Barbell Front Squat with Crossed-Arm Grip (“Genie” Grip)

barbell front squat with crossed-arm grip

If you want to sculpt your quads and build lower-body strength, barbell front squats will do the job like no other strength-training exercise. But two things can stop women from doing them: (1) wrist discomfort and (2) intimidation. That’s why I suggest the barbell front squat with crossed-arm grip (or “genie” grip).

Typically, you’ll see the wrist-extended clean grip used for barbell front squats (palms facing upwards). But the clean grip adds a technical, awkward dimension that beginners may not be ready for. And if you have joint or bone issues, bending your wrists backwards under load is just not an option. In fact, I use the crossed-arm grip myself due to some degeneration happening in my wrist joints. See how it’s done in this quickie video:

Wrist pain with a clean grip might just mean you need to tweak your form or improve your wrist mobility. So before using a clean grip, fix any form or mobility issues and become comfortable with front squats under heavier loads.

As an aside, in this video you can see my weight shifting slightly to the right as I lower down. This is a muscle imbalance I’m working on fixing that stems from a foot issue. See why you should occasionally record your basic movements as a spot check? This stuff can cause problems right up the kinetic chain.

Doing the Barbell Front Squat with Crossed-Arm Grip

Front squats require a more upright stance than back squats, so think of sitting down on your heels instead of sitting back. You’ll also need to practice keeping the bar from rolling into your neck, but staying upright helps with this.

Keep your chest and elbows up up at all times and your head in a neutral position. Your knees will travel forward slightly and that’s ok (unless you have major knee issues, in which case you might want to avoid front squats altogether).

To return to the start position, push up through your heels and mid-foot and extend the hips and knees simultaneously. My favorite squat cues apply here: As you lower, push out your knees. As you stand, push out through the floor with your feet.

Do you barbell front squat? Tell me about your experience with grips below in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “Barbell Front Squat with Crossed-Arm Grip (“Genie” Grip)

  1. Hey there,
    I just wanted to comment on lifting heavy in general. I am a former client and a supporter!!
    I recently found myself without a gym, mine shut down unexpectedly. Only having 2 months before a relocation I needed a short term solution. I found a small personal training gym offering 30 minute workouts. It seemed like a good solution. After 6 weeks of cleaning up my diet and listening to the trainer. my body is exactly the same. Same Body Fat, same measurements clothes fit the same. My theory we are not lifting heavy. I have not done one barbell squat. The workout focus is on compound movements and getting as much done in a short period of time. This mentality is clearly not working. I can’t wait to finalize my move and get my self to a real gym and push around some heavy weight. Just to reassure those non believers, It is imperative to lift heavy and build muscle, the cardio type workouts for me have been unsuccessful.
    Happy Holidays from a true lifter : )


    • Chris, it’s fabulous to see you!! Thank you so much for your story – sounds like it’s definitely time to change things up! I agree… metabolic workouts are not for building muscle. They can work for increasing endurance and metabolism, and if done right they do burn calories. But building muscle is best done, as you say, with heavy lifting. I can attest to muscle having wondeful fat-burning qualities, both personally and with clients. Plus, it’s just damn good fun!

      Thanks again for writing Chris – big hugs!!


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