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Are there any programs that include both front squats and low-bar back squats? They both seem to have athletic benefits, and it seems like it would be worth my time considering to train both around the same time.

The general advice from programs like Starting Strength or StrongLifts is to just stick with low bar squats. But the authors seem to be primarily interested in having lifters pack on body mass, and seem to have a powerlifter bias.

I'm still definitely a novice at squatting. I'm low bar back squatting around 175#s (I was a little higher, but realized I'd introduced form errors, and de-loaded). Should I just stick with low bars until my gains plateau? Or could I intelligently introduce front squats into my program, possibly in a 3-day-a-week, A/B format, with low bar squats in the A workout, and front squats in the B workout.

I'm a rock climber, and I want to get more leg power. I've noticed big improvements in my ability to shift my weight onto a high foot (then stand up on the high leg) since I started squatting. It seems, though, the space between my foot, hips, and knees will be all over the place, and I'd want to be comfortable at both quad dominate and posterior chain dominate movements. (I'd also like to be generally stronger for life, so I'm not exclusively interested in strength as it relates to climbing.) Maybe I'm over-thinking things.

Any advice would be appreciated!

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You have a few options.

Introducing the front squat

If you can back squat 175 or so, don't expect to be front squatting 160 or 170 your first time trying it. You might, but you might not. Introduce new exercises slowly and carefully, with the understanding that it may take time before you can safely and properly apply your general strength to that specific exercise.

Alternate

A now-deprecated version of Rippetoe's programming was that towards the end of one's linear progression, as the squats get difficult, the mid-week workout swaps out front squats for back squats, using 80% of the working set weight for back squats. This provided a little bit of a break from the grind of squatting every workout, as well as some practice with the different movement. (Rippetoe now sees no particular point to this approach, except for Olympic weightlifters, and cautions that simultaneously learning two kinds of squat as a novice can interfere with the movement pattern.) You could do this, in order to throw some front squats into standard novice programming.

You could also switch between the two in larger time frames: work the front squat for two weeks, or two months, or six months, then switch to the back squat, and so on. Or focus on one, but toss the other in occasionally--say, once a month--to make sure it's keeping pace with your overall strength gains. It's also good to know the skill is still there.

Back squat during squats, front squat during cleans

A method I like is to focus on back squats for strength development, but get a little work on the front squat movement by throwing them in while doing power cleans. I'll either clean, then squat, then clean again (and repeat), or I'll clean several times, then after the last clean I'll front squat a few reps.

Stick with one

There's not a huge need to do both at the same time for most people. If you're doing a novice progression, or are still not very strong, or if lifting isn't your primary weekly workout priority, keep the two separate: either pick one and do the other only occasionally, or do multi-month periods of only one squatting variation.

Once I started periodizing the different types of squats in my training, I immediately wanted more time to lift. There are so many cool ways to squat:

  • Back squats, best for strength
  • Front squats, great for strength and Olympic lifting
  • Weighted pistols, an amazing feat
  • Weighted lunges
  • Weighted step-ups

Switching it up ensures that you are a varied human and capable athlete. Picking just one at a time is hard, but I find it's important for progress.

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