How To Front Squat Without Wrist, Elbow & Shoulder Pain

By Dr. John Rusin

front squat

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Stop Front Squatting Like An Olympic Lifter

While the front squat is one of the best bang for your buck movements for developing full body strength and function, many lifters struggle to train this squat variation hard, heavy and pain-free due to the pain at the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints.

It’s about time we stop trying to force feed the traditional front racked position that presents as a struggle for many lifters. Instead, try using smarter setups that place the wrist into a neutral position, reduce the unwanted torque through the elbow joint, and helps to keep the shoulders in a strong neutral position throughout the squat pattern.

Here’s why the front squat using straps has become my go-to setup for pain-free front squatting for those lifters who do NOT compete in Olympic lifting or CrossFit. If you’re tired of struggling through ugly front squats that cause more harm than good, you’ll love this setup. Check out the video tutorial below.

How To Front Squat Using Straps

The traditional “front racked” squat position places your wrist and fingers into deep end range extension. This is a hugely exacerbating position for most people who simply lack the mobility necessary to execute this style of front squat properly.

Simply put, if you struggle with your shoulder mobility, chronic elbow pain or a lack of wrist extension, the traditional front rack position for the front squat is going to cause heavy compensations at the shoulder complex and spine, bringing you into poor positions to perform from while staying pain-free.

By attaching lifting straps directly to the barbell, we enable the wrists to achieve a more neutral position which translates to better elbow, shoulder and spinal positions, especially in those lagging terminal end range wrist extension.

Here’s how to get setup with the straps on the bar:

  • Attach lifting straps directly to the barbell – pull them tight to stabilize
  • Position them evenly on the barbell, at approximately the width between your shoulders
  • Wrap the strap around your hand in order to attach the straps to your hands, not just holding on
  • Drive your elbows up in front of your shoulders to achieve a shelf positioned
  • Externally rotate your shoulders to add torque and stability to the setup
  • Stabilize your thoracic spine in a neutral position (not rounding over forward)
  • Dynamically stabilize your shoulder blades by driving them down and together
  • Use your normal core and hip bracing strategy around your new found shoulder position

By placing the arms into a better neutral position in the front racked position, we can enhance the position of the thoracic spine and function of the shoulder blade, which both bode well for cleaner squat patterning. It should also be noted that this centrated shoulder position should look and feel VERY similar to a well executed traditional front rack. While the wrist position is different, the shoulder complex mechanics remain the same.

Fixing faulty movement patterns is all about finding the exacerbating link and improving it. Better positions at the thoracic spine yield better positions and stability through the lower back and pelvis, which ultimately improve motor control, form and performance on this big staple lift.

About The Author

Dr. John Rusin

Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and sports performance expert. Dr. John has coached some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pros, MLB All-Stars, Professional Bodybuilders, World-Record Holding Powerlifters, National Level Olympic Lifters and All-World IronMan Triathletes.

Along with his impressive coaching accolades, Dr. John and his innovative methods have been regularly featured in some of the most widely regarded media outlets in the industry like Men’s Fitness, Shape MagazineTestosterone Nation, and to name a few.

Dr. Rusin is the leading pioneer in the fitness and sports performance industries in smart pain-free performance programming that achieves world class results while preventing injuries in the process. Dr. John’s methods are showcased in his 12-Week Functional Hypertrophy Training Program that combines the very best from athletic performance training, powerlifting, bodybuilding and preventative physical therapy to produce world-class results without pain and injuries.

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  1. Wayne Muir March 21, 2017 at 9:36 am - Reply

    I love front squats, but rarely do them due to wrist pain. I look forward to trying this out. Thank you!!

  2. Deb March 21, 2017 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    Great article again John, I’m 48yo and love to front squat but recently have found my wrist pain was restricting the number of reps per set I could do without pain. I started dreading front squat days. This makes perfect sense and i will be giving it a go. Cheers.

  3. Mrs G August 1, 2018 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed this. So clever

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