Using Zombie Squats for Better Squatting Technique

Zombie Squats

If you’re looking for a scarily effective exercise to improve your squatting technique, look no further than zombie squats.

This front squat variation requires you to balance the barbell on your shoulders without using your hands, which means poor form has nowhere to hide.

Whether you use zombie squats as a key part of your leg workouts, or simply use it as a warm-up, this exercise guide outlines everything you need to know about the movement.

We also highlight who it is best suited to and who perhaps should avoid doing it, so you can decide if it’s worth including in your next workout.

What is a Zombie Squat?

Zombie squats are a variation of the front squat that involve balancing the barbell on your shoulders and keeping your arms straight out in front of you.

The exercise can be used as a warm-up for heavy front or back squats, or used within working sets as a stand-alone exercise.

This front squat variation focuses more on the anterior chain, i.e., the quads, compared to traditional back squats, so it’s a good variation for those wanting to target this muscle group during their workouts.

How to Perform a Zombie Squat

To do zombie squats:

  • Stand in front of a squat rack with a barbell.
  • Straighten your arms in front of you and lift the bar onto the front of your shoulders.
  • Step back away from the squat rack with a straight back and knees slightly bent.
  • Slowly squat down by bending at the knees, whilst keeping your arms out to keep the bar balanced on your shoulders.
  • Pause for a moment before pushing yourself back up to an upright position.
  • Repeat for repetitions.
  • Re-rack the barbell.

Coach’s Tip – We would recommend only using a barbell with no weights to begin with and see how you get on. If you do start to add weight, take it nice and slow as you won’t be able to lift as much as with back squats or front squats.


Improve Front Squat Technique

Ultimately, the overarching benefit of zombie squats is to help promote and improve your squatting technique. As it is a variation of front squats, it naturally encourages an upright position, with a straight back and chest up.

Resting the barbell on your shoulders also means you naturally need to engage your lats and core to help stabilize the movement. Getting into the habit of doing this when squatting will help translate to other types of squats, such as the traditional back squat.

Encourages Slow, Controlled Movements

In similar vein to promoting better front squat technique, zombie squats will also encourage much slower and controlled movements. If you go too fast, you risk the barbell losing balance.

Slowing down each repetition will keep the muscles working for longer, which is beneficial for hypertrophy and building muscle.

Stay Focused Throughout

Zombie squats require 100% of your concentration throughout the movement. Forget checking your phone, or wondering what you’re having for your next meal… you need to stay focused throughout.

Being more focused in your workouts can undoubtedly improve performance and is one of the little things that can make a big difference when it comes to results.

Increased focus usually means more intensity… which means hitting your goals faster.

Stronger Quads

Due to zombie squats being a variation of front squats, the movement puts more emphasis on your anterior chain, such as your quads.

If you want to target your quads, including your outer quads, then any type of front squat is worth including in your workouts.

You could even perform zombie squats on a slant board too, further increasing VMO activation as well.

Our guide on squat variations for the quads is worth checking out if you want more ideas on how to focus squatting movements on the quads.

Upper Back Engagement

To support the barbell, your upper back, lats and core need to be fully engaged throughout the exercise. The way they are engaged is different to your usual back workout though… as the muscles aren’t “pulling” any weight. Instead, they are helping to stabilize the body.

This is similar to how planks target the core muscles by stabilizing the body.

Great for Warm-Ups

Zombie squats lend themselves very well for warm-ups and light sets. The movement can help loosen up the body and get you ready for other leg exercises.

Things to Consider

The main drawback to zombie squats is that balancing a barbell on your front shoulders isn’t very comfortable, especially if you’re quite lean/thin. The bar will be closer to your neck than you might have been expecting and for some, this will be off-putting. The movement is better suited to those with quite meaty shoulders already, who can snuggle the barbell in without it moving.

As a result, we would tend to include it in more intermediate/advanced workouts, once you feel confident with squatting in general.

The exercise also recruits more muscle engagement from the upper back, shoulders and core than regular squats… which is something to consider when including it within your weekly fitness routine.

If you trained your shoulders the previous day, or plan on training them the next day, you might find that becomes a limiting factor.

The caveat to this is, however, that due to the increased muscle engagement of the upper body, if you prefer full body workouts, then zombie squats tick a lot of the boxes by targeting more muscle groups at once.

Bottom Line

Although zombie squats are relatively unknown, the exercise is certainly worth considering, especially if you’re looking to progress your traditional squats or leg strength.

The movement recruits more of the upper back than other squat variations which is great for those who enjoy full body workouts.

It is, however, quite an advanced exercise that needs a good level of existing strength, especially in the trunk and core, so beginners are perhaps better off sticking with the basics until they feel comfortable with squats.

As a variation of the front squat, zombie squats are also great for anyone who wants to focus on the quads during their squats too (just make sure you don’t forget to include hamstring exercises in your workouts as well).

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