Front Squat vs High bar back squat

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by Justin Singh, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. Justin Singh

    Justin Singh Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    Hi everyone,
    As an athlete/active competitor I know the value of front squats, however I saw a high bar back squat with a high use of ankle mobility and thought this looked very ‘athletic’ plus the benefit of moving a larger weight. I want to spend my time doing one movement so what’s everyone’s opinion here? Depth and mobility isn’t an issue either

  2. Joe Fraser

    Joe Fraser Triple-Digit Post Count

    Do you want hamstring and glute development or just quads?

    I'd go with low bar actually. High bar as a second choice.
  3. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Certified Instructor

    Pick one, do it well, progress in weight with intelligent programming, get stronger, continue to focus on form as you do... they all work all the muscles. Just my opinion.
    Glen, MikeTheBear, Baker and 5 others like this.
  4. Papa Georgio

    Papa Georgio Triple-Digit Post Count

    I agree with Anna. I don't think you'll go wrong with either, especially if you are just looking for overall improvement of strength.

    Pavel has a pretty good article if you want to get down to the nitty gritty details:
    The Best Squat Exercise | StrongFirst
  5. Justin Singh

    Justin Singh Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    This is great, I'll program with the zercher!! How'd I forget :)
  6. Philippe Geoffrion

    Philippe Geoffrion More than 500 posts

    There are many factors to consider here.

    You're an athlete. In season/off season? What sport do you perform? What do you wish to accomplish with this exercise? Becoming more athletic is developed through the practice and participation of your sport. The barbell is for strength training. Strength/power/size are all different goals pertaining to each individuals needs. Which exercise you choose will be determined by your current situation. A football player trying to gain mass may use the low bar back squat as it is revered for adding body mass as well as pure hip strength. Who does not want to gain mass but power, say a high jumper, martial artist or basketball player. The front squat and high bar squat may fit the bill better here. You say mobility is not a problem, so that opens more doors to you. However, if you're in season, you may want to choose the lift that has the least spinal loading. In this case, the front squat.

    The Zercher is a fine lift. Pavel said enough in that article. The tool is only meant to serve the job. Choosing the right lift will depend on these many factors, as they are all tools and the tool you choose depends on the job required, or as someone said..."A strong enough why, conquers any how."
    freeflowme likes this.
  7. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    The high bar squat and front squat both work the glutes very well provided you go deep enough. Depth has a greater impact on glute recruitment than anything else.

    Low bar squats recruit the hamstring a little more than the high bar, but not nearly as much as is necessary to get a good hamstring workout. The squat is not a hamstring exercise. In any squat the hamstrings function mainly as dynamic stabilizers to keep the knee stable while the quads and glutes are doing the work of actually lifting the weight.
    Steve A and damogari like this.
  8. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    To answer your question: Go with the high bar back squat.
  9. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens More than 500 posts

    My experience, confirmed by research I'm too lazy to find at the moment. Is that this it true to "parallel" or just below but as you go deeper than that, you actually lose activation of many muscle groups. ATG position has very low muscle activation and then they turn back on as you come up. At least this is how it feels to me.
  10. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    Here is some research:

    The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. - PubMed - NCBI
  11. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens More than 500 posts

    Not sure where I read/heard it. But I can definitely feel the muscles "back off" and be not slack but less tight if I go ATG than if I go to parallel or a bit past.
  12. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear More than 500 posts

    Well sure. In a rock bottom squat position with the hamstrings touching the calves, you are supported by your calves somewhat so naturally your muscles can relax a bit. The key is the driving up part which requires lots of help from the glutes. This is one of the reasons why the front squat is considered a great glute developer. It is much easier to go ATG in the front squat.

    As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, your feelings betray you...
  13. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens More than 500 posts

    Ah well, my knees don't much like it though so I think I will content myself w/ parallel. I'm pushing up on 70, have had 2 surgeries on one knee, and would like to walk without a walker at 90...
  14. Alan Mackey

    Alan Mackey Triple-Digit Post Count

    If I may...

    One can get ridiculously strong doing the following:

    - Trap bar lifts (both high and low handles) going somewhat heavy (I'd recommend a PttP scheme or something similar). This makes you strong and, since the R.O.M. is way shorter than conventional squats or even deadlifts, your knees shouldn't bother you.

    - Full R.O.M. goblet squats and goat bag swings. Load is not important here, super-strict form is. Around twenty five reps each exercise in as many sets you need. It doesn't matter how limited your current R.O.M. is. This will take care of it and make you limber.

    - Kettlebell swings. Between seventy five and a hundred per session. Sets and reps are not important. This makes you athletic.
  15. GeoffreyLevens

    GeoffreyLevens More than 500 posts

    This is my current program I just started which I really like. Feels balanced and hits all my needs and not "too much":

    Daily:walking for LSD conditioning + 2 minutes cumulative dead hang from bar

    A+A snatches---30% body weight (16 kg) or 38% body weight (20 kg) depending on how I feel that day. 5 solid reps and rest until recovered X 20-40 sets, again depending on how I feel. Last time I was doing this it was mostly 30 sets at 30% but I'm definitely stronger now....

    10 Turkish getups [aternating sides]
    2sets X barbell power clean with 5 front squats [Adding sets as able, up to 5X5 or maybe 5X8]
    a couple fairly loaded heavy carries
    Only possible glitch, which remains to be seen, is one of my shoulders tends to impingement w/ overhead work. So far ok but it whispers in the background. If it starts to be bothersome, then I will switch the snatches to A+A swings and just increase the weight.
  16. LightningFast

    LightningFast Double-Digit Post Count

    Sorry guys, but I don't get the fascination with Zercher's squat. There is nothing it can do that a back squat can't (high bar or otherwise). Sure, you can lift more weight with Zercher's, but so what? Lifting more doesn't always mean being stronger. Everybody can leg press double of their squat, how's that useful?

    Sure, it works the midsection and is easier to balance. It's also very uncomfortable and can be as much dangerous as the back squat if the form breaks down.

    Back squat is the king. No need to reinvent wheels.
    Joe Fraser likes this.
  17. Alan Mackey

    Alan Mackey Triple-Digit Post Count

    I disagree. I find front squats way more useful for almost any athlete that doesn't compete in maximal strength sports.

    And, frankly, I find power cleans more useful than deadlifts too.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
  18. Antti

    Antti More than 2500 posts

    You can zercher squat more than you can back squat? You know someone else who can? Easier to balance?

    Can I have some too?
    damogari likes this.
  19. Chrisdavisjr

    Chrisdavisjr Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    You don't need a squat rack or stands for a Zercher squat, the bar also has less far to fall if you need to bail out and the lift also provides isometric work for the arms in a way that the back squat (high or low bar) and front squat do not.

    In terms of danger of injury from spinal flexion under load, the Zercher squat places the bar in front of the lifter, making it easier to ditch the bar when pulled too far forward. If a back squat pulls the lifter too far forward it can be more prone to getting 'stuck' just above the traps and pulling the lifter to the ground or rolling over the back of the head and potentially injuring the neck (although such injuries are rare).

    I've yet to meet anyone who can lift more in a Zercher squat than they can back squat (unless they literally never back squat) either but this is only my own experience.

    There's a reason why back squats are so popular and they're undeniably effective but I wouldn't be so quick to write-off the Zercher altogether as an accessory movement for core stability.
  20. the hansenator

    the hansenator More than 500 posts

    Can you provide more details? I'm interested in your experience with this.

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