Last Updated on August 27, 2023 by Patrick
Table of Contents
Front Squat vs Back Squat: Why Squat In The First Place?
Squats are one those exercises that are included in almost every single workout routine.
They are also one of the most commonly skipped exercises by gym bros who just want to get that upper body V shape. Why bro? Why?
You should never skip leg day!
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, get bigger, or just get those booty gains, a good squat session is super important!
There are probably dozens of squat variations (check out the goblet squat!) out there, but today we’re just going to cover two of them: it’s the front squat vs back squat, and the barbell squat in particular.
When it comes to front squat vs back squat, both are undeniably great full body exercises. Front squats are a great lower body workout and leg builder and back squats are #1 for booty gains.
Check out the video below from Dr. Aaron Horschig at the Squat University Youtube Channel! They’ve put together an official squat checklist to get you started.
Check out more videos from Squat University here!
Squats Shred Body Fat
The front and back squat both target some of the largest muscles in your whole body. Burning out those quads and glutes will have your body consuming afterburn calories for days! Not only that, but since muscle passively burns more calories than fat, getting bigger muscles can result in a higher overall BMR!
If you’re trying to shred body fat, working out the larger muscles, like the ones in your legs, is generally more effective than focusing on smaller muscle groups, like your arms. If weight loss is your goal, you should focus on compound movements like squats. Not only do these exercises target larger muscle groups, they also hit many small accessory muscles at the same time!
Squats Help You Get Bigger Everywhere
Squats, along with other compound movements, have been shown to increase anabolism, essentially priming your whole body to build muscle.
Yes, that means leg day is helping you make upper body gains too my dudes.
Not to detract from the whole front squat vs back squat debate here, but squats in any shape and form help to create an anabolic environment in your body. Intense weight-training, and especially multi-joint compound movements, can enhance the release of both testosterone and growth hormone, leading to increased muscle gains!
Yes, Squats Are Your Ticket to Booty Gains
Do not underestimate the power of booty gains.
Yes, I know you want that V Shape bro. Yes I know you think leg day is just for Instagram chicks.
Let me stop you right there.
Booty gains are never wasted my friend. Everyone can benefit from booty gains.
When it comes to front squat vs back squat, either one will get you there, though you’re probably going to want to focus on the back squat rather than the front squat if this is your primary motivator.
Back squats hit more of your posterior chain, meaning your glutes, lower back and hamstrings, whereas the front squat is your #1 weapon for working quads, core and upper back. Don’t count out the front squat for working your glutes either, you’ll definitely get a good glute workout from front squats too!
The Debate: Front Squats vs Back Squats
Alright, let’s get into the squat debate.
To be honest with you, it depends.
To be even more honest with you, you should probably do both.
Squats are the #1 compound movement people perform for legs and lower body fitness in general because they so effectively hit so many muscle groups. Your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, upper and lower back will all get a good workout from a squat routine.
The squat variation you perform will determine which muscles get worked the most.
Of all the squat variations, front squats and back squats are probably the most common.
In my experience, killing your legs and butt with squats is the #1 way to burn calories, make booty gains, and lose the ability to walk for days at a time.
Both front squats and back squats are both going to primarily target your quads and glutes. These are two of the largest muscles in your body.
They’re great for your core muscles when performed with proper form as well!
When those large muscles are damaged from a workout, your body will be burning calories for days in the repair effort!
How To Do Back Squats
Back squats are an amazing full body workout that you can perform with a LOT of weight. It’s important to perform this exercise with correct form to prevent injury.
- Place the barbell on the back of your shoulders, on top of your traps.
- Stand with your feet shoulder length apart, chest up, look straight forward.
- Lean back into the movement, bringing your butt towards the floor until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
- Stand up by pushing down against the floor with the heels of your feet. Make sure to engage your core, your quads and your glutes.
Note: You should keep your back straight and your torso upright the whole time and the bar should stay directly above your feet.
Check out the video below from Dr. Aaron Horshig at the Squat University Youtube Channel to learn more about performing the back squat!
Check out more videos from Squat University Here!
Why Back Squats?
Of all the squat variations, back squats are probably the most commonly performed.
They primarily target the posterior chain. That’s your glutes, hamstring and lower back, but you’ll also feel it in your quads and your core.
The upper weight limit for back squats is significantly higher than front squats.
Important note: Of the two, this is the variation that will get you maximum booty gains. Compared to the front squat, the back squat heavily targets the glutes. The front squat is much more focused on the quads, upper back and core.
How To Do Front Squats
The first time you do a front squat, don’t put any weight on the bar. Get a feeling for how heavy the bar is on your shoulders and hands before you start throwing plates on there. The bar position for the front squat puts a lot of your weight on the front part of your body, you want to make sure you’re able to keep your balance when performing the movement.
- Rest the bar on the front of your shoulders for this movement and hold the bar in place with just your fingers under the bar with your palms facing the ceiling.
- Keep your feet shoulder width apart.
- Keep your chest up and eyes ahead. Make sure to maintain an upright posture!
- Bend at the waist and the knees and keep your back straight, careful not to lean forward too far.
- The bar should stay directly above your feet just like the back squat.
- Get your thighs parallel to the floor and stand back up, pushing with your heels.
Note: If you find the front squat to be more difficult than the back squat, you are not alone! The back strength you need to hold the bar in front of you during the front squat is huge compared to the back squat. The front squat forces you to maintain a much straighter upright torso compared to the alternative. It’s commonly held wisdom that the front squat is significantly more difficult, so don’t despair. Keep trying! You will find that as you strengthen your upper back and condition your body to perform the movement, the front squat will become second nature!
Check out the video below from Dr. Aaron Horshig at the Squat University Youtube Channel to learn more about performing the front squat!
Check out more videos from Squat University Here!
Why Front Squats?
Front squats are easier on your back because the more forward position of the weight takes some pressure off of your spine. They’re also much easier on your shoulders. Shoulder injuries are one of the most common in weightlifting, so this is no minor thing.
Compared to back squats, front squats will work more of your anterior muscles. They primarily target your quads and your upper back, and you’ll feel it more in your core as well.
Since front squats more heavily effect your quads, this is a great option for people looking to increase leg strength for running, jumping etc. The front squat is considered one of the top 5 exercises for basketball players for this reason. If you’re working on your jump shot, the front squat might be just what the doctor ordered!
Also, front squats inherently require better balance and stability due to the barbell’s position. This can be advantageous for athletes or individuals seeking to enhance their overall balance and coordination. On the other hand, back squats offer more stability, making it possible to lift heavier weights.
You Mentioned Goblet Squats?
Goblet squats are a great exercise to strengthen your core and lower body. They work the glutes, hamstrings, quads and abdominal muscles at the same time.
The goblet squat is done by holding a weight (generally a kettlebell) in front of you with both hands and placing it on your upper chest area. You then take a deep breath in and bend your knees, lowering yourself down as far as possible without bending forward or touching the floor with anything other than your toes. Once you reach this point, you exhale through pursed lips while pushing back up to start position. If performed correctly, this should be an almost entirely quadriceps-focused movement; there will be very little involvement from any other muscle groups.
Goblet squats are fairly simple to perform. It takes practice, though. If you’re not used to it, the movement might feel awkward at first. You will quickly learn that this is a great exercise for your legs and core muscles. However, goblet squats are NOT the same as front squats or overhead squats (although they work the same muscle groups).
Goblet squats activate the lower back and abdominal muscles; they do not put pressure on your spine, as many other squat variations do. This is because the weight is held in front of you: it doesn’t press against your chest cavity and force you to twist and/or arch backward.
What About Split Squats?
It is important to note that this movement does not replace squats because they target different muscles. The split squat recruits mostly the quadriceps and gluteus maximus while squats will primarily target the quads and also work glutes, hamstrings and calves more so than the split squat exercise.
For those who have knee problems it is recommended that one start with bodyweight or banded walking/static lunges before advancing to split squats. For those who have no knee problems, this is a great alternative or addition to squats. The movement shown below will be done using the barbell but can easily be substituted for dumbbells.
A little known thing about Bulgarian Split Squats is it also works your core muscles quite a bit due to maintaining balance throughout the exercise . This movement can not only increase strength and size of legs but help work the abdominals as well if performed properly. To perform this full range of motion you should go all the way down until your front leg’s thigh is parallel to the floor, pause briefly at bottom before pushing back up with enough
For those of you who do not know what a box squat is, it is basically the same as an ass to grass (ATG) squat except you pause on a box at parallel and then come back up.
This takes away the stretch reflex and makes you pause before each rep. The purpose of the pausing is to help teach and reinforce proper depth and eliminate bouncing out of the hole (BOH).
It also puts your quads in a more mechanically advantageous position by taking your hip flexors out of the equation, so therefor it should allow you to use more weight than if you were doing ATGs.
Injury Risk and Safety
Safety should be a priority in any workout routine. Back squats, with their ability to handle heavier weights, might carry a slightly higher risk of lower back strain if not performed correctly. Front squats, while demanding good form, generally place less stress on the lower back.
Range of Motion
Front squats often lead to a deeper squat depth, which can be beneficial for mobility and flexibility. The upright posture encourages a greater range of motion in the hips and ankles. Back squats, while also promoting flexibility, might not allow for as deep a squat due to the barbell’s placement.
Choosing the Right Squat for You
The choice between front squats and back squats largely depends on your fitness goals, body mechanics, and personal preferences. If you’re aiming for pure strength and muscle mass, back squats might be more suitable. For those focused on core strength, balance, and flexibility, front squats could be the preferred option.
Front Squat vs Back Squat: Which Should You Prioritize?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Your fitness goals, physical limitations, and preferences should guide your decision. Consider working with a fitness professional to assess your biomechanics and develop a plan that suits your needs best.
Incorporating Both Squat Variations
In many cases, incorporating both front squats and back squats into your routine can yield comprehensive benefits. Alternating between the two can provide a well-rounded lower body workout while minimizing the risk of overuse injuries.
Common Myths About Squats
- Myth: Squats are bad for your knees.
- Fact: Squats, when performed with proper form, can actually strengthen the muscles around the knees and improve joint health.
- Myth: Squats are only for young individuals.
- Fact: Squats can be modified to suit people of all ages, promoting functional movement and strength.
- Myth: Squats are only for lower body development.
- Fact: Squats engage various muscle groups, including the core and upper body, contributing to overall strength.
- Myth: Squats should only be done with heavy weights.
- Fact: Bodyweight squats and squats with lighter weights can still offer valuable benefits, especially for beginners.
- Myth: You should avoid squatting if you have back pain.
- Fact: Consult a healthcare professional; squats done correctly can alleviate back pain by strengthening the supporting muscles.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Can I Perform Front Squats with Limited Wrist Mobility?
- Absolutely. If you have wrist mobility issues, you can use straps to aid your grip during front squats, ensuring a comfortable and effective workout.
- Are Squats Alone Sufficient for Developing Strong Leg Muscles?
- While squats are incredibly effective for building leg strength, complementing them with other targeted leg exercises can optimize muscle development and overall lower body fitness.
- Do Front Squats Contribute to Core Strength Enhancement?
- Yes, indeed. Front squats require substantial core engagement to maintain an upright posture, making them a great exercise for strengthening your core muscles over time.
- What Is the Ideal Frequency for Including Squats in My Routine?
- The ideal frequency depends on your fitness goals and recovery capacity. Generally, incorporating squats into your routine 2 to 3 times a week, with proper rest between sessions, can yield excellent results.
- Can Squats Aggravate Existing Knee Pain?
- If you have existing knee pain, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before attempting squats. With proper form and moderation, squats can potentially help strengthen muscles around the knees, but individual cases vary.
No matter your fitness goals, both the front squat and back squat are awesome tools and should never be overlooked.
Either one of these variations will give you an awesome full body workout, that’s the magic of compound movements!
I know the temptation to skip leg day can be strong, but I implore you to resist. Squats are good.
Front squat? Good.
Back squat? Good.
If your legs are too sore to sit down, just remember those booty gains!
Hey I’m Patrick!
I built my first home gym in 2012, when I decided I was tired of waiting in line for the squat rack and I started GGC in 2020 to help people find the info they need to improve their fitness and their lives.
I’m passionate about fitness, especially when it comes to working out at home. I’ve learned a lot over the years about what to do and what not to do, and my mission is to share that knowledge with the world!