When we’re comparing Front Squats VS Back Squats, we’re actually comparing three different variations of squats. There are two different kinds of back squats; high bar and low bar squats (I did a comparison between the two back squats in my article: High Bar VS Low Bar Squats). In this post, I will be comparing the front squat with the two kinds of back squats and talk about when you use them in training.
Front Squats vs Low Bar Squats
Front squats are quad dominant while low bar squats work the posterior chain more, which makes up a larger muscle mass. Low bar squats takes the stress of your low back which is an advantage when you train heavy. Front squats also takes stress off the low back, but it’s not an advantage over the low bar squats.
You will never be able to squat as much weight with the front squat compared to the back squat because of the upper back limitation. During the front squat, your upper back as to do more work to stay upright. When you’re training for strength and overall mass, the low bar squats should be your main exercise because it works more muscles and you can use a heavier load. Front squats are great if used to assist your back squats.
Front Squats Vs High Bar Squats
While you can squat more weight on the High Bar Squats, it puts more stress on the low back. The front squats takes stress off your low back. Once again, you can squat much heavier on the high bar squats and there are advantages to that.
Front squats are said to be better for your knees and many people experience this as well. This is simply not true, here is an interesting article that breaks down a few studies that shows the knees are not affected differently.
For the back squat, don’t be greedy, apply the right form with the full range of movement and you won’t have knee problems. Frequent partial squats with poor form will lead to knee issues, so get it right. Squat atg on the high bar or breaking parallel on the low bar squats and don’t let your knees buckle inwards as described in my How To Squat article.
When You Should Definitely Use The Front Squat
There are cases where you are much better off doing the front squats. People with shoulder issues sometimes can’t do back squats, especially if you have trouble with external rotation. Certain athletes like baseball players often have externally rotated shoulders. In this case, it’s safer to avoid back squats.
Front squats is also a corrective exercise and it is great for improving your posture. If your shoulders are slouched in from tight chest muscles, the front squat helps to correct this imbalance.
Poor upper body mobility should NOT be an excuse to avoid the back squat. Apply common sense here, start light and increase the weight gradually while working to get better mobility.