The Great Debate: Front Squats vs. Back Squats

Front squats vs. back squats.

Which one is more important?

To help answer this question, we must first discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Back Squat

The back squat requires the athlete to place the bar on the back of the neck, sitting on the traps. This allows the bar and distribution of the weight to sit in line with the spine, directly over the athlete’s area of base. In this position, the athlete is able to control the barbell more easily, isolating the leg muscles for a more direct application. It can be argued that more strength can be created using the back squat, simply because more weight can be lifted with the back squat than the front squat. This application of force, which falls directly in line with an athlete’s posterior chain, means that the back squat requires more posterior chain recruitment than the front squat. More specifically, the back squat will develop the glutes and hamstrings slightly more than the front squat.

The Front Squat

Inversely, the front squat, with the weight placed on the shoulders in front of the neck, puts a unique forward torque on the body that the athlete must resist. This forward torque requires the athlete to use more quadriceps and core activation in order to keep the bar from falling forward. Therefore, it can be argued that the front squat helps develop the anterior kinetic chain more than that of the back squat. The front squat also helps the athlete prepare for the receiving position of the clean. As these two movements are related, the more repetitions and weight an athlete can front squat correctly, the more likely the athlete is to possess a better receiving position or “catch” in the clean.

So what’s the verdict?

There is no clear winner here. We all know and have studied that when training, we must train the agonist and antagonist muscles evenly. If one develops significantly more than the other, this imbalance can lead to poor technique or possible injury. When training the legs, one must train them completely. Therefore, solid weightlifting programs that can be adapted to other sports require the use of both the front squat and the back squat in training – with equal importance.