Barbell Setup: The barbell is going to be held and loaded across the front of your shoulders. The stabilization of the weight is in an anterior position and will demand a much more upright positioning with the torso. Set the loaded barbell in a power rack at about the same height you would for a back squat.
Barbell Loading Position: Here’s where it can get dicey. In a typical front squat, the barbell is in the rack position. This is what is used in Olympic weightlifting and is a precursor to the overhead press as well as clean variations. The bar sits across the front delts, and the hands are relaxed and supporting the bar from underneath. Since the delts are holding the weight like a shelf, it’s okay if the pinkie and ring finger come out from underneath the bar. The most important factor is the elbows. The elbows must remain as elevated as possible. If the elbows drop, the weight will come forward and pitch the whole body out of position.
Front Squat Style: A lot of lifters who have a bodybuilding-style background have a difficult time with the rack position due to mobility limitations, meathead tradition, or just plain comfort. A number of front squatters use the “genie” technique in which their arms are folded over the bar and elbows are elevated. The bar still rests across the crease of the front delts, but the hands do zero work. There are also special pieces of equipment that will help position the bar in the same space with minimal wrist function, and some people even use lifting straps to alleviate discomfort if their wrists don’t have the mobility to get into the rack position.
What Moves First: There is no difference in the initial movements of a front squat and back squat. In both exercises, the hips must hinge and then drop to load the front squat properly. Considering the position of the barbell, the torso stays more erect in a front squat than a back squat, but the mechanics of the hips must initiate movement. Don’t start the squat with a “full speed” knee bend and dive-bomber drop. Even when watching the best Olympic lifters, guys who are all about speed and power, you will see that it’s the hips and not the knees that initiate and load first.