T Nation

The Benefits of Back Squatting


Hello everybody, this is my first post on the T-Nation forums.

I would like to discuss Full olympic style back squats with you and the question whether they indeed trigger an increase in total body power and growth in every muscle groups (also the ones the back squat does not stimulate directly such as the biceps for example).

I am from Germany, and in Germany this phenomenon is called "Verbreitungseffekt," which means that the ATG Squat uses more than two thirds of the body's muscle mass and therefore causes the entire body to grow. Not only through the release of growth hormone and testosterone, but due to the fact that whenever more than 60% of the whole body's muscles are fully activated, all others are stimulated just as well, to a lesser degree but still.

If one were to do nothing but olympic style back squats, would the entire body really get developed?

In The Poliquin Principles, Charles states that he does believe the squat increases TOTAL body power, i.e. strength in the entire body with all its areas and muscles.

Thank you!!


Speaking for myself, as I am admittedly new to Olympic-style back squatting as well, it changes the way you perform almost every other lift in your routine. Upper body included. It brings new flexibility and strength to your hips and engages your abs differently which helps out a great deal in almost every compound lift (including body-weight exercises). It seems to sort of "set" your body for proper execution in everything else. I mean its obvious that Olympic back-squatting is good for priming your body for the O Lifts, but the benefits extend beyond them. Every part of your body WANTS to grow in proportion to everything else. Strong legs, hips, and abs help your bench press and chin-ups in the same way they help your deadlifts.

Bottom line, Olympic back-squatting is the way to go.


I think its true, but don't expect to be doing barbell bicep curls 100kgs from just squatting a lot and for a lot of years. I think of it as more of a small plus, kinda like doing stuff that will increase testosterone or eating a bit better or sleeping a bit more. It's just something that's going to help a bit your whole body.


I think any natural means that increases testosterone production is a good thing.

I'm currently doing the Russian Squat Routine (squat 3x per week for 6 weeks - currently in week #5) and anecdotally, I've noticed that

a) I have more focus at work (office job) despite drinking no coffee during the day (except in the early morning just before lifting)

b) My wife says my legs are now out of proportion with the rest of my body

c) I walk around feeling like I'm the king lol

d) By squatting ATG my hip flexibility has improved greatly

e) I used to dislike squatting but now I love it - I now look forward to it....anyone else feel the same?

I don't really see many negatives about ATG squats, other than they are hard work...


full ATG unequipped squats are a beast of an exercise and can only do good things for you.

however, I am convinced after training for over 25 years and doing EVERY routine in the book the best single exercise that packs the most total body muscle is the conventional deadlift.

the only exception is if you have freaky levers for deadlifting like short torso and long monkey arms, but otherwise, deadlift is the king,

best beast building exercises:

1 deadlift

2 FULL clean and jerks

  1. back squats

  2. chins/dips

  3. prowler pushing/sprinting


What are your opinions on the sumo deadlift?


loving points a,b and c :smiley:

My legs are out of porpotion also, probably due to the fact that I worked my legs for the last 11yrs consistently and my upperbody is 'tacked on' and I've been lazy, but it's all good.



What has puzzled me for a while now is how back squatting (rather than front and / or overhead) is supposed to help one clean, jerk, or snatch more.


Back squatting = good for the snatch. Don't overhead squat heavy... back squat heavy! This is because the back angles are very similar... i.e. the forward lean is almost identical.


I'm puzzled by this too...I would have thought that the front squat basically mimics the catch phase of the clean to the standing rack position while the OH squat mimics the receive position of the snatch.

Also, in order to squat clean X weight, do you need to be able to front squat X?

And to snatch X weight, do you need to be able to OH squat it?


From what I can see, back squating is the best way to get your legs strong. Everything is easier if your legs are stronger. Unless you are majorly lacking core strength to support front squats then its going to have transfer.

And at dan, if you can squat clean a weight you should be able to front squat it. I can triple in a front squat what I can clean and better lifters often get a considerable gap between the 2. As for overhead squating I don't really know. My instinct would be it's not necessary. However with practice it's probably possible? But I honestly can't comment. Most more advanced lifters rarely if ever overhead squat.


Front Squating correlates more to your Clean/ Snatch. It is more strict then a back squat and a front squat the loan is more similar to the first pull where the weight is infront of you. The angle is closer and the fact that you have to recover the Clean from a front squat is a HUGE different. It makes sure you have enough flexibility, trunk and leg strength to get up properly. You can't lean forwards and good morning up a Clean or front squat that is heavy.



Generally for 99.9% of people if you can squat clean it you can front squat. Very few people will be able to Clean more then they can front squat. They are generally weak or exceptional Cleaners, using the bounce to get out of the whole. VERY few people will be able to do this at heavyw eights, but a few can though.

Not many lifters overhead squat once they are beyond beginners. The weight isn't that heavy that you struggle to get out the bottom of the Snatch.

The Chinese have pictures of themselves doing bottom up over head squats, but they Squat Jerk so they need to be able to do this!

If a person squats strictly front and back theys h ould not have issues getting out of the bottom for Snatch.




So back squatting will bring your front squat up faster than front squatting (assuming stable core)?

My sticking point on the front squats is getting my quads to kick in properly on the ascent (not so good at catching the bounce so that doesn't help me - but I expect it would be worth eliminating the bounce if it was).

I guess I thought that since back squats were more of a posterior chain rather than quad dominant exercise they wouldn't help me much.

I mean it would be nice to squat more weight, but I wasn't sure about how that would transfer to front squats and squat cleans.


Makes sense that standing up a snatch isn't much of a problem since the weight is lighter. I feel more comfortable standing up a snatch than front squatting or squat cleaning the same amount of weight.

Guess I figured it was easier because of sitting back a little more even though I only front squat (and overhead light ones occasionally). But I'm still learning so I guess things might well feel different one day.


Kind of. It's also to have balanced muscles to prevent injury. Front squat helps back squat and back squat helps front squat. Generally your front squat should be about 80-90% of your back squat, maybe 95%. In the end for a weightlifter it definitely is more important than the back squat.

That doesn't make sense to me. As long as you are on your heels and keep your back as straight and tight as possible, then you are using the quads to get up. Personally I can only understand not being able to have a muscle work if its one you don't use often or at all. For example there are dozens of muscles on our face and head that I can't use cause I don't know how and other people can. I also for quite a while couldn't do a proper shoulder shrug and only recently can I do it rather fast. But your quads are muscles you use very often, if you've been lifting for a while they should work properly!

They are indeed more posterior chain compared to the front squats. And aside from helping get the other squats up(they still do use the same muscles, just to a different degree... plus you know, variety is good no matter if you are oly lifter, powerlifter or bodybuilder. There are exceptions but those are very specific), you certainly need a strong posterior chain no matter what sport you are in and especially olympic weightlifting, mainly for cleans that are going to throw you down in the hole and if your back isn't strong enough, very likely your elbows will drop and you'll have to drop the weight or you'll keep it and have to stand up with a rounded back.


Personally the only trouble I ever have from standing up from snatches is with my arms and maybe my back, never legs. If you keep the above really tight at the catch position then it should be fine and maybe somewhat hard with maximal weights.

Of course balance can be somewhat of a problem too but I think thats more experience and has nothing to do with how strong you are at squats. Squats should help with the pull though, just like with clean pulls


I've been romanian deadlifting / deadlifting for my posterior chain. I dunno, I guess I just read (somewhere) something about how the trap bar is an odd contraption. Not quite a deadlift, not quite a squat... Missing most of the benefits of both exercises? Perhaps... And I guess I got to thinking about how there are deadlifts and there are front squats and maybe back squatting for an oly lifter might be something like that conception of the trap bar. But maybe not... I could be convinced otherwise.

Everybody has a sticking point, I guess. You know, whatever their weakest link is that prevents them getting up a heavier weight. For me it is the point where the quads are supposed to take over from the hamstrings / glutes on the ascent. They kick in eventually (usually) but take their time about it. Maybe relative lack of fast twitch fibers or still training neural recruitment or both (still learning).

I heard something about how riding the bounce helps you get through that with a bit of momentum. That is why people try and eliminate the bounce (to train that relatively weak part of the movement specifically). I haven't learned to ride it yet so don't need to worry about eliminating it :slightly_smiling:


You are overthinking this. The sticking point is almost always for everyone when going back up at parallel to half squat range. Your quads are working whenever your extending the knee joint, your hips whenever your whole leg moves at the hip. Now if you are doing squats correctly and your back stays tight then always the "weak link" are going to be your legs. That's how its supposed to be and squats make them stronger! What you are saying is like someone saying I can't make bicep curls cause my biceps are my weak point.

The problem would have been if you are rounding your back or going forward on to your toes. Doing squats correctly though I've found fixes those problems fast and eventually you are stronger staying on your heels and with a tight back and after that your "weak point" will be your legs always.

edit: btw about the whole "using the bounce", there are various opinions on it. It will definitely make you lift more weight if you do it correctly, but more importantly some say its not going to work your legs as much as not using it. Others say the opposite. I think you should alternate between the two.

If you are serious about ol. weightlifting, you will need to learn the bounce and do it with the cleans. However know that for most people that takes a lot of time to learn to use it properly with cleans, but I would imagine doing squats and using it with them would be the first step.


If you want a BIG FRONT SQUAT, FRONT SQUAT. I would not make my sole focus on back squat if my aim was to pull my front squat up.

I said my front squat went up when my back squat went up. This is true for a lot of people but not all and a lot won't see a corresponding increase in their front squat AT ALL.

What are your front and back squat? Mine was 170/201.

You should be front and back squating anyway. I would not focus on the back in the hope that it pulls the front up. It takes a lifter many years to get them close as the front squat is a lot harder to do then the back squat.

Post a video and we can see where your failing.