So front squats vs back squats – is the front squat better at targeting your quads than back squats? No! Friends, you might have heard bros, and bro science bros from the gym saying that front squats are better at targeting your quads than if you did back squats.
Poll: Are you a BACK squat or a FRONT squat type of guy?
I myself am quite more inclined to do front squats than back squats even if it meant I had to use less weight. But science, REAL SCIENCE – has proven that front squats/ back squats – it don’t matter – both activate the quads the same way.
The strength and stability of the knee plays an integral role in athletics and activities of daily living. A better understanding of knee joint biomechanics while performing variations of the squat would be useful in rehabilitation and exercise prescription. We quantified and compared tibiofemoral joint kinetics as well as muscle activity while executing front and back squats. Because of the inherent change in the position of the center of mass of the bar between the front and back squat lifts, we hypothesized that the back squat would result in increased loads on the knee joint and that the front squat would result in increased knee extensor and decreased back extensor muscle activity. A crossover study design was used. To assess the net force and torque placed on the knee and muscle activation levels, a combination of video and force data, as well as surface electromyographic data, were collected from 15 healthy trained individuals. The back squat resulted in significantly higher compressive forces and knee extensor moments than the front squat. Shear forces at the knee were small in magnitude, posteriorly directed, and did not vary between the squat variations. Although bar position did not influence muscle activity, muscle activation during the ascending phase was significantly greater than during the descending phase. The front squat was as effective as the back squat in terms of overall muscle recruitment, with significantly less compressive forces and extensor moments. The results suggest that front squats may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health.
Source: A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals PMID: 19002072 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
The researchers used electrodes to monitor muscle activation when subjects performed the squats. They found no difference whatsoever in terms of level of muscular activation between front squats and back squats. The graph below shows the results:
Legend: BF = biceps femoris [the hamstring on the outside of your thigh]; RF = rector femoris [the big quad muscle at the front of your thigh]; ST = semitendinosus [the hamstring on the inside of your thigh]; VL = vastus lateralis [the quad on the outside of your thigh]; VM = vastus medialis [the quad on the inside of your thigh]; E = erector spinae [muscles along your lower spine].
However, the researchers found out that front squats were easier on the knee joints and basically caused 18% less pressure compared to back squats. .
So if you have a nagging knee problem, it would be wise to do more front than back squats. Front squats in my opinion are also a lot safer than back squats since the weight is placed in front of you, so if you tend to lose balance it is easier to just drop the weight without you losing your ground.
Strength gains from front squats will also translate well to your back squats since front squats are actually more difficult to perform than back squats. All in all variety is key – spend a couple of weeks doing front squats, then another couple of weeks and training cycles utilizing backs squats since anyways it turns out that front squats and back squats are just the same rose but off different colors and squats, whichever type you prefer – will still make you BIG and MEAN and LEAN!
Dave Drapper doing good ol’ front squats
What about you? Which type of squats do you do more often – back squats or front squats? Are you more comfortable with one than the other? Please share your answers with us via the comments section below and please anwer the poll above if you haven’t already, thanks. Eat your eggs, people!