How to optimize your exercise selection from the gang of nine - Part 8

Rounding of the lower back must be avoided in any type of squat, but the greater the range of motion without rounding of the lower back, the better the effect on the muscles, theoretically. This produces greater muscular involvement, and requires less weight to do the job, which may enhance safety.


The greater range of motion may be beneficial for the knees, depending on the individual. In the back squat, generally speaking, the descent is stopped at around where the upper thighs are parallel to the floor, to avoid losing the concave lower spine. Some trainees, however, can go below parallel in the back squat without rounding their lower backs. The front squat permits many trainees to go below parallel without rounding their lower backs.


The bar is kept off the upper back and away from the spine. This is important for trainees who have spinal limitations that proscribe putting a bar on the upper back. But the technique of the front squat must be correct. If technique is compromised, and the back rounded, or bar tilted, exaggerated stress will be placed on the back, and the risk of injury will be greatly increased.

It's necessary to perform the front squat with some weight — perhaps just a bare bar — to involve the upper back musculature sufficiently to pull the torso more upright, to prevent the bar falling forward.

The downside of the front squat is that there are difficulties with keeping the bar in position across the front of the shoulders. And, because the hands are close together on the bar, it can tilt easily. Although the bar can also tilt in the back squat if correct technique isn't used, the potential for tilting is greater in the front squat. Maintenance of a horizontal bar is critical.

Most gyms have a set-up for the back squat and the front squat, although many of them don't have the recommended set-up of a power rack, or squat stands with safety bars or racks. Most large gyms have leg press machines, but not necessarily the type recommended in this book. Few gyms have parallel-grip deadlift bars. As a result of this situation, the back squat and the front squat are the most-universally practical, multi-joint thigh-and-hip exercises.

Because maintaining correct bar positioning is so demanding — to prevent the bar slipping forward, or tipping laterally — keep the reps at ten or fewer. But learn the exercise with sets of five reps.

The difficulties with the front squat are manageable for many trainees if correct technique and persistent practice are employed — see

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