For some people, front squats are harder than back squats. Front squats move the weight to the front of your body and put more work onto smaller and naturally weaker muscle groups, resulting in a less stable position.
Why Are Front Squats Harder?
The Bar Position is Less Comfortable
The starting position for a front squat involves holding the bar at around shoulder level on the top of your chest.
This is quite a challenging position to get into for a lot of people – particularly if you have reduced mobility in your upper body.
Starting in this position already puts strain on different parts of your body than a back squat does, so if you’ve never done front squats before, this can be quite unnerving.
Getting into the right position to perform a front squat takes practice, flexibility, strength, and mobility.
These are not always possible without a bit of work beforehand.
Smaller Muscle Groups Are Used
Front squats work your abs and quads more. This is opposed to back squats that recruit the larger gluteal muscles.
Why Some People Find Back Squats Harder
Lack of Hip and Back Mobility
For a truly effective back squat – you need to squat down deep!
To be able to do this, you need good levels of mobility in your hips which not everyone has.
If you have mobility issues or any kind of weakness in your hips, then performing an effective back squat can be quite challenging.
Back problems (particularly in the lower back) can also cause issues when performing back squats.
Foot and Lower Leg Issues
Another common reason why some people find back squats so difficult is that they have some kind of issue with their feet or lower legs.
Some lower leg and foot-related issues that can make back squats challenging include:
- Scar tissue from previous injuries
- Tight calf muscles that reduce ankle movement
- Weakened ankle joints
- Flat feet
Back squats put a lot of emphasis on your glutes, lower back, and hips. So any kind of injury, weakness, or issue in these areas can cause difficulty in performing back squats.
Are Front Squats Harder On Your Knees?
Front squats put less stress on your knees than back squats.
When performing a back squat, your knees effectively have to collapse inward during the movement which puts them under quite a bit of unnatural stress.
However, when you’re front squatting, your knees get pushed outwards (following your toes) which significantly reduces the amount of stress placed upon them.
If you have any kind of knee issue or weakness, then front squats may be a better choice for you as opposed to back squats.
Are Front Squats Harder On Your Lower Back?
Typically, front squats are easier on your lower back than back squats.
This makes sense from a logical standpoint as the weight is being supported on the front of your body instead of the back.
If you think about the position of your upper body during both a back squat and a front squat, it’s pretty obvious that your lower back is under less stress when front squatting.
Having a weight resting on the top of your back (during a back squat) compresses your spine and also results in a slight lean forward, which puts additional strain on your lower back.
With front squats, the weight is held on the front of your body meaning you’re more unstable.
This means that leaning forward is discouraged and you hold a more upright position. This leads to less stress on your lower back muscles and bones.
Also, front squats work your quads more than your glutes.
This is important when it comes to your lower back as the harder your glutes work, the more strain is placed on your lower back.
Are Front Squats Harder On Your Wrists?
Wrist pain or discomfort during front squats is a fairly common complaint from beginner lifters.
This is usually caused by one of three reasons:
- Your wrists aren’t flexible or mobile enough
- You have too much weight on the bar
- You have a wrist injury
Let’s take a look at how to resolve each one of these issues.
Lack of Mobility In Your Wrists
If you lack flexibility or mobility in your wrists, it can be difficult to hold the bar in the correct position for front squats.
With some stretching of your forearm muscles and some basic wrist mobility work, you should find front squats much more comfortable on your wrists.
Lifting Too Much Weight
Like with all weight lifting movements, the technique is of utmost importance during front squats.
Trying to lift too much weight can cause mistakes in technique resulting in pain and/or discomfort.
The starting position for front squats involves supporting the bar with your flexed wrists. If you have too much weight on the bar, this will be a painful position to be in.
One of the first things you should think about if your wrists are uncomfortable during front squats is whether the weight you are trying to lift is suitable.
It may be as easy as reducing the load on the bar to resolve wrist discomfort during front squats.
If you experience pain every time you try to perform front squats and you are certain there are no mobility issues and the weight on the bar is appropriate – it could be that you have an injury to your wrists.
If you think you may have an injury, you should seek professional medical advice about the best way to recover.
Once recovered, you should then find that your wrists handle front squats perfectly fine and you can continue to build up the weight in a progressive manner as you continue to get stronger at performing the movement.
Back squats are less stressful for your wrists as they stay in a much more natural and comfortable position.
If you have a recurring wrist issue, it may be better to stick with back squats until they are fully recovered.
- Front squats are harder than back squats because they work smaller muscle groups and the bar position can be awkward to get used too.
- Front squats put less stress on your lower back and knees than back squats.
Thanks for reading!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.