T Nation

Front Squats Inferior to Back Squats?

powerlifting

#1

I usually incorporate front squats into my program, however I seen an EMG data chart showing different exercises and what muscles they stimulate most…turns out that back squats stimulate a noticeabley higher difference in the quads and core and basically every other muscle, despite the fact I always hear that the front squat is good for building quads and core strength. If this is true then why front squat? Is there something I’m missing here? If not I’m going to spend more time perfecting my back squat as I only care about the big 3. Thanks for the input in advance


#2

I don’t prefer these kind of data charts since muscle/neural activation and form varies a lot with different individuals. So:

  • FS is inferior to BS in powerlifting.

  • That does not mean that it would not be good supplemental lift for the squat and deadlift. Some seem to get a lot of benefit from it, others not so much.

Here is a good example of “rather” strong lifter who has been a strong advocate for the FS:

PS. I don’t know your level, but if you can not squat and pull at least 400-500lbs I don’t necessarily see the need for the fronts just yet. But this is only my opinion.


#3

That’s half the reason why I don’t front squat. The other half is that holding the bar in that position is just a pain in the ass no matter how I do it and severely limits how much weight I can handle. Front squats will add quad volume, but obviously not as much as a back squat. They can be useful for teaching a more upright squat pattern and for building the upper back, but a safety squat bar can do that just as well. With the SSB, the movement pattern is very similar to a front squat except that you won’t dump the bar if you start to lean over and pretty much everyone can handle more weight.

If you squat low bar then high bar squats are another useful variation to build your quads.


#4

That pretty much sums it up.


#5

Chris had a good point: the SSB seems to be more popular nowadays. Maybe because it is easier to load with heavy weights.


#6

I honestly don’t see any advantage of front squat over SSB, but if someone prefers front squats for whatever reason then I won’t try to stop them. SSB squats are pretty hard at first, when I started doing them my max squat was around 400 and I was doing something like 265x5 on the SSB. Now my squat is approaching 500 (at least I hope so!) and I did 390x5 on the SSB last week. It seems like upper back strength and the ability to stay upright are the limiting factors, but I definitely feel it in my quads.


#7

The front squat is different to the squat. Personally, I use both and find when I do my squat and DL benefit. SSB is great too.

Briefly from my experience

  • paused heavy front squats are the best DL builder I know of
  • front squats let you hammer your quads IF you do enough reps (5+) with the benefit of getting quad stimulation without taxing the rest of you too much
  • front squats help with your upper and middle back strength much, MUCH better than squats
  • front squats are nicer to your lower back

#8

Do you see any advantage to front squat over SSB squat?


#9

Two, really: if you want to give your lower back a break, front squats are better; and if you want to be forced to hold position instead of getting away with pitching and fighting fronts are also better, because if you pitch you lose the bar.

If you just want to train your back to strain, SSB is miles better.


#10

The front squat is much harder to perform than the back squat. I front squat to train abs. If you learn to brace a front squat properly, you’ll feel it in the abs. Go heavy and steady.


#11

Could the fact that you can generally handle less weight in the front squat account for any of the difference?


#12

Front squats are the greatest exercise ever.


#13

I believe that there are some variables. The shoes you wear and whether you do it the right way or the arms crossed method.


#14

Isn’t SSB somewhere in-between front and back as far as where the load is put? I think of all three as equally important for strength but SSB might be better to help back squat since its closer to that than fronts.


#15

@sufiandy where the load sits, yes, it’s between front and squat. The actual work though, well, that’s different. I feel SSB in my back (upper, middle AND lower) more than either squats or front squats.


#16

SSB hit my quads more than anything I have ever experienced.


#17

Never done a SSB squat before, but since I’m trying to primarily boost my deadlift, all I do are fronts. No sense in beating up my low back with back squats when I dead twice a week. Also, for the longest time, I would get injured everytime I back squatted. Looking back on it, most of it was lack of posture and strength, but once I started doing fronts and got the weight up on those, back squatting was a lot easier and ALMOST enjoyable. Do what makes you happy brej


#18

I like front squats for building my midsection and upper back and teaching me to keep those areas super rigid so I have a good transference of strength from my lower body to the bar.

Also, there’s times where I’m just too worn out to do a big back squat so I go with the front squat which I can’t use nearly as much weight on so it doesn’t wear me out and put as much strain on my joints.


#19

Oddly enough the same article that has the EMG results shows that front squats actually stress the lower back more than the back squat does https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscles-best-ab-exercises
and it evens shows it being higher than the good morning for lower back activity. Here’s the one that shows the leg muscles https://www.t-nation.com/training/inside-the-muscles-best-leg-glute-and-calf-exercises I’m not saying that it’s necessarily right I’m sure there are some variable factors that could alter the results but still it’s highly likely it’s accurate. I think I’ll keep front squatting though, because I know for me I do feel my lower back burn when I do them, I’ve even pulled it a couple times while front squatting


#20

I don’t doubt the EMG results, but what I suspect they may overlook is that when front squatting the upper back limits how much you can use, which often spares the lower back simply because that means the load is kept lower than what the lower back can cope with. If your upper back is stronger than your lower back, this won’t apply.