Front vs Back Squat – Which is Better?

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Question: Is there any difference between the front squat and doing a regular back squat? Is one more effective than the other? Are they bad for your knees?
Answer: The front squat and back squat are both great exercises for developing lower body strength and they both involve almost every muscle in your body due to the biomechanics of those movements. They are both excellent choices. To do the back squat, you obviously rest the bar on your back just below the neck, high on the traps if you are doing a “bodybuilder” or “high bar” squat. For the “powerlifter” squat, the bar is placed lower than that placing greater emphasis through your hips and glutes in order to move more weight. Both variations of the back squat forces you to project your ribcage “high” to keep your back in position allowing your spine to flex forward. This means you use your hamstrings and glutes more during this lift.
With the front squat the first issue most deal with is how to hold and maintain the placement of the bar as it rides across the front of your shoulders. The load is transferred slightly and your back does not flex forward as much. This shift places more emphasis on your quads. You will use less weight with the front squat but target your quads more while involving your glutes less. Both are very good and can be an effective part of your training routine.
It was once assumed that squatting was bad for your knees and caused problems. The truth is that leg exercise including squats can actually be beneficial for your knees when done correctly and you have no pre-existing knee issues. If you do experience knee pain you might experiment with light weights to see if they work for you in a positive manner. If they hurt then use common sense and leave them out of your training. Front squats tend to place less pressure on your knees and lower back if you can master the form. Proper form for both types of squats is to lower yourself until the center of your thigh is parallel to the floor. Don’t bounce at the bottom and try not to lean too far forward which forces your back to do too much work. Whenever an exercise hurts especially in a joint, don’t make the mistake of trying to “work through the pain.” There are plenty of exercises you can choose that can work an area of the body without causing pain. Leg exercise, in general, strengthens the muscles and ligaments surrounding the knee and actually strengthens knee cartilage. If you experience pain during any exercise discontinue that exercise. If swelling occurs or pain continues, consult your doctor.
God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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