Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is the front squat 3-3-3-3-3?

I've noticed recently that everytime a front squat WOD comes up on the main site, I get all sorts of hits for people looking for info on front squats. I'm not sure if they are unfamiliar with the movement, looking to find what the 3-3-3-3-3 is, or if they're just looking for weights to shoot for. So, I thought that since I am off from school, and I have the time until I have to work, that I would run through a quick little bit about front squats so that way next time people come looking for it, they'll find better info then the post that they've been taken too.

So, I'll break it down a little bit as best I can without a barbell or a white board. One quick note though. Before working on the front squats, be sure to loosen up your wrists well. The rack puts a lot of stress on your wrist flexibility, so don't skimp on this. For those of you with wrist flexibility issues (guys I'm looking at a lot of you), this may be something you're going to have to work on. Try putting palms on floor and then turning 180 degrees so your wrist is away from you. Then apply pressure. Also try putting the top of your hands flat on the floor and putting pressure down. Wrist circles never hurt either.


The front squat is a version of the squat. Prophetic I know, but hang with me here. The bar is held in the rack position on your shoulders NOT your chest. See the above picture for a decent example. Note that the bar is in my throat and note my elbow position. My elbows are up and my hands are open (not in a death grip on the bar), thus allowing me to keep the bar back in the rack.

A poor rack position (elbows towards the floor and not out) can cause you to tip forward and drop the weight, and you certainly don't want to do that on a max lift day. So really think about almost choking yourself out with the bar. (No really, not kidding on this one.) The better the rack, the better the front squat (IMHO), so get that puppy up and in there without actually cutting off your air supply. Again, see above photo for a decent example.

If you are not used to doing front squats and are having trouble understanding the rack position, try this drill. Take your regular squat stance, and then take your arms and hold them out straight in front of you. Now, without dropping your arms, touch your hands to your shoulders. THAT is how your elbows should be when you front squat. If you have wrist flexibility issues, actually touching your fingers to your shoulders could be hard, but I think you get the idea. The main idea is elbows up, and opening those hands so you can get that bar back on your shoulders and not on your chest.

Try a few air squats trying to keep that rack position, thinking about keeping your elbows up. Then, if available, throw in a PVC to try to get the feel for keeping a bar in the rack. After a few more, then try just the bar and see how things feel. Remember, now that you've got the rack, the rest is just an air squat. Get your butt back and bow those knees out. But remember, it is also designed to be a heavy lift as well. You need to make sure to get tension in your abs to help stabilize you during your heavy lifts. Practice in your warm-up/practice sets what you want to do in your big lifts. Automaticity is what you're aiming for. Before each rep, practice taking in a big breath and holding it to stabilize your core. Voila! We have front squat.

The 3-3-3-3-3:

The 3-3-3-3-3 is simply another way of lifting heavy. Most of us are familiar with one rep maxes. You work up to your highest weight for one rep. 3-3-3-3-3 is the same except with three reps. You are working up to your highest weight that you can do for three reps consecutively. This would mean no putting the bar down. The bar must stay in the rack position for you to count your three rep max.

Front squat weights:

Just like anything else we CFers do with a barbell, your weight on a front squat will depend on a few things. Your comfort level with the movement, your leg strength because, well this is after all a leg exercise, your core strength because well, the core must also be engaged, your rack position, and your ramp ups. Warm up smart but don't burn out. Remember, this is a three rep max, not a one rep. Don't expect that you will post the same amount of weight as with your one rep. It's a great goal to shoot for, but usually not the case. I like to do a few sets of low weights, make one relatively big jump to a weight I know I can handle, and then make smaller jumps (5-10lbs) after that.

I hope that this information is helpful to those who have been searching. Below are a few Youtubes I've pulled in, so hopefully these help too. You'll hear the cue to drive with the elbows a lot. That is the key to getting you out of the hole on a deep squat. Once that weight gets heavy, it's imperitive to use speed and your elbows to drive out of that bottom squat position.


Justa said...

The better the rack, the better the front squat

Ummm...what were you talking about again?

Katie said...


I repeat... there is NO innuendo in CrossFit...

Now back to the snatch...


Justa you crack me up!