It may surprise you but one of the ways to build a really strong upper back is to do front squats. The reason why front squats are so effective in building your upper back is that they force you stay upright during the whole movement. The minute you bend over the barbell falls to the ground immediately.
In fact, one of the hardest things about front squats is to keep your back erect during the execution of the movement. The front squat does not tolerate bending over unlike the barbell back squat.
The front squat is a weightlifting exercise before everything and it was never meant to be done for high reps. In general, when you do front squats it’s recommended to stick to lower reps – about 3-5. That’s because holding the front squat position for any longer is quite uncomfortable. This is not a surprise since having a bar sitting in front of your throat is not exactly mind comforting.
If you want to have a front squat workout with more volume, you can increase the number of sets you do but still keep the reps per set low.
Another benefit of the front squat is that it doesn’t require a spotter. Caution during the execution is still needed but if something goes wrong, you can just drop the bar and call it a day.
The front squat is primarily a quadriceps and glute exercise. As the popular strength author Mark Rippetoe has said the hamstrings are already shortened at the bottom and the quads and glutes have to do all the work.
If you are not doing back squats and you want to rely on front squat as your main lower body lift, it’s recommended to add a hamstring exercise like the Romanian deadlift in order to increase the workload on the hamstring muscle.
Having strong hamstrings is very important for knee stability and health.