We love them as much as we hate them.
Nonetheless, none of us dare to question their effectiveness for building lower body strength, power and improving performance in almost all sports.
The back squat, where the barbell is placed on the upper back, is the most common form of strength training squat exercise, but some also opt for the ‘front squat’, where the barbell is placed in front of you whilst squatting (using a variety of grip techniques).
Little is known about the front squat, and on the surface it can be easy to assume it’s simple just another position of a barbell squat, but the mechanics are in fact entirely different. As a result of this, the outcomes of the front squat are in fact different to a back squat.
The biomechanical differences between front and back squat
To the human eye, if quickly glancing at the different types of squats, they look very similar. A barbell is placed at approximately shoulder level, horizontally, the feet placement are slightly less than shoulder width with a slight outward flare.
The difference in the biomechanics of each squat does not actually appear until the squat motion begins.
When you have a barbell on your back, and you squat down, you have the ability to lean (slightly) forward without losing balance, because the weight behind you will keep the equilibrium.
This is not the case with the barbell in front. Leaning forward in this instance will be further aggravated by the weight of the barbell, and there is higher chance of losing balance.
Physiotherapist BSc MCSP HPC
Founder and Principal Physiotherapist at Tavistock Clinic.
HCPC Registration Number PH97986
CSP Registration Number 089576