The strength and stability of the knee plays an integral role in athletics and activities of daily living. A better understanding of knee joint biomechanics while performing variations of the squat would be useful in rehabilitation and exercise prescription. We quantified and compared tibiofemoral joint kinetics as well as muscle activity while executing front and back squats. Because of the inherent change in the position of the center of mass of the bar between the front and back squat lifts, we hypothesized that the back squat would result in increased loads on the knee joint and that the front squat would result in increased knee extensor and decreased back extensor muscle activity. A crossover study design was used. To assess the net force and torque placed on the knee and muscle activation levels, a combination of video and force data, as well as surface electromyographic data, were collected from 15 healthy trained individuals. The back squat resulted in significantly higher compressive forces and knee extensor moments than the front squat. Shear forces at the knee were small in magnitude, posteriorly directed, and did not vary between the squat variations. Although bar position did not influence muscle activity, muscle activation during the ascending phase was significantly greater than during the descending phase. The front squat was as effective as the back squat in terms of overall muscle recruitment, with significantly less compressive forces and extensor moments. The results suggest that front squats may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health.