The Squat: Front vs. Back

There are many squat variations that target your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, calves, back and core.

If putting on muscle mass or boosting strength is your fitness goal, then your training probably includes some barbell squat variations. But which of the two main squats is best: front squat or back squat?

The quick answer is — both. The main difference is the placement of the barbell or dumbbells.

Front squat

The front squat is a barbell squat variation that involves maintaining a front rack position while you squat.

First, carefully hold a barbell on your front, resting it on your shoulders. Now hook your fingers in an underhand grip just outside your shoulders and push your elbows up.

As you begin, start the movement in your hips and bend your knees, dropping your butt toward the floor. Keep your knees out and your chest up, resisting the pull forward.

During a front squat, you must brace your midline to keep the weight from pulling you forward, using your midline stabilizer muscles and leading to greater core strength gains.

With the weight in front, this activates your quads more than a back squat. Not only are you working your quads, but front squats work your upper back, forearms and shoulders, as well as glutes, calves and hip flexors.

back squat

Back squats are a staple in the gym. To perform a back squat, carefully load a barbell behind your head and rest it on your traps. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed out and chest up. Begin to sit back into your hips, bending your knees and dropping your butt toward the floor.

Make sure you push your knees out and look forward.

When your thighs are parallel to the ground or as low as you can go, pause, then stand back up, pushing through your entire foot back to start.

The bar position during a back squat requires you to lean forward, rather significantly. This calls on more of the posterior chain — glute, hamstrings and lower back — to keep your upper body stable.

Your lower back is highly activated, so keep that in mind if you have any lower-back issues.