Front Squats Stress the Spine Less Than Back Squats

The popularity of weightlifting (i.e., Olympic lifting) and cross training has led to increased interest in front squats for building total-body strength and improving performance in the clean. Researchers from Gaziosmanpaşa University in Turkey found marked differences in the biomechanics and muscle activation during the front and back squat using maximum loads and experienced lifters. Activation of the vastus medialis muscle (one of the quadriceps) was greater during the front squat than back squat, while activation of the semitendinosus (hamstring muscle) was greater during the back squat. Trunk lean was greatest during the back squat. Athletes can lift more weight during the back squat, so they are important for maximizing lower body strength. However, the front squat may be more valuable for building the extensor strength and preventing low back injuries. (Journal of Sport Sciences, published online November 1, 2014)

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