stays parallel to the floor. Pulling too hard on the straps may reduce how much the bar is resting on the shoulders and may cause elbow pain during execution.
Issue 4: Positioning of the straps
A simple thing to look out for is ensuring that the straps are symmetrically placed on the bar so that grip is not lopsided when performing the front squat. Performing the front squat with straps asymmetricaly may cause one side of your body to strain and risk injury.
A shoulder with distance attachment of the straps is ideal for most people. If the straps are too close together, your elbows may flare too much and make the bar unstable. If the straps are too far away then you may find that your shoulder rotates too much and cause discomfort.
A lot of lifters do the goblet squat instead of the front squat. Here’s our comparison between the Goblet Squat vs Front Squat.
I consider front squats with straps to be a preferential way of executing front squats. It allows you to train the front squat without having your upper body mobility to be a limiting factor. It potentially allows you to train with a lesser risk of strain, discomfort or injury compared to regular grip front squats thus a lower impact in performing other exercises.
Front squats with straps may be advantageous over front squats with regular grip or crossed arm grips for powerlifters and is suitable for novices to advanced individuals.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com