Why Doing StrongLifts 5×5 With Front Squats Is Plain Stupid

Iuri R. from Brazil wonders if the StrongLifts 5×5 program would still work if you substitute Back Squats by Front Squats. Quote…

Mehdi, Iuri here.

So, i read your 5×5 report. Honestly, your e-mail encouraged me. The answer is yes, i will give a try in your 5×5 program.

The problem is, in my gym, there is no power rack. I tried the Smith machine but I got bad knee pain. So, my question is, can change the Squats for the Front Squat ? I know the Front Squat emphasizes more quads than hips, but the program still works in this case ?

Thanks for answering

writing from Brasil
Iuri Rossi

I assume you want to Front Squat instead of Back Squat so you can get the bar on your front shoulders by simply cleaning it from the floor on every set. Well I don’t like a Front Squat version of StrongLifts 5×5, at all, for 2 reasons…

One, do you realize you’ll never be able to clean your max Front Squat? Sure if you start with the empty bar and add 5lb every workout, it will work. But once you get to 200lb, you’ll either be death when you have to Front Squat for 5 reps what you just cleaned… or you won’t even be able to clean that weight. Either way, you’re limiting the amount of weight you can Front Squat.

Two, your max Front Squat will always be lower than your max Back Squat. This is because the limiting factor on Front Squats is your upper-back, not your legs. I actually worked up to 308lb on the Front Squat last week after not doing them for 19 months. Guess what? Sore upper-back the day after, had to foam roll it. You’ll never hit your legs as hard with Front Squats as with Back Squats.

Here’s why all this matters: muscle size is directly related to strength gains, and bigger weights means more calories burned. So even if you somehow manage to clean your max Front Squats (good luck with that) you’ll still be working your body less hard. And that means smaller and slower gains compared to the guys who do StrongLifts 5×5 as laid out – doing Back Squats, NOT Front Squats.

Look, I’m NOT anti-Front Squat at all. I actually did Front Squats only for 2 years because I was stupid and because idiots told me if your Front Squat goes up, so will your Back Squat – it will NOT. I could barely Back Squat my Front Squat after Front Squatting only for so long. Now, after 19 months of Back Squatting solely, I broke my Front Squat PR by 22lb… without training for it. Could probably hit a 330lb Front Squat (2x my body-weight) if I did it for a few weeks.

My point: Front Squats are awesome to assist your Back Squats, not to replace them. What if your gym only has a smith machine? Then it sucks and you should find another gym, build a home gym or keep spinning your wheels.

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