T Nation

Can't Back Squat But Front Squat

I should clarify that I’m not an olympic lifter, but since I’m trying to achieve an olympic back squat this is probably the best place to put the question.

Just like many, I seem to get a lot of knee pain while doing back squats (doesn’t matter if it’s a wide power squat or a narrow olympic squat), however, while doing front squats, I am completely pain free. The front squats are done ATG just like I try to achieve with the back squat.

I have long legs and a short torso, if that info is of any value. I have had my squat form reevaluated by several lifers all from olympic lifters to powerlifters, generally they say it looks good, perhaps a slight bit too much of a forward lean, but I’m not sure if I can fully get over that with my body composition or if it’s really even that bad of a thing.

For my question, why am I getting knee pain from back squats, when front squats are just fine? The pain is located on the upper part of the knee cap where it connects to the quad. I also feel very powerless during a back squat, while I feel I can really press much better in the front squat.

I’m not a Oly lifter so take this for what it is just my opinion. I used to have the same problem above and or below my knee ( moved around from time to time ) when I back squatted whether wide, close, box, whatever. I also have a bit of forward lean in the back squat same as you which forces the load of the barbell to be placed on your toes therefore putting more stress on your quads and knees.

How ever I can front Squat almost any stance to any hieght with any type of pause and feel completely comfortable and pain free. This allows me to to put more force or be more “powerful” when coming out of a front squat. I am not a expert by any means but I am willing to bet its because when front squatting I have virtually no forward lean and can keep my heels planted firmly relieving the stress on my knees by pressing through my heels rather than off my toes.

Side note push knees out as much as possible at all times of the lift and hammer your hamstrings both have really helped my knees feel a million times better

[quote]Reed wrote:
I’m not a Oly lifter so take this for what it is just my opinion. I used to have the same problem above and or below my knee ( moved around from time to time ) when I back squatted whether wide, close, box, whatever. I also have a bit of forward lean in the back squat same as you which forces the load of the barbell to be placed on your toes therefore putting more stress on your quads and knees.

How ever I can front Squat almost any stance to any hieght with any type of pause and feel completely comfortable and pain free. This allows me to to put more force or be more “powerful” when coming out of a front squat. I am not a expert by any means but I am willing to bet its because when front squatting I have virtually no forward lean and can keep my heels planted firmly relieving the stress on my knees by pressing through my heels rather than off my toes.

Side note push knees out as much as possible at all times of the lift and hammer your hamstrings both have really helped my knees feel a million times better [/quote]

Thanks for taking the time to reply. Upon reading your answer and a gym session of trial and error, it seems you’re very much correct about the issue of keeping the weight on the heels while back squatting, something which is a breeze in front squats. Though there isn’t much of a force displacement, it’s probably enough to make me weak and have my knees hate me.

Despite using oly shoes, I still struggle, which would also explain why I feel so weak during back squats. It sounds like you had your issue relieved, did you? To me it would seem like a flexibility issue, perhaps the infamous ankle inflexibility problem? I make sure to shove my knees out and hamstrings probably can’t be worked enough, but isn’t this more likely a technique/flexibility problem rather than muscular?

Why are you trying to achieve an Olympic back squat? What is your goal with it?

You may be better off just front squatting depending on your goals.

[quote]amayakyrol wrote:
Why are you trying to achieve an Olympic back squat? What is your goal with it?

You may be better off just front squatting depending on your goals.[/quote]

Good question. Interestingly enough I’m aspiring to be a powerlifter, however I’m a big fan of the bulgarian training system and would like to incorporate daily squatting, which is much harder to do with a power squat due to the lower back being involved so heavily. I don’t see the Front Squat being much of a solution other than temporarily since back squatting after all is one of the big three.

To simplyfy the answer I pretty much want a bigger squat, but it’s tough when I can’t train the lift.

[quote]Orb wrote:

[quote]amayakyrol wrote:
Why are you trying to achieve an Olympic back squat? What is your goal with it?

You may be better off just front squatting depending on your goals.[/quote]

Good question. Interestingly enough I’m aspiring to be a powerlifter, however I’m a big fan of the bulgarian training system and would like to incorporate daily squatting, which is much harder to do with a power squat due to the lower back being involved so heavily. I don’t see the Front Squat being much of a solution other than temporarily since back squatting after all is one of the big three.

To simplyfy the answer I pretty much want a bigger squat, but it’s tough when I can’t train the lift.[/quote]
I’m also somewhat of a beginner. For the past week or so, I’ve been doing a routine where I work up to a heavy single on front squat, then work up to a heavy triple, then do 2 sets of 5. I started out doing it once a day, but increased it to twice a day when I realized that I can easily handle it. The more I squat, the better I feel. I used to have joint pain from back squatting 5x/week, so I stopped back squatting. Front squatting 12 times a week has literally removed all pain from my joints and legs. It’s incredible. Nobody believes me. Here are some vids to prove it (I only record the heavy singles): www.youtube.com/shambayati195

[quote]Orb wrote:
I’m a big fan of the bulgarian training system and would like to incorporate daily squatting, which is much harder to do with a power squat due to the lower back being involved so heavily.[/quote]

Works just fine with a PLing squat. At least it does for me, though the fact that you have [potential] mobility problems &c. is a pretty big problem for doing high freq/high intensity (it tends to expose weaknesses).

I have a similar problem (6.2 tall and long legs)
Like it’s often promoted I always started the squat with breaking at the hips since I thought straight shins means less force on the knee, but actually I found out that especially for lifters with a build like ours this leads to a more horizontal upper body in order to keep the bar above the feet.
Jonnie Candito’s (I hope I spelled the name right) video on proper Squat form helped me a lot.

Intentionally breaking at the knees and thinking of driving the butt down in a nearly straight line made squatting much more comfortable for me. Opening the hips by pushing the knees outward also aids a lot.