Dear Dr. Bell, is there a good alternative to Front Squats? The more I go up in weight, the more pain I’m feeling in my wrists. Any suggestions?

Front Squats can put a lot of stress on your wrists if you attempt to grip the bar while you “Chamber it” on your front deltoid. You can avoid that stress by avoiding gripping the bar. Instead, set-up the bar in a Squat Rack, step-up to the bar and don’t grip it.

Instead, position the bar on your anterior and lateral deltoid, elevate your elbows while you cross your arms and place your hands on top of the bar so that your right hand is on the bar over your left shoulder and your left hand is over your right shoulder.

You will not be gripping the bar, but keeping it in place by maintaining your elbows high. This position removes all stress from your wrist. If go up in weight and feel a lot of pressure on your shoulders, add a pad or towel under the bar.

Just maintain elbows high throughout the exercise to keep the bar from falling!

What are substitutes for Front Squats?

Any exercise that moves stress toward the quadriceps would accomplish that.

These substitutes include Leg Presses with your feet positioned upward/forward on the foot plate (up and wide stance moves the stress to the Vastus Medialis; up and narrow stance moves the stress to the Vastus Laterals; Single-Leg-Leg Presses with the foot upward is a great rehab exercise and places more stress on the Vastus Laterals, if you center the foot on the plate.).

You can also use the “Squat” Smith-Machine.

The Squat Smith-Machine is 90 degrees vertical from the ground. The Chest Press Smith-Machine angles back slightly, approximately 10 degrees, to allow the classic “Chest Press Arc” while Bench Pressing {Review “the Book on Personal Training”, the official textbook on the IFPA Personal Training Certification Course for the Key Teaching Points for the Chest Press for details.}.

In the Squat Smith-Machine, you position the bar on your back as you would in the Power Lifter Squat, but instead of positioning your feet directly under the bar, you slide your feet forward 12-24 inches to move the stress forward to the quadriceps.

Again, wider stance moves the stress to the Vastus Medialis, narrow stance moves the stress to the Vastus Laterals. Leg Extensions are a classic quadriceps exercise. Leg rotated outward from the hip (Vastus Medialis); leg rotated inward form the hip (Vastus Laterals).

If you are yelling at me to mention “Sissy Squats”, that is among my least favorite quadriceps exercises due to the high stress on the Knee Capsule from exceeding the “Knee-Toe-Line”. For those who do Sissy Squats without pain, please read “the Book on Personal Training” and the many FitBits and Blog articles I have written on Sports Injuries and Sports Medicine. You can do a great deal of damage before you reach the “Pain Threshold”.

Good Luck in your training!

Dr. Jim Bell


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