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Electromyographic and Kinetic Comparison of the Back Squat and Overhead Squat

Aspe, Rodrigo R.1; Swinton, Paul A.2

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: October 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 10 - p 2827–2836
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000462
Original Research

Abstract: Aspe, RR and Swinton, PA. Electromyographic and kinetic comparison of the back squat and overhead squat. J Strength Cond Res 28(10): 2827–2836, 2014—The purpose of this study was to compare muscle activity and kinetics during the back squat and overhead squat performed at 3 relative intensities (60, 75, and 90% 3 repetition maximum). Fourteen subjects (age, 26 ± 7 years; height, 182.5 ± 13.5 cm; body mass, 90.5 ± 17.5 kg) performed each exercise using a within-subjects crossover design. In addition, a selection of trunk isolation exercises were included to provide additional comparisons. Squats were performed on a force platform with electromyographic activity of the anterior deltoid, rectus abdominis (RA), external oblique (EO), erector spinae (ES), gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, and lateral gastrocnemius recorded throughout. The overhead squat demonstrated significantly greater (p ≤ 0.05) activity in the anterior trunk muscles (RA and EO) during the eccentric phase. However, the magnitudes of the differences were relatively small (approximately 2–7%). In contrast, the back squat displayed significantly greater (p ≤ 0.05) activity in the posterior aspect of the trunk ES and all lower-body muscles during the concentric phase. Kinetic comparisons revealed that significantly greater peak force (p ≤ 0.05) was developed during the back squat. Electromyographic comparisons between the trunk isolation exercises and squat variations demonstrated substantially greater anterior trunk activity during the isolation exercises, whereas the highest activity in the posterior aspect of the trunk was obtained during the squats (p ≤ 0.05). The results of the study do not support the hypothesis that the overhead squat provides a substantially greater stimulus for developing the trunk musculature compared with the back squat.

1School of Sport and Exercise, University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester, England; and

2School of Social and Health Sciences, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland

Address correspondence to Rodrigo R. Aspe,

Copyright © 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.