Back Squat Vs Front Squat: Which One Is More Effective For Your Leg Workouts?

By Marshall Evans | Exercises & Tips

Sep 18
back squat vs front squat

When it comes to these 2 exercises, most lifters choose the barbell back squat rather than the front squat. Actually, there are some reasons for that but you know, it doesn’t mean that the front squat is bad for your training. This is why I will break down these 2 exercises and evaluate the benefits as well as risks of Back squat vs front squat. So keep reading to determine which is right for you

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Front Squat

back squat

Muscle Involved

Upper back, particularly quadriceps

hamstrings, glutes, lower back, calves

Overall Strength

Lift less weight

Lift more weight

Knee health

Work a little bit more on knees

more load on hip rather than the knees

Shoulder health

safer

Not suitable for someone who has shoulder injury

Lumber spine safety

Safer

Not suitable for someone who has problem with the back

Muscle involved

Overall, squatting help build stronger muscles which can result in a significant increase in power and speed. This is the reason why squatting is very important not only for Olympic lifting but also for sports general or lifting purposes. And back squat and front squat are the 2 most common types of squats.

Actually, both squat variations help activate different major muscle groups such as upper back, abs, lumber spine, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and so on. However, the emphasis on those muscle groups is likely to shift from one squat variation to the other. That’s why they are considered 2 different exercises.

back squat vs front squat

In details, the barbell back squat allows you to target your glutes, hips, lumbar spine more effectively. Also, it can place more load on the posterior half of the body. When doing this movement, you will activate your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, calves and your core to stabilize your body as well.

The front squat places more emphasis on your upper back and particularly quadriceps. In this exercises, you have to hold the bar in front of your torso. That means it requires a more upright posture that minimizes flexion of your lumber spine.

Overall strength

It is obvious that the back squat allows you to lift way more weight than the front debate, end of story. If you’re wondering, remember it’s very difficult to hold 400 pounds on the front of your shoulders like you usually do to your upper back. That’s why the world record in the Back Squat is now over 1000 lbs which is way heavier than that in the front squat.

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Winner: Back Squats

back squat vs front squat

Knee health

Both front squats and back squats strengthen your knee muscles which help stabilize your knees, therefore, limiting the likelihood of knee injuries. Actually, the front squat works these muscles a bit more than the other so your knees can be stronger. Besides, it also requires you to push the knees out so you can prevent the ACL tear which is caused by valgus knee collapse.

That being said, the deep knee flexion of the front squat can sometimes bug your knees. However, the back squat places more load on your hips rather than the knees. That’s why with the back squat, so you can avoid the discomfort of having the knees going too deep.

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Winner:  Back squat - Front squat (tie)

My advice is, no matter which exercises you do, it’s important to wear knee sleeves and wraps for your own safety and comfort.

back squat vs front squat

Knee Wraps

Shoulder health

The back squat, either high bar or low bar, requires you to externally rotate and abduct your shoulders. Therefore, if you have any shoulder joint issue, it will be much difficult for you to maintain the bar on your upper back or traps. Seriously, when you have a shoulder injury, for example, labrum or rotator cuff problem, consider this exercise carefully before doing it.

On the other hand, with the front squat, your shoulders and elbows will be in a safer position with a cross grip or clean grip. In my experience, if you have a shoulder injury, just do front squats instead of back squats for greater safety.

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Winner: Front squats

back squat vs front squat

Lumber spine safety

Generally, both types of squats can help strengthen your lower back as long as you are using proper form. However, front squats are believed to be safer for your lumber spine than back squats. Why? This is because by placing the bar in front on your shoulders, the front squat requires your back to remain upright the entire time. Just like that, it helps you keep the upper body from falling forward, thus, strengthening your core and preventing lumber spine injuries, improve you workout.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the back squat is dangerous to your lower back. It’s only dangerous when you lift more than you actually and with the wrong technique. And to be honest, nobody wants to leave their ego at the door so this is the most common mistakes made by lifters.

back squat vs front squat

Weight Lifting Belt

For your lumber spine safety, just avoid the back squat if you have a small problem with your back. Instead, go for light weight with the front version. This will help you keep up with your training without skipping your leg day. Anyway, in both exercises, a weight-lifting belt is a must-have item if you want to avoid serious back injuries.

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Winner: Front squats

back squat vs front squat

Final thoughts

So back squat vs front squat, which one is better for you? I’m pretty sure that with all the information above, you can totally answer the question yourself. In short, one is not better to the other and it all depends on your preference, condition, and ability. Just like most lifters who want to lift heavy, I prefer the back squat, especially the high-bar version as it has all the benefits of the front squat and the low-bar back squat.

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About the Author

Hello everyone, I’m Marshall Evans and welcome to AestheticGuys.com. I love fitness so I spent years searching for training and nutrition tips to get in shape. I really want to share my experiences and all my tips with anyone who cares about health and fitness, that’s why I started AestheticGuys.com in 2017. Through the blog, I will have a chance to write about everything I want to share with you guys to make you love fitness more and help you get an aesthetic body.