Are Front Squats Better Than Back Squats?
I’m going to share with you today why you should be doing front squats rather than back squats. I hear you asking, ‘why not do both?’ Well I’m going to show you why one has a much better impact than the other and the reasons why I have given up with back squats. This isn’t some magic secret that no-one knows; it is just good common knowledge that I believe everyone should follow.
Why Back Squats Are Bad
If you have ever done back squats — like I used to do almost on a daily basis — then you will know how much pressure they put on your lower back. Seriously, after a while it can be agony just to walk around. If you want to end up hunched over like Quasimodo then, by all means, continue with your back squats. But for everyone else there is no justifiable reason to keep doing them other than to inflict pain on yourself. I should know I was doing them for long enough.
The potential for injury is very real. OK, so you won’t be injured every time you do a back squat and I was only injured once (a sprain). However, when you think about it, the chances of a serious injury are great. Arching your back, leaning forward while lifting weights? This is only going to end up in one thing eventually: an injury such as a slipped disk or ligament damage. Do you really want to do that to yourself? Why take the risk?
Why Front Squats Are Great
Now that we have established why you shouldn’t do back squats – is the alternative any better, are front squats better than back squats? And why am I such an advocate of doing them?
Well, for a start, they are more comfortable. We already know that back squats are not good for your posture or your back and by doing front squats instead then you are getting rid of this potential banana skin. How many people do you know that have been injured while doing front squats? None probably. I certainly don’t know any and there is a reason for this: front squat exercises are safer with less chance of injury. Fact.
A misconception that many people have is that back exercises increase your strength more than front end ones. Really? Where did they get this information from? Certainly not from anything that is grounded in reality. I severely boosted my strength and lifting capacity by doing front squats rather than back squats. When doing front end exercises you are effectively forcing your abs to remain active and functional to stabilize your balance. This will increase your strength and capacity to lift. I swear by this. You should too.
Not everyone finds the ‘clean grip’ method for front squats comfortable and, neither did I at first. However once you get used to it you will see the benefits! For a start you will have a much better control over the bar itself and you will have an increased chance of lifting the weight with this method. Before I struggled to lift certain weights because I was trying to put less pressure on my wrists but after practising with the clean grip and getting used to it, I can now lift more than ever before.
As if you needed another reason to focus predominately on front squats but I am going to give you one anyway. Think about your knees. As someone who has damaged one of their knees significantly in the past, I can tell you that back squats are not good to those things in the middle of your legs. This isn’t even just my opinion, it is based on science. Electromyography (EMG) data — a way of evaluating your skeletal muscles and the electrical activity that they produce — has shown that a front squat will place less pressure on the knee and will not use as much compressive force. Indeed, that isn’t all, because a front squat exercise will work on the vastus lateralis and rectus femoris muscles more as well.
But What about My Hamstrings?
I can already see people responding to this with ‘but what about my hamstrings? Surely they will be neglected by not undertaking back squats as part of my exercise regime?’ Well, yes that is true but they will only be neglected if you don’t do some alternative exercises to compensate for the loss of back squats. It really is simple and here are some alternatives to back squats that I have been using for my hamstrings:-
– Romanian Deadlifts
– GHD Machine
Seriously, these two things mean that I do not need to do back squats anymore and I can still keep my hamstrings in good condition and give them a proper workout. It isn’t rocket science.
Front Squats vs Back Squats? Forget About Back Squats
What I have given you is no real secret, it is just common sense. Back squats are not the worst exercise you can do by any means. However they are quite unnecessary, especially if you have back or knee trouble. Even if you don’t suffer from any of these ailments then why put yourself at risk by doing back squats? The whole point of bodybuilding and exercising is to bulk up and to feel good about yourself and how you look; that isn’t going to happen if you start pulling ligaments and slipping disks in your back.
I have eliminated back squats from my exercises and, you know what, I don’t miss them one bit. I still give my hamstrings and glutes a good workout and they are just fine. I am just fine and I feel no reason to ever return to back squats again. The only question is: why are you still doing them?
- Gullett, Jonathan C., et al. “A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23.1 (2009): 284-292.