Squat-MemeSquattin' is essential, but it also sucks. Sometimes though you just have to do things for the #gainz.

Thus I make all my clients squat. I make them all squat deep and heavy (relative to their individual strength levels and anthropometry). Some of my clients enjoy it and others don't, but they all know it is good for them or at least it brings them closer to their goals.

Most of the time everyone I train both online and in person begins with a dumbbell or kettlebell goblet squat to a box. This variation seems to be the best way in my experience for most people to learn the proper squat pattern. I believe it has something to do with the anterior load engaging the core musculature and bringing the trainee into a better pelvic alignment (preventing excessive Anterior Pelvic Tilt and Femoroacetabular Impingement). Also the box allows the trainee to get immediate feedback on their squat depth and whether or not they are using a full range of motion.

After mastery of this variation and it's subsequent progressions I typically advance the client to doing back or front squats depending on each individuals movement capabilities. For most I find the back squat is the next best exercise to allow further progressive overload with working on restrictions such as limited ankle mobility. Eventually thought the goal with most clients is to get them to a point where they can rock out Front and Back Squats without any problem.

However one of the difficulties when trying to each someone to both Front Squat and Back Squat is explaining the subtle differences in each exercises technique. This can seem funny to a lot of people because I mean your squatting with a barbell in both. How different can they be?

In fact one of the biggest things I struggle with as a coach is how utterly and completely lost people become when they have to select weight for these exercises. You may be able to Back Squat 225 pound for 5 sets of 5 reps, but I doubt you will be able to handle the same weight for the same total volume in a Front Squat because despite them having the same underlying movement pattern they are simply just different exercises. I understand the difficulty some, but after communicating the previous point over again several times it becomes frustrating.

It just as David Dellanave stated at this past year's Fitness Summit, "Different shit is different." You just can't compare one exercise to another because the names are similar and you can't compare performances from one day to another when there a many variables that are out of your control.

The question then becomes why is this shit different than that other shit. Or why is the Front Squat different than the Back Squat.

And the answer is because of the placement of the load. Or more plainly said where the barbell is located.

A Back Squat is places the load behind the midpoint of your feet while in a Front Squat the load begins almost directly over the center of your foot. And what almost is universally agreed upon when squatting with a barbell is that the load should remain centered over the midpoint in your foot while squatting. This means due to where the barbell begins in each of these lifts the technique for each will have to be a bit different in order to maintain the relation.

This differences in technique can be see most prominently in the bottom position of the exercises. Below are still shots from exercise demonstration videos. Although the angle of the camera somewhat distorts our perspective you can for the most part see what I am talking about.

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To put these differences into words a Back Squat is going to have a much more prominent forward lean while a Front Squat will be almost an upright torso throughout the entire motion. A Front Squat is going to require the knees move past the toes further than a back squat. A Front Squat will be much more knee dominant while a Back Squat will be much more hip dominant.

These three differences are the sources for why someone might favor one over the other or be stronger in a one than the other.

The importance thing to take away is to remember that a Front Squat and Back Squat are not equivocal. Each exercise will require it's own dedicate time to learn and master. The weight you use on one will not always help you select weight for reps and sets on the other. Don't be frustrated by this focus on developing your strength in each and mastering the lifts individually. They both will contribute to your overall strength, health, and performance.

Oh and for your reference here are two videos of the exercises in their entirety.

Back Squat:


Front Squat:


In squats we trust!

Happy moving and heavy lifting!

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