Front Squat vs Back Squat

If you're just starting off at the gym, you probably know that squats are a great exercise for your legs.

That being said, there are many different squat variations out there, with the front squat and the back squat being two of the most popular.

In case you don't know what the difference is, keep reading, because we're about to compare front squats vs back squats to provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed choice between them.

 

Front Squat vs Back Squat – The Main Difference

Front Squat vs Back Squat

So as you can probably tell, both of these types of squats involve holding some kind of barbell and then squatting down and pushing yourself back up to the starting position.

The main difference is where you are holding the barbell, on the front of your body, or on the back.

Both front squats and back squats are great exercises to do for virtually all of the muscles in your legs.

The downward motion is particularly useful for training your glutes and hamstrings, while the upward motion is very useful for training your quadriceps. The whole squatting motion in general is also great for your calves.

In a front squat, you hold the barbell on the front of your shoulders and chest, whereas with a rear squat, you hold the barbell on your back and shoulder blades.This makes a surprisingly big difference as you generally try to keep the barbell over your feet to maintain balance.

So, with a front squat you need to be in a much more upright position. Whereas with a back squat you will lean forward slightly to get the bar over the middle of your foot.

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How to do a Front Squat

Front Squat

Here's a quick tutorial on exactly how to do a front squat.

  1. Go to a squat rack and load a barbell with as much weight as you can handle, with starting slow always being a good choice.
  2. Hold the barbell so that it is resting on your palms and your front deltoids.
  3. With your hands just on the outside of your shoulders, use an underhand grip to hold the barbell.
  4. Begin the squatting motion by bending your knees and lowering your hips and butt down towards the ground, while your knees stay in line with the top of your toes.
  5. Make sure that your chest stays upward, and don't bend forward.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position by driving your heels down into the ground.

How to do a Back Squat

Back Squat

As you're about to see, doing a back squat is virtually the same as doing a front squat.

  1. Using that same squat rack, load it up yet again with as much weight as you can handle, but not too much.
  2. Move under the barbell and stand so that it rests on your shoulder blades and on the upper portion of your back. A big mistake to avoid however is to have the barbell resting on your neck.
  3. Hold the barbell using an overhand grip, with your palms facing forwards and your knuckles facing backwards, with your arms being dressed on the outside of your shoulders.
  4. Lower your hips down to the ground and bend at the knees, while keeping your knees in line with the top of your toes, and your chest upward.
  5. Push those heels down into the ground and drive yourself back up to the starting position.

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Do Front Squats and Back Squats Work the Same Muscle Groups?

One of the primary differences that you need to know between front squats and back squats is exactly which muscles they target the most. If we are talking about back squats, these are excellent for targeting your posterior chain, which is the back of your body.

Back squats are best for targeting your hamstrings, your glutes, and your lower back, with your core and quads coming in second.

However, if you're looking to work out the anterior chain or front of your body, particularly your quads and even your upper back, then front squats are best.

Front squats also engage the hamstrings and the glutes, but not to the same degree as back squats.

Related Post: What Muscles Are Worked by Side Lunges?

 

Is the Front Squat or Back Squat Better For You?

Is the Front Squat or Back Squat Better For You?

Well, as mentioned above, the front squat is best for targeting your anterior chain whereas the back squat is best for targeting the posterior chain.

So, which one of these types of squats is best for you really depends on what part of your body you want to target.

One thing to consider however is that a front squat requires you to be a little more mobile and flexible than a back squat, but back squats allow you to lift a little more and add more weight quicker as you progress.

If what you want is power and strength, along with some aesthetic benefits, back squats are best, but if pure aesthetics are your primary goal, then start with front squats.

Front Squat Mistakes to Avoid

There are some pretty big mistakes that you need to avoid when doing front squats, so let's take a quick look.

  • Don't let your upper back form a rounded shape. Your upper back and your spine need to stay totally straight throughout the exercise.
  • You really want to sit down into your heels when doing this type of squat. If you don't drop right down into your heels, you might end up falling forward.
  • Another mistake to avoid when doing front squats is having your elbows drop. If you drop your elbows, it means that you'll start leaning forward, and that's not good.

 

Back Squat Mistakes to Avoid

Just like there are mistakes to avoid when doing front squats, there are also mistakes to avoid when doing back squats.

  • Avoid not going deep enough. At the very least, when doing back squats, your thighs should reach a parallel level with the ground, and even lower if possible.
  • Do not let your chest drop and fall forward during the back squat, or else you'll start disengaging your posterior chain. Make sure to look forward and keep your shoulders rolled back and down.
  • Avoid having your knees caving in or moving in a forward manner during the back squat. Your knees should always be in line with the top of your toes, and not further out.

 

An Alternative to the Front Squat and Back Squat

Goblet Squat

If you are a beginner, you might want to consider doing something like a goblet squat. It's a really natural movement, and it's something that also helps train your functional muscles.

Instructions

  1. Start by holding either a dumbbell vertically or a kettlebell, with as much weight as you can comfortably handle.
  2. Hold the weight against your chest with your elbows bent outwards. The weight should always be in contact with your upper body during the goblet squat.
  3. Start squatting down by sitting back into your hips and lowering your thighs down to the ground, while keeping your core engaged and your torso completely upright.
  4. At the bottom of the motion, allow your elbows to move down in between your knees, and when your elbows touch each other, that's the bottom of the motion.
  5. Drive into the ground using your heels and push back up to the starting position.

 

The Bottom Line on Front Squats vs Back Squats

If you are looking to build maximum strength, size, and aesthetic appeal, then we recommend incorporating both the front squat and the back squat into your exercise routine.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.