Front Squat vs. Back Squat: The Muscles Behind the Exercises

Front squat vs. back squat: a war of different ways that we slowly lower weight to the ground before exploding back up again. In short, the front squat targets the upper back and quads while the back squat focuses on the glutes and hips. The only difference in front squat vs. back squat is the position of the bar. In the front squat, the bar rests near your collarbone. In the back squat, the bar rests across your shoulders.


When it comes to Front squat vs. back squat, which is better? Let’s explore the muscles behind the exercises.

Front Squat vs. Back Squat: Basic Overview

Generally speaking, you should target to front squat about 80-90% of the amount of weight that you back squat. The muscles that you use are a little bit different, and maintaining a good ratio helps you maintain an even build.


As you improve a front squat or back squat, you will also improve the opposite kind of squat. Doing both squats will target different kinds of muscles, but it’s still using your whole body!


Squats are generally not thought to be bad for your knees anymore. Obviously, squats are a more strength-based exercise, and so that might not make them the right exercise for everyone. But for the most part squats are not going to damage your knees or make you unathletic and lumbering.


Squats are a difficult, explosive exercise that puts a great strain on your muscles to build the ability to cut and move with power. While squats can be really great to build you up–you have to make sure that you’re getting a full workout routine. Focus on cardio, quality eating, and good sleep while you’re building your squat routine. And consider adding some nutrients and supplements to your diet! You can even search supplements by your workout goals, and use code “CODY15” for 15% off and free shipping in the US.

Use Intuition

If a certain type of squat doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. If front squats just make more sense for the natural rhythms of your body, that’s okay. If back squats make you feel more stable and comfortable with the weight, that’s okay too. All of the differences, pros, and cons below do not outweigh the similarities between front squats vs. back squats.


There are bonus points in weight lifting for consistency and technique–there are no bonus points for doing something that is awkward and uncomfortable. If one squat feels better to you from the beginning, stick with that one until you build up some strength for the other variation.

Are Squats Bad for My Knees?

For most people, squats are actually really good for the knees. Even if you have aging knees, squats can work through the aches and kinks without doing damage. The key here is to do the squats correctly! You want to keep the motion fluid with the legs about shoulder-width apart.


Don’t overload the weight. If you put too much weight on the bar, different muscles and tendons are going to be strained. You want to make sure that your joints simply guide the movements. They shouldn’t bear any of the load–because they can’t! If squatting hurts things on your body that aren’t muscles, you may want to lower the weight and focus on your form.

Can I Squat Too Low?

Some people will tell you to drop that weight all the way to the floor, while others may warm that going too deep can damage your joints. Neither is usually true. The key is to pay attention to your body–this is so important in every exercise. Pay attention to how your body feels during and after workouts where you hit different kinds of squats. Going lower is generally better, but focus on the movement and not simply on how low you can get. Get low, and then focus on exploding upward. The upward drive is always going to be important.


Getting below parallel when you squat is important because it can activate different parts of the quad muscles than if you simply sit down to 90 degrees.

Do Squats Burn Calories?

Of course! If you’re about 150 pounds, you can burn about 300 calories through 20 minutes of hard squats. This is part of the reason that it is so important to eat quality foods and give your body plenty of proteins to rebuild.

Front Squat


Front squats are often used for athletes because it helps build explosion. Your glutes and hips have to focus on keeping the weight steady as you move it up, and so it helps build the way that your muscles can move. This athletic component to front squats might make them a great choice for people engaged in sports.

Pros and Cons


  • Range of motion. The front squat takes you through a bigger range of motion in key areas, like quads and the ankles, than the back squat will. This helps you build strength in key areas.
  • Quad explosion. Your quads engage to drive up the weight, building explosive jumps and cuts. Front squats might be the perfect thing to build your quads.
  • Stay off the shoulders. If you play a sport that engages your shoulders, or if you simply have bad shoulders, the front squat reduces the strain that back squats can put on your back.


  • Learning curve. Front squats take your muscles through a greater range of motion than back squats tend to, which means that you are going to need more things to work together and fire at the same time. The flexibility of your wrists and the alignment of your spine can have a big impact on the way that the weight moves. You’ll probably have to work harder to develop a better front squat than a back squat.

Back Squat


Back squats are generally easier to do when you’re just starting weight lifting. The motion is a bit more natural, and the bar is over your center of gravity when it is resting on your shoulders.


Back squats are better than front squats in hip extension. The back squat can build your hamstrings and glutes that help you sprint and jump. When you load weight onto the back squat, it helps you focus on the rear extension. Back squats use the center of gravity and your shoulders to hold weight–so it’s key that you don’t get overeager with the weight structures. Do what helps, not what hurts.

Pros and Cons


  • Less required mobility. Right out of the box, it is easier to do a back squat properly than a front squat properly. It will help you gobble up higher weight totals earlier in the process.



  • The lower entry point for back squats can encourage people to immediately take on more weight than they should. Be patient, and allow your body to develop along with the squats and weight amount. Also, since the weight is carried across your back, there is a potential to load up and be unable to maneuver the weight safely. Be careful, and stay within your comfortable limits.

Advice for Squats

It’s About Movements

All the talk about targeting specific muscles is not as important as the talk about movements. The different kinds of movements that you do with weight can help you build strength and balance, which translates to both increased athletic performance and a better sense of strength. When you’re squatting, don’t be tempted to focus on the raw numbers that you throw on the bar. Pay attention to the range of motion that you’re getting. If dropping 50 pounds from the bar helps you get a more fluid, deeper squat, that’s probably the right move.

Get Low

You will get more flexibility and extension out of your muscles if your full range of motion is present in the squat. Get as low as possible when you take the weight down, and make sure to drive up to the highest place that you can get the weight. The more that your body folds up as it goes down and straightens out as it goes up, the more you’ll get out of your squat.

Lower Slowly, Drive Up

The key to a good squat is the motion that your body and weight combine to produce. Ideally, you will want to lower the bar slowly to the bottom point of the squat before driving up quickly. The slow lower puts your muscles under a strain, while the quick drive helps you build solid mass and explosion.


Squats can help you build a ton of muscle. But you won’t be able to build muscle without the proper diet, exercise, and routine. You may want to consider some supplements that are targeted at building muscle, and use code “CODY15” for 15% off and free shipping in the US.

Part of a Complete Workout

It should go without saying, but you can’t just focus on building some explosive squats without integrating them into the rest of your workout. Make sure to build a holistic workout to get the most out of your front and back squats.


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