Front squat VS Back squat

Mike’s reply:

"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."

What are your thoughts on this? are back squats really that damaging?

When you are doing abdominal work med ball throws, starts, reverse hypers, deadlift et al, the chances of back injury from back squats is minimal. Obviously this coach was not subscribing the correct amount of loading or not taking the necessary steps to prevent back injury when squatting.

" A bad workman always blames his tool", not saying that this coach is no good he probably is a world class coach, but he probably was at fault with his exercise organisation. If so many of his athletes were getting injured the same way, when other equivalent groups were probably not, then is it the exercise or is it the training program?

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

Funny that was mentioned. I get a lot of trouble with my SI joint with back-squatting. I know its not squats ‘fault’ but my technique… but I have worked and worked on this and it may just be me, my body and not being built for back-squats :confused:

I’ve always really respected Michael Boyle and all of his recommendations. He’s only saying what makes sense to him. Michael Boyle is just saying that he’s not dumb enough to have his athletes do what they can’t do well. Realistic and practical, I only hope to be able to do a portion of the good work that Michael Boyle has done for this industry. Clemson has made similar comments about teaching lifts. If someone doesn’t snatch well, why would you make them snatch? He’s used squats for great training effect as well, even though it’s not as glamorous. If half the people I worked with had this much common sense. Shoot, most of the coaches I know can’t get enough of seeing themselves demonstrate glamorous lifts to stop and see that the athletes they’re working with don’t have the same ability. Why can’t you power snatch dammit, can’t you see how pretty I make this look?!! Nothing wrong with a front squat, back squat, power clean, power snatch, barbell squat jump, if your athletes can perform them properly.

Speedkills hit the nail on the head. Coach Boyle knows what he is doing with his programs. He has done his research and found what is most effective for his workouts. Bottom line.

The above post is correct, back squats allow the athlete to overcome weak knee extensors by flexing more at the hip through the sticking point. If quads are the weak link front squats are without peer.

Safety wise it’s also alot easier to dump a front squat.

Disagree! You need both Front and Back Squats! Front squats will help you with your Clean and Jerk, Back squats will help you develop more strength! Unfortunately many people do back squats wrong! Me included a couple of years ago.

I sustained a back injury and afterwards I went to a program which taught me how to squat correctly and perfectly! I full squatted 405lbs earlier this year and my back feels great! The injury I had never prevented me from doing any exercise or sport!

Nobody’s saying you can’t disagree Supervenom, what we stated was Boyle does what works for him. You can’t force square pegs in round holes and from what I’ve read in your posts you’re an exceptional lifter who puts a lot of thought and energy into lifting, technique, etc. When you’re coaching kids who don’t have the same dedication to form and technique he’s simply working with what he has found works well. Disagree all you want but Boyle and those who choose not to back squat don’t care. I will continue to train both as well.

Kids that aren’t dedicated to what they are doing shouldn’t be doing it then! I’ve met so many people that were way more naturally talented then I am but never had 1/10 tenth the heart! Those people never made it anywhere bc they did not have the desire! Rocky Vs Drago. Rocky will win every time and Drago was a one-hit wonder! :stuck_out_tongue:

Drago sure was a training beast though wasn’t he?

He had all the support as an athelete you could want. F*** that I’m going to Russia to train from now on!

There is some great input on this Front squat vs Back Squat topic from Coach Mark Rippetoe in his new book coming out later this year.

I Agree. The concept of playing to strengths comes in here. If the back squat is an issue- do something else as long as the posterior chain is sufficiently strong through the program.

Also to consider, with sports like football that emphasize heavy lifting and max outs, athletes can cheat like crazy to “make” the backsquat as mentioned above with hip flexion. Front squats are near impossible to cheat on, which is another reason why the weights are less than back squats.

When you work with multi million dollar athletes like Mike does, your job is to keep them healthy so they can make more money.

This is not a comment on which is better. To that there is no answer that will apply to everyone. Regarding back squats leading to low back problems, I am not going to deny that related injuries happen, of course they do. However, the individuals that I’ve witnessed(at least acutely)injuring their backs had poor to mediocre form with even light to moderate loads. Therefore it stands to reason when they reached high loads the technique would even be worse.

In an related rant, too many coaches(in my opinion) believe that strength training involves an initial teaching phase of exercises to
athlete(s) and then the teaching/coaching is done. Some I’ve seen don’t continually coach their athletes in the weight room, don’t constantly try to perfect their form. Most will acknowledge that the olympic lifts need ongoing instruction. Some of these same coaches view what THEY see as simple from a technical point of view(bench, squats, when viewed in relation to cleans, etc.) as not needing ongoing refinement. My point is that coaching should not stop when you reach the weight room.

Coaching doesn’t perfect once and for all, you need to keep coaching to keep the same issues from coming back over and over.

This is from Mark Rippetoe’s new book out in June 2007 ‘Starting Strength- Basic Barbell Training.’

"Since the front squat has such radically different form, you might expect that it produces a different result than the back squat. The upper back has a much tougher job because the load it is holding up is further away. The bar in a back squat, low bar or Olympic, sits right on top of the muscles that are holding it up. The front squat places the bar all the way across the depth of the chest, which in a bigger guy might be 12 inches away. This is a much longer lever arm than no inches at all and presents a mechanical challenge to the muscles that maintain thoracic extension. It is very common to get pretty sore between the shoulder blades when first starting the exercise.

And since the knees are so much further forward than they are at the bottom of the back squat, the hamstrings are not as involved in the hip extension. This is because the vertical back position and its relationship to pelvic position, along with the acute angle of the tibia, place the hamstrings in a position where the origin and insertion are closer together - a position of contraction. If the hamstrings are already contracted, they cannot contribute much to hip extension, because they are not in a position to contract much further. But the hip extension must still be done, so the glutes end up doing most of the job without the help of the hamstrings. Then the knees-forward, vertical-back position puts the quads in a position to do most of the work after the initial hip extension. This is true for high-bar Olympic squats as well, but especially so for the front squat.

So the primary difference between the two squats is one of degree in terms of the amount of involvement from the contributing muscle groups. But the primary reason for the difference is the position in which the system is in balance - the bar in both cases must be over the middle of the foot, and the correct back angle is the one that keeps it there. ”

On a related note:Rippetoe is advocating, in a recent Elitefts article, utilizing low bar back squats rather than high bar squats which is unusual for most strength coaches who do not come from more of a powerlifting background.

Actually, most strength coaches that I’m familiar with, regardless of their backgrounds, advocate high bar back squats.

Where did you find this outtake?

What is the difference between this book and the original Starting Strength?