Back Squat vs. Front Squat

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I get the question a lot- Whats the difference between front and back squats?

They are both used to develop lower body strength. Back squats start with the bar resting on the shoulders, while front squats rest on the collarbones and front of the shoulder.

This bar position makes front squats much more quad dominant and core dependent. No stability through the core and front squats are not going to go well.

Back squats on the other hand become more hip dominant.

I like front squats best for most athletes. I think it takes a long time for athletes to “earn the right” to back squat.

Front squats are typically more easily learned than back. The motion is more common to most younger athletes than the hinge required in the back squat. This allows athletes to develop strength through good movement patterns.

Give someone enough time and it may translate to back squats.

Front squatting can also lay the foundation for back squats. Get so strong that it is harder to hold the bar than it is to actually squat and you have probably gotten really strong.

A lot of athletes would be best served to get really strong in the front squat before moving on to the back. 

Different demands of sports may require a different type of squat. If vertical power is essential then you want to make sure that you are front squatting in some capacity. Front squats are one of the best exercises at improving vertical jump.

Back squats are more horizontal and front squats more vertical

If your sport requires more horizontal demand then learning the back squat might be something to strive for.

There are also some injury concerns that can arise with the two.

Front squats can target the lower body with less weight because of an increased stability need.

Less axial loading can take pressure off of the spine. But at the same time, front squats definitely do not agree with all backs. There are no real blanket statements here and it is going to depend on the individual.

Some attributes of the Front Squat

  • Narrower stance
  • More core activation
  • Depth is usually easier to achieve
  • Less weight can be lifted in trained lifters

Back Squat:

  • Wider stance
  • More hip hinge needed
  • Depth is harder to get
  • More weight can usually be handled in trained lifters

The one thing that everyone seems to forget…

For my athletes, strength training is a means to improve their performance. Whatever exercises I choose should help the athlete reach their goal.

Some athletes front squat, back squat, or don’t squat at all. It does not really matter as long as they are improving their speed, agility, strength, etc.

Most exercises work. There are no exercises that just do nothing. Sometimes we have to weight the individual and the injury risk of the exercise but specifics are not as important as some want to make them seem.

Whether you front squat or back squat, the purpose is to help improve performance. There are subtle differences between the two and that may justify a substitution. They are just tools, make sure they are contributing to the big picture.