Front Squats vs. Back Squats

YOUR LEG DAY mantra might be “squat till you drop,” since the compound exercise is one of the preeminent lower body builders in your workout arsenal. But when you’re forced to decide on just one variation of the exercise to perform—specifically, barbell back squats vs. front squats—which should you choose to keep in your workouts?

The back squat is where massive PRs and lower body size and strength are created, making this movement the traditional leg day gold standard. On the flip side, the front squat provides potent quad and core development potential you can’t match with the bar across your back. But which one is best?

In the real world, there’s no real reason (short of a doctor’s note) to only do one of these variations. You can’t go wrong with either selection, especially if you want a balanced training plan. That doesn’t stop guys from choosing sides, however— particularly when it comes to narrowing in on which is best for specific goals. There can be a case made for selecting one over the other, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and Kurt Ellis, NSCA, of Beyond Numbers Performance. Our pair of experts have taken up the opposing viewpoints to settle this weight room debate.

The Case for Back Squats

Back Squats Build Athleticism

There’s more to moving a heavy barbell on your back than just lifting as much weight as you possibly can; back squats allow you to work with heavy loads while building big time leg strength and size. The exercise move is also essential for developing lower body explosiveness, which is critical for high-level performance on the field, court, or just about any activity you can come up with.

“Coming from my athletic background, we use that lift to build strength and explosiveness and just to improve performance,” Ellis says. “So the way I look at it back squat is gonna take the cake.”

Back Squats Build Your Backside

Squats are called the king of all exercises for a reason: They hit most of your major muscle groups hard, particularly your lower body. Here, you’re hitting it all, quads, hamstrings, even your glutes—and of course you can never have enough glute work. “Everybody is trying to get big glutes nowadays,” Ellis says. “The back squat is going to be that movement.”

The Case for Front Squats

Sure, the back squat may be more visually impressive when you pack plates onto the bar, but the front squat brings plenty of bang for the leg day buck as well, according to Samuel.

The Front Squat Doesn’t Let You Lift With Ego

While the back squat’s rear-loaded position allows even novice lifters to pack on plates to attempt sloppy and dangerous PRs, very few people can even get to that place in their workouts with the front squat. Ego issues aside, the front squat forces lifters to understand the mechanics of the move, making it less likely an exercise that beginners will take to dangerous places.

“The front squat is all about precision,” Samuel says. “It’s all about understanding your mechanics. You’ve got to keep that upright spine, so your spine can wind up in a bad position. If it winds up in a bad position, you’re gonna have to put the weight down. It’s just a safer lift overall.”

The Front Squat Gives You Greater Core Activation

While back squats may target the glutes more, your six-pack will thank you for doing front squats. One major front squat strength is the added core engagement needed in order to stabilize your spine during the movement. Since the load is placed on the front of your body, you’ll need to focus on keeping your core muscles engaged to avoid tipping forward.

Which Squat Will Be Best for You?

You’re not going to go wrong with either move. But Samuel says that longevity—the ability to do an exercise continuously over time with less risk of injury—is the ultimate goal, so the front squat gets the nod. The movement might be more difficult to learn and not as comfortable to do, but he believes that shouldn’t be a deterrent for its overall value.

Men’s healthMen’s health Lettermark logo

Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.

Headshot of Brett Williams, NASM

Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.

This article was originally posted here.

Comments are closed.