Halloween is kind of my favorite, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include a classic monster like Frankenstein in today’s blog. If you’ve never heard of it, the Frankenstein squat, or hands-free front squat, is just as you would imagine it and its silliness is for good cause. The front squat is arguably one of the most difficult to execute because of the demands on mobility, and this variation is a great precursor to hone your form.

Frankenstein Squat

Restrictions in wrist, shoulder, hip and ankle will be quickly exposed when you attempt an Olympic barbell front squat lift. The idea is that the bar should be resting on the shoulders, not held up by the hands. The torso should be more upright than in a back squat, creating a shorter moment arm to the back (which takes strain off of the spine) and places more emphasis on the quads.

The hands-free front squat allows you to work on keeping your torso vertical and bar in place without thinking about hand placement or wrist mobility.

How to Execute a Frankenstein Squat

Start with an unloaded barbell or even a BodyBar as I do in the image below. You don’t want the load to be too light, however. You’ll have an easier time keeping the bar in place with a little weight to it.

  • Place the bar atop the deltoids and right up against the throat.
  • Take a comfortable squat stance. If you turn your toes out be sure your knees track right over the second and third toe.
  • Outstretch your arms straight ahead and slightly elevated to keep the bar from rolling forward.
  • Take a breathe in and engage your core as you descend slowly into a deep squat as much as your mobility will allow without losing the bar.
  • The thoracic spine should not flex forward with the shoulder blade protraction necessary to keep the arms flexed to 95 degrees. (If you the bar starts to roll forward either your spine is rolling forward or your arms are dropping.)
  • Drive through the heels slowly extending knees and hips to return to start maintaining upper body stability and position

Form Fixes

Watch your client closely (or yourself in a mirror). First, keep your eyes on the spine.

Is there forward motion (flexion) during the descent? This is indicative of both poor thoracic mobility and a malfunctioning intrinsic core system. Either issue would have to be corrected (and not overnight) before this movement could be performed successfully.

Does the bar keep rolling forward off of the deltoids upon descent but the torso remains upright? This is most likely a latissimus dorsi mobility issue. The lower you descend, the shoulder flexion will increase slightly lengthening the lats. Try rolling out and stretching the lats and try again. If the bar continues to roll off it may take a little more time and effort to release and lengthen the lats.