As we all know, to have an overall stunning physique, you need to also workout on below-the-belt muscles, aka the legs and buttocks. Alongside traditional back squats for leg gains, we have it's less famous sibling, the front squat; an exercise that requires the bar to be in front you instead of on your back.
One of the great benefits of front squats is that will help you improve core strength and stability while also burning up a ton of calories during and after the workout. The quads are heavily targeted in this exercise.
It's also one of the most effective compound exercises for working on your six-pack!
So how does a front squat differ from a back squat. As always, a picture (or two pictures in this case) tell a thousand words:
In this article, we are going to look at everything, and I mean everything you would ever want to know about front squats. Use the table below to skip to the part you are interested in, or just read the whole post and become a front squat professor.
Which Muscles Do Front Squats Work?
The muscles trained in Front Squats and Back Squats overlap. You are primarily working on your legs and all important glutes, otherwise known as The Butt.
The world's why the squat has gained massively in popularity over the recent years because it went from a powerlifting obsession to an Instagramer's ticket to online fame. Being an Instagram model and not having a sexy butt is living in Texas without a gun.
Do you want to know a funny, slightly sad fact about this website and the traffic I get...I have posted around 80 fitness related articles over the last two years.
Of those 80 articles, one of them gets almost 50% of all of my traffic, of which most are female viewers. Guess the topic...How to get a Jiggly Booty.
So yes, front squats work your ass, but they also work a wide array of different muscles in different ways because the positioning of the bar causes slight changes in movement of the spine, hips, knees, and ankles.
More specifically, front squats hone in on the upper back and quadriceps, while back squats focus more on the hips, glutes and lower back.
Both lifts recruit all these muscles together, but the emphasis shifts from one lift to the other. Muscle groups might matter to bodybuilders, but athletes should care more about movements, not muscles. That's why getting strong at front squats will improve your on-the-field performance.
Benefits Of Front Squats
Front squats feel harder than back squats because it's harder to hold the bar in place. They are harder on the knees, elbows and wrists than back squats, meaning you can typically lift less weight than you would be able to with a back squat. (harder to cheat also).
Also i think it helps not hurting your back if you're not completely sure how to do back squats.
The main benefit in my opinion is that you focus heavily on the quads. In addition, front squats forces you to keep your abs and back tight and straight. Which is why besides the quads, it improves your abs and stability of the core.
Front squats are hard and they take time and practice to master. They require balance, flexibility and strength in the legs, hips and core. Therefore i would recommend them for those who have some experience with lifting and weight training in general.
Front vs Back Squats
To be clear, back squats still has it's advantages over front squats, and Let's take a look at how front squats stack up against back squats, and which variation of the exercise is better suited for your goals.
Overall Gains In Strength
Back Squats let you lift more weight than Front Squats, period. Front Squats are restricted by how much weight you can hold on the front of your shoulders. Back Squats let you support much heavier loads across your upper back. There is a reason why the world record in the Back Squat is over 1,000 lbs; it is better suited to heavy weights. And with more weight comes greater possibility for strength gains.
Winner: Back Squats
Improved Sprinting Speed
A study by Precise Nutrition has revealed increasing the weight you squat may lead to improvements in your sprinting speed. Simply put, the more force you can apply to the ground, the quicker you can run. By doing a mixture of both front and back squats you get the best possible gain in speed, as exercise will work a different group of muscles.
Studies show that improving squat strength is closely connected with improvements to an athletes vertical jump height. It is simple physics; when you're able to extend your hips with more force, you can propel yourself higher into the air.
The same studies show no clear difference in jump improvements between Back Squats and Front Squats.
Stress On Shoulders
Many athletes, especially overhead athletes such as baseball, lacrosse and volleyball players, deal with cranky shoulders that can get irritated by Back Squats. Fortunately, Front Squats avoid that pain by putting the elbows and shoulders in a safer position. If you are an overhead athlete, Front Squat with a clean grip or cross grip for increased safety.
Winner: Front Squats
Stress on Knees
Strengthening your knees is a must for reducing injuries like MCL, ACL and meniscus tears. Squats can help limit the chances of knee injuries by strengthening the muscles that stabilize the knee, specifically the vastus medialis oblique (i.e., your internal quad).
As an additional safety measure, I recommend I wear a knee sleeve or a knee wrap designed for squats. It doesn't just keep your knee safe, it also improves your lifting power, and helps reduce pain and improve recovery.
Front Squats hit this muscle a bit harder than Back Squats, plus they teach you how you can push your knees "out" to avoid the dreaded knock-kneed valgus collapse, which reproduces the exact mechanism for an ACL tear.
That said, sometimes the deep knee flexion of Front Squats can bug a athlete's knee, especially one with a pre-existing injury. In this case, back squats might be better, as they place more load on the hips than the knees.
Winner: Front Squats, for most people
Powering Up the Hips
Squats build enormous strength in the muscles that extend to the hips, most notably the glutes and hamstrings.
These are the muscles that generate the power you need for sprinting and jumping. Back squats load hips more than front Squats because you can "sit " deeper into them (plus you can go heavier as we mentioned earlier).
So if you are after more powerful hips, get the bar on your back.
Winner: Back Squats
How To Do Front Squats With 6 Steps
Front squats may look like intimidating, but with 6 simple steps below, you should make friends with it That is why it is very crucial for you to follow our steps very closely. In that way, we guarantee you guidance to best performance of this exercise
Step 1: Set-up
For safety purposes, I recommend you use the barbell rack which will help have a better performance. Set the bar at about the same height you use for back squats, or around the same height as the middle of your chest.
Step 2: Placement And Hand Position
Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders while keeping your elbows high. Place the bar on your anterior deltoids (front shoulders). Now the bar is resting on the front of your shoulders while your finger tips just support the bar lightly.
- Another way you can have a total control of the bar is crossing your arms. Both ways do not change the purpose of the exercise. However, i personally recommend the crossing-arm method for better balance.
Step 3: Un-rack
Un-rack the bar by lifting it with your legs and at the same time straightening your torso.
Step 4: The Stand Position
With the bar resting on your anterior (front) shoulders, take a step back from the rack and position yourself with feet about shoulder width apart.
Step 5: Lowering Down
Take a deep breath and hold it throughout the descent.
Slowly lower the bar by flexing the knees while stabilising your posture with your head up. (Remember to keep your elbows straightforward). Keep lowering down until your upper legs and calves reaches the angle of 90-degree (at this point your legs should be collateral with the floor ).
- To perform the exercise correctly, your knees should have a straight line with your toes. If your toes passes the line, it means you are stressing the weight to your knees which is incorrect.
Step 6: Stand Up
Once you have reached the parallel, begin to drive upwards by pressing your feet through the floor. Halfway up, exhale while using your quads and core to power up to the starting position.
- Always remember to keep your knees out, elbows high and chest up
Front squats are a great addition to your leg day. However, they are considered to be more of an advanced exercise than the conventional back squat. Therefore, start light, and work your way up. Be cautious with the weight and mindful of your form, and you will see the improvements to your quads, glutes and abs in short time!
If you are hungry for more great articles related to how to squat, I have written the following guides for your perusal:
Hack Squats Vs Normal Squats – Which should you be doing in 2018? - I take a look at the pros and cons of working in hack squats with your "normal" back squat routine.
Truth Or Myth: Do Squats Make You Shorter? - When my friend first asked me if heavy squats make you shorter I laughed, until I did some research, find out what I found out 🙂
Thanks for reading, and remember to leave a comment, I usually reply!