The Benefits of a Front Squat vs. a Back Squat

Gonna be honest, after ten years of writing about fitness stuff you kind of lose your grip on what is obvious and what is worth educating, and we’re just a little worried that you might read this and go, “Well that was a gigantic waste of time.” But we’re nothing if not bold risk takers, so here goes with all the benefits of a front squat.

More Vertical
With the back squat, the bar is placed on the….back. And with a front squat the bar is placed on the…front. (Damnit. Not off to a great start.) The reason why this is relevant to point is three-fold.

First, it’s going to naturally result in a more biomechanically friendlier position than a back squat. Because our torso is more upright, our spine does not have as much shear force acting on it. Believe it or not, this actually makes the front squat a vastly superior movement in this regard and one you can pretty much feel totally confident doing at any level, at any time. It’s not that the back squat is dangerous, it just requires more mobility to be performed optimally.

Second, it’s going to target our quads a little bit more. The upright nature of a front squat is similar to an elevator, up and down. Whereas the back squat is a little like an escalator, up and down, but at a slight angle. That slight angle in the back squat (even more if you choose to squat low bar) is what makes it an excellent movement for the hamstrings. We’re still getting your glutes and hammies in the front squat, just a bit more quad to go along with it.

Here’s a good visual of the subtle nuance creating a big muscular shift:

Back Squat (Escalator)

Front Squat (Elevator)

If you have a bit of an untrained eye, pause the front squat video at 0:06 and pause the back squat video at 0:07. Notice that the chest is much more forward and hips further back in the back squat.

Finally, it’s going to royally fuck up your core. Physiologically speaking. And in a positive way, that is. Again, because that bar is placed across the front shoulders, it’s our front side of the body that’s going to be responsible for directly supporting it. Our front and lateral abs, mainly. There’s really no “abs” movements you can do that’s going to come close to the level of recruitment and activation you’ll get from a set of heavy front squats.

Both the back squat and the front squat are excellent at training the lats in an isometric position, but the front squat trains them just slightly better in our humble opinion. This make it a low key great way to bust through pull-up plateaus and other movements that involve the lats. Hint: everything involves the lats.

While true, a squat is a squat. There is some subtle nuance in benefit received based on placement of loading. The more front-side dominated…front squat…brings a ton of benefits that should be embraced and trained regularly.