Who Needs Back Squats Anyway?

I performed a little experiment today. But before I get to that let me give you a some background into my training recently. For the past 12 weeks (or so) I’ve done nothing but unilateral lower body (single leg) training accept for trapbar deadlifts once a week. This has been my primary form of lower body training for the past couple of years. I feel better, move better and make better gains doing unilateral work.


Until this past 12 weeks, I’ve usually also done front squats at least once a week. I have not performed a back squat for over a year, and have not attempted anything over 315lbs since college (about 5 years….getting old). Today was a different story. Last week was the end of a strength training cycle so I decided on a whim to do 5×5 on back squat to see where I could go (no belt and no knee wraps….I’m a weightlifter not a powerlifter).  I started light, assuming that I was going to have to stop pretty earlier. Here’s a look at the sets:


225 x 5

275 x 5

315 x 5

345 x 5

365 x 5


Nothing overly impressive but no slouch either. Everything felt comfortable, form felt tight and controlled the weight throughout. Now here’s a look at what I did during my last week of my strength training cycle with unilateral training. The exercise I am going to compare these back squats to is the Rear Foot Elevated Front Squat (this video is not from today).



Here’s a look at the last week of work (I was using a modified version of the 5/3/1 program):


205 x 5

225 x AMRAP (ended up getting 10)

245 x 5


So, in theory, considering I was only using one leg, I should be able to do double the amount of weight on two legs, right? Especially the front squat vs. back squat position, because I’ve always found that most people can back squat more than they can front squat. If I’m doing 245lbs for 5 reps with one foot on the bench, then I should be able to do 490lbs for 5 reps with both feet on the ground. The true number ended up being 365lbs.


Sure you can make the argument that I have not done back squats for a long time, so maybe I just need practice, right? I cannot imagine making up 125lbs with practice…….maybe, MAYBE half that.


I’m sold on unilateral training as a primary form of leg work, especially after a look at these numbers. If you enjoy back squats and deadlifts, great, have at it….I enjoy doing them every once and a while myself. But I think the results show what position you are strongest in.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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