There are many variations to the squat that are effective at building up your legs. However, two of the most popular variations are the front and back squat.
Whether you are looking for muscular strength, mass or definition in your legs, squats are the single most productive exercise to do.
Let’s examine the benefits of front squats vs. back squats:
The single most popular leg exercise is the back squat. This exercise hits the hamstring, quadricep, gluteus, erector spine, gastrocnemius, soleus, adductor and abdominal muscles all at once. Nothing comes close to hitting all these leg muscles like the back squat. When doing a back squat, you need to place the bar on your traps and sit back and put all the weight on your heels. You should never be leaning forward and using your quads. It should be more in your hamstrings. If you feel it more in your quads than your hamstrings, you are doing it wrong and need to fix your form. If you are trying to really work the quads, you should incorporate front squats.
When performing front squats, the bar is placed right across your shoulders and upper chest. Sometimes this can put a lot of pressure on your neck and shoulders and it may feel like the bar is choking you. Don’t let the bar touch your neck. It should really just rest on the front of your shoulders. You really need to decrease the weight when doing front squats to really alleviate this issue. Unlike back squats, which pull you back, front squats are pulling your forward and the movement is more vertical. The front squat is more quad dominant and isolation based since you aren’t putting a lot of emphasis on the other leg muscles.
Nevertheless, front squats could increase your core strength even more than back squats. With front squats, the load to the front of your body forces your abs and core to stay even more activated to stabilize your body throughout the movement. Front squats certainly have their benefits but it should be used as a supplement to the back squat and never a replacement.
A lot of people have trouble performing either the back or front squat and getting low enough where your legs are parallel to the ground. This could be due to flexibility issues or not being comfortable enough with the bar or sitting back. You may need to lower the weight so you can focus on sitting back (like you would on a chair) and really developing perfect form. Never sacrifice form for weight, especially on the squat.
Remember, working your front squat will not help your back squat as much as working your back squat to help your front squat. The back squat should remain the staple of your leg routine but you should definitely incorporate the front squat to make the most of your legs and your core.