Do Front Squats Help Deadlifts? Yes, Here’s How

Do Front Squats Help Deadlifts Yes,_Here's How

We choose different accessory exercises to aid us with fixing some of our weaknesses when it comes to the deadlift.

But what about front squats…

Do front squats help deadlifts? Yes, front squats help deadlifts by strengthening the quads, which is particularly important if you struggle with staying balanced on your feet or your hips rise too fast off the floor in the start position of the deadlift.  Overall, performing front squats can help you maintain a good posture while deadlifting.

In this article, we will go through exactly…

  • How front squats carry over to the deadlift
  • Who should and should not have it in their training
  • How front squats can be implemented into your program to help the deadlift

Check out my complete guide on 18 Exercises That Help Improve Deadlift Strength.

How Do Front Squats Help the Deadlift? (4 Ways)

The four ways that the front squats help the deadlift are:

  • Front squats strengthen the quadriceps
  • Front squats improve your ability to stay balanced
  • Front squats stop you from rising with your hips too much
  • Front squats help you maintain good posture
  • Front squats help with deadlift strength off the floor

1.  Front Squats Strengthen the Quadriceps

Quadriceps

The front squat targets the quadriceps, which is one of the primary muscles in the deadlift, and is used to initiate the pull off the floor. You can use front squats to build muscle, strength, and work capacity in these muscles.

Building muscle mass in the quads is going to be very important. Muscle mass is important for long-term gains in muscular strength as research shows that muscle mass is correlated with maximal strength performance among powerlifters.

Improving your work capacity means being able to perform more reps at given loads or intensities, and this means that if you can deadlift more reps, then you are going to be able to make more strength gains. Given the condition that you can recover.

2.  Front Squats Improve Your Ability To Stay Balanced

Front squats reinforce your ability to keep your center of mass over midfoot, which is an important quality in the deadlift as a common mistake is that people shift too far on their heels.

Being able to stay balanced during deadlifts is a marker of using all the primary muscle groups efficiently. 

If you are someone who tends to shift their body weight too far onto their heels, it also means that their posterior muscles such as their lower back, glutes, and hamstrings are compensating for lack of ability to load the leg muscles i.e. the quadriceps.

The front squat will then help reinforce keeping the loading onto the legs more. 

If you want to learn more about proper positioning in the deadlift, check out my article What Is The Best Deadlift Bar Path?

3. Front Squats Stop You From Rising With Your Hips Too Much

hips too high

When your hips rise too much, it means a lot more tension has shifted towards the posterior chain muscles such as the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. 

Front squats strengthen the quadriceps so that you can stop your knees and hips from shooting backward too much or too early. The front squat being a knee dominant exercise will help you keep the knees bent for longer.

This may also be associated with being able to stay balanced on your midfoot during the deadlift.

If you have this problem, then check out my article on How To Fix Hips Shooting Up In The Deadlift, where I go over 5 tips. 

4. Front Squats Help You Maintain Good Posture

Front squats force you to keep your lower back relatively flat during execution, and this is important to have during the deadlift where a common error is a rounded or over-extended back.

If you over-extend your lower back, it may be that you are thinking about pushing your hips back too much. The front squat will reinforce you to keep your hips and knees more forward so it can reduce your tendency to overemphasize hinging through the hips.

If you round through your lower back, it may be due to either not knowing how to hinge through the hips, or that your legs are weak. 

If your legs are weak, or fatiguing mid-set, your lower back may have a tendency to compensate and take more tension away from the legs resulting in lower back rounding. This will increase your risk of a lower back or hip injury.

If your back is rounding in the deadlift, then definitely check out my article on Is It Okay To Deadlift With A Round Back?  Some rounding is actually okay.  

5. Front Squats Help With Deadlift Strength off the Floor

Front squats will help with deadlift strength off the floor by strengthening the quads and the position of the legs during deadlift where the knees are most bent.

Quadricep engagement is the highest when the knees are most bent during the deadlift. So if you are weak off the floor, there is a strong chance that your quadriceps, which are the primary muscles that extend the knees, maybe a weakness.

The front squats being a very knee dominant quadriceps exercise is a very effective way of strengthening this muscle group and position in the deadlifts.

Weak off the floor in the deadlift?  Then check out my article Is Your Deadlift Weak Off The Floor? Try These 7 Tips.

Who Should Do Front Squats for the Deadlift?

Here are 5 types of people who should use front squats to increase deadlift strength:

  • If your hips rise too much during deadlifts
  • If you go too far on your heels
  • If your lower back rounds later on during sets
  • If your sticking point is off the floor
  • If you overextend in your lower back

If Your Hips Rise Too Much During Deadlifts

You can tell if your hips rise too much or too soon when your hips and knees shoot back but your shoulders are not rising with your hips.

This is undesirable because it indicates that you are overly relying on your posterior muscle groups i.e. the lower back, glutes and hamstrings and you are struggling to keep tension on your legs.

Training the front squats will strengthen your knee extensors i.e. the quads so that over time you can keep more tension on the legs during the deadlift.

If You Go Too Far on Your Heels

Going too far on your heels may be an indicator of not being able to balance well and potentially rising with your hips too much as well.

What the front squat can do is to help you load your bodyweight further towards the front half or balls of your foot.

If Your Lower Back Rounds Later On During Sets

Lower back rounding can be an indicator of weak knee and hip extensors meaning your lower back is compensating to get the weight off the floor.

If your legs are weak, it will struggle with getting the weight off the floor and so it will push your hips and torso out of position and force you to flex through your spine.

Lower back rounding can also mean that you are not good at hinging through your hips enough. 

For more information, check out the following article:

If Your Sticking Point Is off the Floor

If you struggle to get the barbell off the floor or if you seem to have a sticking point around mid-shin, it may indicate weak leg muscles particularly the quadriceps.

The quadriceps muscles are most active during the lowest position of the deadlift when the knees are most bent.

The front squat would be a very effective way to train the quadricep exercise that trains it through a long range of motion as you can sit deep in a front squat. Being able to squat deep in a front squat means you can train the quads when the knees are more bent than during deadlifts.

If You Overextend in Your Lower Back

Overextending your lower back is often due to over-cueing the hinge of the hips. Consequently, you are putting excessive tension in your lower back.

You ideally want your lower back posture to be flatter during deadlifts. In order to be able to keep your lower back flat rather than overextended, you should spend as much time during training with a flat lower back.

What a front squat can do as a very upright squat variation to reinforce less hip travel and more knee travel, which can help you avoid sticking your butt back too much that leads to overextension in the lower back.

Performing front squats wearing shoes with high heels can be a very effective addition to this. 

Check out the following article about the best squat shoes with high heels:

Who Should Not Do Front Squats for the Deadlift?

Here are 2 reasons why you should not do front squats for deadlifts:

  • If you deadlift with your hips too low
  • If the barbell drifts forward during the deadlift

If You Deadlift With Your Hips Too Low

If you seem to start with your hips too low, quite often you will have your shoulders behind the barbell and your hips will often rise before you break the floor.

This is a technique issue because you are starting in an inefficient position where you are potentially going to scrape the barbell across the shin. This will only result in may the deadlift more difficult.

This means that you are not confident loading the hips and you are putting most of the tension in your legs, specifically your quadriceps.

The front squat will only reinforce this strength and not solve your technique issue.

If the Barbell Drifts Forward During the Deadlift

If the barbell drifts forward during the deadlift and your knees struggle to move backward during the initial half of the deadlift, it shows that you prefer to load the legs more than your hips.

This is inefficient because if the barbell drifts forward, you may risk losing balance and topple forward. It may also be a poor technique as you may be simultaneously scraping the barbell across your shin, which will slow your execution down.

You want to avoid front squats, which will lead to your legs getting stronger. What you will need is to focus on are exercises that are more hip dominant such as the good-morning or Romanian deadlift.

How Should Front Squats Be Performed To Improve the Deadlift? (3 Variations)

Front squats can be performed in different ways so here are 3 great variations to try, and what problems they can solve:

Front Squats

Front Squat

The regular front squats are suitable for most individuals who have sufficient shoulder and wrist mobility.

The 6 steps to performing a front squat are:

  • Step 1: Set the rack to the appropriate level for your height
  • Step 2: Place the barbell on the front deltoid
  • Step 3: Walk back the barbell out from the rack
  • Step 4: Breathe and brace your core again before squatting down
  • Step 5: Go as deep as your mobility allows
  • Step 6: Drive your feet through the floor across the midfoot

Step 1: Set the Rack to the Appropriate Level for Your Height

Set the barbell on a squat rack with the barbell at mid-chest level or armpit height.

Step 2: Place the Barbell on the Front Deltoid

With your fingers under the bar and elbows high, walk to the barbell and place yourself under it with it resting on top of your front deltoid. 

This is called the front rack position.

Step 3: Walk Back the Barbell Out From the Rack

Place your feet and hips under the barbell and stand up to take the barbell off the rack.

Take 2 to 3 steps to walk back and away from the squat rack.

Stand with your feet about hip-width or shoulder-width apart.

Step 4: Breathe and Brace Your Core Again Before Squatting Down

Take a deep breath into your core and hold your breath.

Perform the valsava manouvre to brace.

Step 5: Go As Deep as Your Mobility Allows

Breaking at your hips and knees simultaneously, sit down as deep as you can go.

Ideally, reach below parallel while maintaining an even pressure across your feet.

Step 6: Drive Your Feet Through the Floor Across the Midfoot

Stand straight back up pushing right into the floor without your torso collapsing forward.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and rack the barbell afterward.

Front Squats w/ Straps

Front squat with straps is suited for individuals who have poor wrist or shoulder mobility.

The front squat with straps are performed just like regular front squats except, instead of using the hands and fingers to keep the barbell from falling off, there are lifting straps attached. The lifter then holds onto the lifting straps.

Front Squats w/ Crossed Arms

Front Squats with Crossed Arms

Front squat with crossed arms is suited for individuals who have poor wrist or shoulder mobility with minimal other equipment.

Front squat with crossed arms are performed just like regular front squats except, instead of using the hands and fingers to keep the barbell from falling off, the arms are crossed over with hands reaching opposite shoulders.

Check out my other front squat resources:

Sample Front Squat Program for the Deadlift

Beginner Front Squat Program For Deadlifts

Week 1

  • Front Squats
  • 3 sets 5 reps Light-moderate load OR 5 reps in reserve

Week 2

  • Front Squats
  • 3 sets 6 reps Same load as the previous week

Week 3

  • Front Squats 
  • 3 sets 7 reps Same load as the previous week

Week 4

  • Front Squats
  • 3 sets 8 reps Same load as the previous week

Intermediate Front Squat Program For Deadlifts

Week 1

  • Front Squats
  • 4 sets 4 reps Moderate load OR 4 reps in reserve

Week 2

  • Front Squats
  • 4 sets 5 reps Same load as the previous week

Week 3

  • Front Squats 
  • 4 sets 4 reps +2% more load than the previous week

Week 4

  • Front Squats
  • 4 sets 5 reps Same load as the previous week

Other Resources For Increasing Deadlifts


About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

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