If everyone (almost) agrees that the squats are the king of all exercises, there is nevertheless a debate on the question of the best variant, mainly between the back squat and the front squat.
What if I informed you that there was no one answer, but several possible answers? Why? Well, because these two ways of doing a squat each have important benefits for an athlete depending on the situation.
An athlete’s goals, needs, and sporting requirements will determine which style of the squat will be most beneficial in a given cycle. Note that I mentioned cycle, because bodybuilding, Cross Fit, weightlifting can be broken down into a multitude of cycles, each with different objectives so that an athlete does not stop progressing.
So I’m not going to give you a compelling answer as to which squat is the best, I don’t know your needs or your goal. Rather, I will explain the information that will allow you yourself to choose which variant of the squat is best for you for a specific objective.
1. According to EMG Study
EMG studies show that the back and front squats recruit many major muscle groups: the upper back, the abdominals, the lumbar spine, the glutes, the thigh adductors, the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the calves. However, the focus on these muscles changes from movement to movement.
The study looked at the seven muscles most used during squats:
- The right femoral muscle (quadriceps)
- The vast medial muscle (quadriceps)
- The vast lateral muscle (quadriceps)
- The erector muscles of the spine (lower back)
- The gluteal muscle (formerly the gluteus Maximus)
- The femoral biceps muscle (hamstrings)
- The semi-tendon muscle (hamstrings)
2. Front/Rear Squat
In weight lifting which is done to strengthen muscles and strength in the body, there are two different weight lifting positions known as front squats and back squats. These two types of weightlifting exercises are designed to develop the muscles of the thighs, buttocks, hips and also to strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the legs. Many people remain confused between the front and back squat believing squat before being sufficient.
The rear squat is probably a very good weightlifting exercise nicknamed the king of all exercises, but you should not dismiss the front squat as being unimportant or of less importance when building the body or trying to develop muscles. Many people do not squat before at all or do it only after the fact. This is a variation of the squat where the bar rests on the front shoulders of the individual, unlike back squat where the bar rests on the back shoulders or upper back. Front squats have been found to be good for quads, and one can build bigger and stronger quads.
Back Squat is a weightlifting exercise that is a favorite among those who are starting a weight training regime and also those who are working on their leg, back, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. Holding the barbell on your upper back or the back of your shoulders is much easier and natural than holding it on your front shoulders. Back squat makes the spine to flex. It has been observed that the back squat has a big impact on the spine and doing back squats makes the spine strong.
The squats bar before (Front squat) accentuates the stimulation on the quadriceps and the upper back. They require a more vertical posture, thereby reducing flexion in the lumbar spine and increasing stabilization of the body.
3. Posterior/Back Squats
The rear squats (squat bar neck) focus more on the glutes and the lumbar spine and are less tedious when you practice long and tiring series.
Back squats can be done with heavier loads, so many believe it is more effective in boosting muscle strength and volume gains. However, other components must also be taken into consideration, such as series and repetitions, food intake and genetic potential. So deciding which squat is best is not that easy.
4. Specific Sports Training is Key
Squats, in general, build stronger muscles, which can lead to increased speed, energy, and quickness in sports. Neither the rear squat nor the front squat is superior, as it engages all the muscles mentioned above and emphasizes the plantar flexion of the ankle and the extension of the knee and hip.
The two squats make these muscles stronger, but the specific sports skills must be practiced to be improved completely, regardless of the squat practiced.
And, of course, if your sport is powerlifting, you have to do the back squat. Whereas an Olympic competitor must be skillful in the front squat, due to the front squat component in the clean and jerk.
5. Squats Require Flexibility of the Joints
In general, front squats require much more flexibility than rear squats. Your upper back should be movable to keep your chest high. The shoulders and wrists must be movable to properly carry the bar. The lower back and glutes need mobility to allow a fairly low squat while keeping the knees in line with the toes. Finally, exceptional mobility of the ankle allows you to keep your feet flat and prevent your lower back from rounding off.
The rear squats require less flexibility in the shoulders, buttocks, and ankles. But, if you lack flexibility in these joints, it does not mean that you will still be able to perform the back squats correctly. With either of these squats, the better your joint flexibility, the better you can execute the movement.
6. Shoulder Safety
The rear squats place the barbell on the upper back or on the trapeze. This requires that the shoulders be turned outward, in the abduction. The absence of shoulder joint problems allows you to keep the bar in this position. However, an injured shoulder can make it difficult to hold the bar in this position.
The front squats place the bar on the front of the deltoids. Again, a healthy shoulder can maintain this position, but a sensitive shoulder can be irritated by it. The front squat sets the elbows in full flexion and the wrists in full extension. Any pre-existing injury in either of these joints can be aggravated during the front squat.
7. Knee Safety
Back and front squats can strengthen the knees to reduce the risk of ligament and meniscus damage. To do this, the key points are:
- The initial movement should push the glutes back before any knee flexion.
- The lower leg remains as close to the perpendicular to the ground as possible (the knees move as little forward as possible).
- High chin, extended chest and flat back.
- The heels remain stable during descent.
One of the big muscles stabilizing the knee is the vast internal one (your inner quadriceps). Front squats target this muscle a little better than rear squats. Front squats also teach you to push your knees outward to avoid the knee valgus. The knee valgus is a cause of tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament. The rear squats with a wider position place more load on the glutes and thigh adductors and also decrease the knee valgus.
8. Safety of the Lumbar Spine
Lower back strengthening can be achieved by practicing with an appropriate squat movement, whether you perform a back or front squat. In theory, the front squats are safer than the rear squats because of the less excessive forward tilt. However, this does not mean that the back squat is more dangerous for the lumbar spine. If the back squat is done with good technique and proper weights, it can be safe.
For those of you who have long femur bones and a short torso, your structure can make it difficult to perform a squat to the parallel regardless of the squat variant. To descend in a full squat, you will have to bend over a lot more, but you can still practice safely if you respect the knee safety recommendations above.
9. Which Squat is Best for You?
One is not finer than the other. Again, it depends on your training goal, the general flexibility of your joints and compliance with safety instructions.
- If you do sports where either version is more beneficial, program both types of squats during your workouts. You can alternate over 2 weeks or 1 month, the main thing being to do both the same number of times on a given training cycle. This will help you build your legs in a harmonious way.
- If you have a lack of mobility and you lack the flexibility to do a front squat, start by training with the back squat. Work your mobility at the same time before and/or after the session in order to gradually integrate the front squat.
- Perform your heavy squats with the variant you are most comfortable with. The security parameter is the first to take into account. A squat can become dangerous if performed with poor performance. Keep the version of the squat that you master the least for sessions with a lower load.
- If your goal is to train to lift the heaviest load, then give priority to the back squat.