A Comparison of Muscle Activation Among the Front Squat, Overhead Squat, Back Extension and Plank

Int J Exerc Sci. 2020 May 1;13(1):714-722. eCollection 2020.


The purpose of this study was to compare the muscle activation of the scapula, leg, and trunk among the front squat (FS), overhead squat (OHS), back extension (BE) and plank (PL). Seven recreationally trained men (age: 28 ± 3.6 years, body mass: 92 ± 26.1 kg, height: 175 ± 5.3 cm, 3-RM front squat test: 125 ± 49.8 kg, 3-RM overhead squat test: 91 ± 15.5 kg) participated in this within-subject crossover design. Two isometric exercises (plank and Biering-Sorenson back extension) were also included for trunk musculature comparisons. Neuromuscular activitation of the vastus lateralis (VL), biceps femoris (BF), thoracic region of erector spinae (ES), middle trapezius (MT), rectus abdominis (RA), external oblique (EO), serratus anterior (SA), and anterior deltoid (AD). The neuromuscular activity of the FS and OHS were analyzed using a 2 × 3 (squat variation X intensity) repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA). Effects were further analyzed by Bonferroni corrected paired t-tests. Results showed that AD activity was significantly greater (p < .05) during the FS compared to OHS at 65 and 95% of the 3-RM, while MT activity was significantly greater (p < .05) during the OHS than the FS at 80 and 95% of the 3-RM. ES activity was significantly greater (p< .05) during both the FS and OHS compared to the BE, but PL elicited significantly greater EO and RA activity than both the FS and OHS. These findings reveal that the FS and OHS can help facilitate the activation of muscles supporting the shoulder complex, scapula and lower back.

Keywords: Muscle Activation; Resistance Training; Squat; Strength.