Pelvic Floor in a Front Squat vs a Back Squat?

Major #nerdlove for Chris Beardsley of Strength and Conditioning Research. This infographic highlights a study that compared the difference in activation patterns of quads, hams and glutes in a front squat (bar sits at the front of the shoulders) vs a back squat (bar sits on the back of the shoulders).  When front loaded, the front of the body had greater activation (quad love). When the load was more posterior, the back of the body had a greater activation (hamstring love). Sort of makes sense. The demand change creates a different response from the brain and body.…it uses a different strategy to meet that demand. The differences in response were small but the change in position of the load wasn’t big either. It was essentially only  the width of the shoulders (front to back). However, it was enough to change the brain’s strategy.  So why do I care enough to write a pelvic floor blog about it? It inform us, particularly as rehab or fitness folks caring for those returning to fitness after injury or pregnancy, how to elicit a response from a component of a system that may need a little more attention to help re-establish function. 

If only we could measure this for the pelvic floor! When, oh when, will we have a study that looks at the pelvic floor response with a front or back squat?!  Instead, we have to use studies like this to extrapolate and apply. The pelvic floor is a muscle group after all, just like the quads, hams and glutes, so we can hope to make some connections. Using weight shifts to change the demand on the pelvic floor and elicit a new response is one of my favorite tricks. If you live with your weight in your heels….that demand will elicit a more posterior response from your PF, a contraction around your anus. I use a ski jump trick to encourage folks to shift forward at the ankles like they are starting to dive off a diving board. This puts more of a demand on the front of the body and helps women experience more connection with the elusive, front of their pelvic floor as they try to rebuild. That’s the part that stops the pee :)! Demand elicits the response…the brain understands demand…not isolated muscle function. Check out a demo of the ski jump here: 

I don’t want women to live in a ski jump, or only access the front of the pelvic floor, this is just a place to begin.  Note in the graphic….one direction of load didn’t mean that nothing was happening in the other muscle groups. The activity still required activation from the opposite group….the body and brain were turning up the volume on one, and down for the other to meet the specific need, no matter how subtle or how big. They were balanced! Kinda cool!  That kind of balanced readiness to meet any challenge or  load on the front of their body or back is what I hope to build for women. But to build strategies, first you have to start with access, and the ski jump helps a lot of my patients do just that. 

Change the demand…change your patients strategy. The beauty is…this is a very passive, brain-loving, strategy-building approach vs a muscular focus and the over activation that often happens when our clients over-think it! I actually love a goblet squat (weight held in front of the body with both hands at the midline, low or high) with a gradually progressed load to help add some demand to the front and help women reconnect with anterior structures for all issues-incontinence, diastasis, and prolapse. It’s a fave and very accessible to all manor and level of athlete. Adding a front squat before back squats in a return to weight training progression may be a new way of creating this for clients, too. If anterior work is what they need, of course, if not a back squat might be preferred. It depends on their goals and needs!  Research rocks. Thanks Chris!! (read more of his take on the study here)

Compare a ski jump to a shift to your heels to understand how demand changes your own response!! Then check out a goblet squat vs a body weight only squat.

Wanna learn more about how I work with athletes keeping pelvic health in mind….check out this online course. 

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8 thoughts on “Pelvic Floor in a Front Squat vs a Back Squat?”

  1. Alexis L says:

    You always amaze me! So simple yet so effective. Thank you so much for all of your great blogs and videos.

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I am selfishly simplifying it for me! I am a simple girl, and need to be able to create some clinical relevance for the ladies I treat. Hope it helps you too! Take care! Julie

  2. Kim Osterholzer says:

    This is excellent!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks! Julie

  3. Kerry Ann says:

    Thanks Julie! Your post is very helpful to me personally and professionally.

    I noticed a positive difference in my body when I tried front squats and they continue to be the best choice for me.

    I also appreciate your post because it will help me communicate better with my clients.

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      That is such great feedback. So fascinating isn’t it?!

  4. Jitka Helmus says:

    Hi! I love your blog and videos, so helpful! Would you recommend this for a runner with a diastasis and a rectal prolapse? She also has some urinary issues. I am particularly curious what you think about her running- she does not want to give it up of course but is concerned that it will make her prolapse worse. Thanks for your time!!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Hi there,

      It is a little difficult to make any recommendations without an assessment. So I would recommend an assessment of her issues, and how they respond to any and all activities she is involved in. Any activity has potential to irritate someone’s symptoms or be positive for their symptoms. Monitor and modify and refer them out if symptoms persist or worsen. Hope that helps! Julie

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