Understanding Squat Variations

  2018-01-19 10:36AM

There are three main squat variations in CrossFit: the back squat, the front squat, and the overhead squat. If you’ve been around CrossFit long enough, you probably understand that your Back Squat should be higher than your Front Squat and your Front Squat should be higher than your Overhead Squat. But, what should the relationship between each be? Further, why do we incorporate all three of these variations into our training?

The Squat Variations:

  1. Back Squat: The back squat is essentially your bodyweight air squat with the barbell placed on your upper back. Typically, the greatest amount of resistance can be used in the back squat, which makes it the best movement for building leg strength.
  2. Front Squat: The front squat places the bar in the “front rack position” with the elbows high and the bar sitting across the front of the shoulders. It requires an upright position as the lifter descends to the bottom of the squat. While the back squat allow a slight lean forward when the weight becomes heavier, the front squat requires the core to stay engaged so the chest stays tall, preventing a failed lift.
  3. Overhead Squat: The overhead squat places the barbell over your head, and above your heels in a stable wide-grip position with the arms locked out. The overhead squat requires a tremendous amount of full-body strength, flexibility, and mobility. Any limitations in these areas will be exposed in the overhead squat!

Front Squat SHOULD BE around 85% of your Back Squat

Overhead Squat SHOULD BE around 55% of your Back Squat

Overhead Squat SHOULD BE around 65% of your Front Squat

These are statistics that have been measured and compiled via Beyond the Whiteboard. They are not law as everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.  If you see that you are very far off from these percentages, you may want to look further into your training, movement, and programming. This information may be able to help you identify some areas that are in need of improvement.


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