After many years of doing very well with back squats, I am at the point where I simply can't do them productively any more. My lower back is in pretty bad shape, so any weight that is remotely challenging to my thighs ends up leaving my lower back in pain for up to a week afterward. I've thought about switching over to front squats, but I have reservations. The few times I've tried them, it was very uncomfortable. The bar felt like it was crushing my windpipe, and it kept rolling forward, nearly falling off me. Also, I wasn't able to handle nearly as much weight as with regular back squats, so I doubt whether they can produce the same results.
Sounds like we are in the same boat, my friend! My lower back has a history of injury that stretches back to the fall of 1987. I've still managed to squat heavy for most of the last 20 years, though there have been times I was forced to rely on leg presses and hacks when my back was really jacked up. Now I'm at the point where even a couple good sets with 315, using perfect form, can put me at risk of hurting my back and leaving me in severe pain for many days after.
Because of that, I was more or less forced to switch to front squats recently. I had all the same issues with them that you do. What I discovered was that if you persist in doing them, it won't take long until your body 'figures out' how to do them more comfortably. I can hold on to 315 now without feeling choked, and the bar stays nicely in place without any forward roll as I descend. The way I hold the bar is one option, another popular version is the 'clean and jerk' style grip. Neither is better than the other - one will feel more natural to you.
There are several major advantages to front squats. One is that it forces you to stand perfectly upright, rather than the excessive forward lean you often see with back squats. This shifts more emphasis to the quads where you want it, and less to the glutes and lower back. Personally, my ass is already bigger than it needs to be so I don't want any more growth in the glutes! The upright stance plus the fact that the load is a bit lighter both make front squats far safer in general than back squats. And as far as effectiveness, look no further than IFBB Pro Ronny Rockel from Germany. Ronny has truly excellent quads - and he has never done back squats, only fronts. Start doing them at every leg workout. I guarantee they won't feel as awkward after a few weeks. Your quads will grow, and your lower back will be at far less risk of injury.
"Need to solicit some input from you if you do not mind. My ortho said that both my shoulders need to be replaced with no other options being available. The shoulder replacement is to primarily alleviate the pain that they are in and could afford me extra flexibility, but the replacement joint is unstable and weak. Additionally, he said weight training for upper body is over for the duration of my life.
This assessment is unacceptable to me and I am trying to move on without the replacements at least as long as I can. I have modified my training considerably, am using an EMS each night on both shoulders and trying to take the best supplement stack I can come up with; hence my contacting you. What would you recommend for pain relief, and cartilage health?
And it was suggested by some friends in the sport that I consider a HGH script. Is there any supplements that can actually increase GH release? I am trying to stay of the pharma as long as I can.
I appreciate your input brother!
If at all possible, see another ortho and get a second opinion. Whatever you do, do NOT agree to two shoulder replacements. I have spoken with many fellow lifters and bodybuilders who have had one or both shoulders replaced, and to a man they all felt deep regret about that choice. The pain was gone, but so was their strength and their ability to do what they loved, which was train hard.
The pain can be managed and you can work around it by finding movements that are less painful, as well as ways to make less weight feel like more - pre-exhaust, slower rep speeds, less rest between sets, etc. Physical Therapy, deep tissue massage, and diligent stretching every day will also go a long way toward allowing you to continue training. I have never really believed much in supplements being able to help much once the actual damage to the joints is already done. I take a joint product from Parrillo 'just because.' There are many good products out there. Pain relief can be had with OTC things like Ibuprofen and Tylenol, but you don't want to use those every day.
Nothing out there you can buy has actually been proven to stimulate GH release. If I were in your position, I would get a prescription for HGH. I don't use it, but if I had the situation you currently have with your shoulders on the verge of collapse, I would not hesitate. It does regenerate tissues and could be a real benefit to you now. It's not like you're some 20-year-old using it to be Mr. Olympia - you have a legit medical need/use for it. This is not me suggesting illicit drug use for performance enhancement, this is me suggesting you look into using a prescription drug that could very well improve your dire situation so you can keep on training hard as we all love to.