Back Squats vs Front Squats

What is better…back squats or front squats?

You might want to search the archives, I remember there was already a lengthy debate about this. In my opinion (which is only a sprinter’s opinion) why do front squats when you can do back squats? If you have time to do them, they are a nice change once in awhile. But with speed work, tempo, bench, squats, hamstrings, back work, med ball, abs, stretching, therapy, there is only so much energy to spread around. For my limited time, I choose back squats because you can handle so much more weight, or occasionally deadlifts. Just one man’s opininon.



Nothing wrong with either one.

Marion Jones used to combine front squats with power cleans. Chinnese weightlifters combining deadlifts and pulls with front squats and hardly ever back squats. Bulgarian and Russian lifters doing plently of back squats aswell as front and pulls but no deadlifts.
If you have the flexability, appropriate spinal curvature(YUO’LL KNOW WHEN U TRY FRONT SQUATS), then front squats are good and improve running posture. Front squats when done with good form teach ability to get hips directly under torso in sprinting, torso stability in a way that helps sprinting, aswell as giving thighs a good work out. If you do them, then conbine them with pulls of some kind such as high pulls or cleans, or even good mornings. Front squats are easier for the c.n.s to recover from than back squats.
Some people find front squats VERY uncomfortable on wrists, and and neck/traps strain. They can loop straps to the bar which would enable them to have hands half a foot above the bar and still have the bar well balanced. They might get a bit of a triceps workout doing it that way though which would be a distraction to the main emphases to some. If u cannot handle a high percentage of your back squat weight in a front squat without a lot of discomfort then don’t do front squats. For me, front squats are too uncomfortable (bugger). Some of the strongest olympic lifters and ones that don’t find them as comfortable have attempted heavy step ups as an alternative to combine with the back squats.

From Mike Boyle (SportSpecific):

"I’m a front squat guy. Approximately eight
years ago I came to a conclusion. Athletes that
I trained would no longer perform the back

As a former powerlifter I realized that this was
heresy but, I was tired of constantly asking
our athletes to “keep their heads up”, “use
their legs, not their backs” etc. The emphasis
of the back squat was always on increasing
weight. Unfortunately this was often done by
altering technique to improve leverage,
not actually by increasing the strength of
muscles so necessary to run or jump.

The decision to discontinue back squats
was based on simple logic that was
unfortunately a long time overdue. Front
squats are safer than back squats. This
is an opinion based on watching hundreds
of thousands of squats. Whenever one
of our athletes sustained a back injury
he or she would be reintroduced to
squatting via the front squat prior to
the back squat for a number of reasons:

· The front squat keeps the torso upright
and, decreases the torque that causes
problems with the SI joint.

· The nature of the front squat forces
the athlete to use a lighter weight than
the back squat. This is particularly true
with beginners although our athletes
now can front squat 90 to 100 percent
of their previous best back squat.

· The front squat places greater
stress on the knee extensors and less
on the hip extensors. (This might seem
like a negative but it actually allows
us to perform hip dominant movements
the day after squatting with less overlap)

The reintroduction to squatting via the
front squat was always a huge success.
Athletes would begin front squatting but
would always be itching to back squat
like everyone else. At this point as coaches
we would cave in to the pressure and,
allow the athlete to perform the back squat
again. This process began the vicious
circle of back pain - front squat - back
squat - back pain.

Many coaches have overreacted to back
problems caused by squatting and have
resorted to leg presses, safety squat bars,
TruSquat or any number of single leg activities.

The real key is not to overreact in this
manner and in effect “throw out the
baby with the bathwater”. Often we
hear coaches disparage a form of training
or a particular lift as injury producing.

Our experience has shown that the solution
may not be eliminating lifts entirely but,
changing to variations that avoid positions
of higher stress. This is why the front squat
makes sense. The front squat produces a
better body position by the nature of the
exercise. An athlete has a very difficult time
front squatting poorly. The athlete either
front squats well or, drops the bar. There is
very little middle ground. Conversely in the
back squat athletes can squat poorly for weeks,
months or years before sustaining an injury."


I have the flexibility and the correct spinal curvature to do front squats…but you said if u cannot handle a high percentage of your back squat weight in a front squat without a lot of discomfort then don’t do front squats…around what percent?

I’ve had this conversiation with some of the big guys who advocate the front squat rather than the back squat for the reasons mentioned in the article above. It is sound reasoning and a logical arguement, however, many of the back problems encountered may have been a result of a weak posterior chain to begin with. I know that a lot of pro hockey and football guys who from the nature of their sport, often experience back discomfort. Thus, the front squat works for them. But, you must look at this as a chicken or the egg issue…are the back squats causing the back discomfort or is a weak or underdeveloped posterior chain resulting in back pain? The only time i have seem back pain (less than 5 times) as a result of performing the back squat was due to a weak back or poorly developed posterior chain. As Charlie has mentioned, the white fibers are in their places for certian reasons. Just look at the size of the erectors on some sprinters. I feel when taught correctly and used in conjunction with a sound program, the back squat is nearly irreplaceable. The loading on the hip extensors is tough to match with others exercises, save a few.

Both should be done. Front squats will help you with your CLEAN AND JERK.

KnightTime, the word ‘better’ has no place in athletic preparation/develpment.

I suggest you consider replacing the word 'better, in your vocabulary, with ‘optimal’ or ‘more appropriate’, as all things sport related are relative to the following variables:

the athlete
the training goal
the athletes level of physical preparedness
the motor requirements necessary to excel at the training goal

I would say about 85 % plus (not in your first session though), but in would take a few weaks for some people to become confidant in the exercise, even those that have good posture etc, so give yourself an initial adjustment period before u test it out.
The thing I liked about Stevemacs post is where it said a lot of peoples backsquats improvements (pounds lifted), actually came about through changes in technique. This is why I no longer do single leg pistol squats (which are an awsome leg strength builder when you start out with them.) I quickly improved the weight I lifted in that exercise and thought I was He-man. Then something occurred to me; The first weak was neuro-muscular and stabilizer improvement, the next couple of weaks was slight changes in technique once the original technique was no longer possible with the heavier weight.)
Front squats have less lee-way for cheating than other forms of squatting, and once you get a consistant groove you are well on your way to building strength. Peace.

thanks for the information