In many gyms across the land, the squat racks remain desolate. Much of the use they get is when a person needs an area to perform bicep curls. Such an important area that puts emphasis on such an important aspect of overall strength, size, and fitness is sadly abandoned. A precious few still see the benefit of putting weight on their shoulders.
This article is for them.
Squatting is vital to overall strength in the body. The muscles engaged are the biggest muscles in the body. These muscles include the back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. The squat is also a compound movement because of its involvement of multiple joints. Squats also help with the release of free testosterone in the body due to the metabolic stress it puts on the body (you are working half your body at one time if you think about it). This can help with muscle growth everywhere on the body and burn fat at a faster rate.
With the beauty of the squat, there comes a debate. That debate is between two of the most popular variations of the squat: front squat and back squat.
The back squat is the most popular. This involves putting the squat bar across the top of the back and shoulders and behind the neck. This movement engages more of the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back due to the weight distribution being emphasized more so on the posterior (back) part of the body. You do not need to be as flexible in hips and ankles to do a back squat and more weight can usually be worked with safely.
The front squat has gained a lot more popularity with the rise of CrossFit. This movement involves putting the bar across the front delts (shoulders) in front of the neck with the arms folded under with the hands clasping the bar for stability. The front squat engages the quads and upper back more. The spine is required to be more upright and flexion in the hips and ankles are maximized more than the back squat. The glutes and hamstrings are still engaged through the movement, but not to the extent of the back squat. Also, due to the limitations of large muscle engagement and weight being distributed on the posterior part of the body, weight usually cannot be as heavy in comparison to the back squat.
With all this being said, which is superior?
This is like asking what is better between going to a party or going to an amusement park.
It depends on you.
One must look at their training goals and even their physical condition and flexibility. If you are looking for overall power and more of a metabolic stress promoter, you lack flexibility in the joints involved to bring your butt to the ground, a back squat would be more suited for you.
If you maybe have some shoulder and lower back problems, are looking at putting more emphasis on the quads and upper back, and are reasonably flexible throughout your body, a front squat would be more your variation.
Squatting is just something everyone should be doing in the gym, one way or the other.
To step into the squat rack ready to squat is like fitness imitating life. Something that is meant to press you down holds its true purpose only when you press back and stand.
You become bigger and stronger than before.