Squatting. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? You dip low, you get back up again. It’s child’s play. But, no! It’s like going out to buy a box (or two) of Pop Tarts. There are choices, options, and variations! And if you’re going to do something properly, you have to know what’s out there. So back to squatting. You’ve got back squats, front squats, overhead squats…
Today folks, we’re going to focus on high bar and low bar variations of back squats. First things first; high bar squats are when the bar sits on your traps, low bar squats are when the bar sits around your rear delts. Got it? Be sure to consider the whole article before focusing on the final point.
To low bar squat you need a moderate stance and get that depth BELOW parallel. There is a vicious myth that circulates, suggesting that there is a lack of involvement from the quads, but if you were powerlifting in sumo squat style, your quads would be undeveloped too! Why would you low bar squat? Because it uses a stupendous amount of muscle mass over a long range of motion and places the most systemic stress on the body in comparison to others forms of squat. This form produces as additional 15-20% increase of hip extension torque, increasing that range of motion.
High bar squatting is the most natural form of squatting. If you were to walk into the rack and prepare to squat, without instruction, you would most certainly form this position by placing the bar on your traps. Why would you high bar squat? Because you can’t low bar squat? (no judgement). Low bar squatting requires greater shoulder mobility and fighting against those natural reactions. Because you can carry more weight, it is a more challenging form of squat. It’s important to keep things varied, so I’m not saying to NOT use this form, but don’t just use the high bar variation as a means of laziness! Low bar requires more forward lean and hip flexion, greater hip extension torque and the same knee extension torque.
How do people lift heavier (10% heavier in fact) on low bar squats? Because high bar squats require that extra bit of back strength due to the additional 2-3 inches of torso length (longer lever). More simply, low bar squats don’t put as much pressure on your back. Without putting your body under that extra strain, you can focus on the real work. Your legs!
Before you think, fantastic, I’m gonna smash out some heavy ass weights, consider what variation suits your body mechanics best. The easiest way to determine this is by means of a body weight squat, feet shoulder width apart. If your torso stays upright and someone can see that ever so motivational quote on the front of your t-shirt, high bar it is. And if your hips immediately fall back and your chest comes forward, you’re a low bar kinda guy (or gal).
Important fact: The most challenging part of a squat for your quadzillarous legs (roooooar) is from the greatest depth (ass to grass) until parallel. So…
Final point: IT DOESN’T MATTER what form you choose, as long as you’re comfortable (in regards to not breaking your back) and performing the exercise correctly! We’re looking to get fit at the gym, get big, get ‘hench’, not walk out of there with herniated disks.
Power Moves Fitness
Muscle and Fitness. (2017). High Bar Squat vs. Low Bar Squat. Retrieved from:http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/high-bar-squat-vs-low-bar-squat
Stronger By Science. (2015). High Bar and Low Bar Squatting. Retrieved from:http://www.strongerbyscience.com/high-bar-and-low-bar-squatting-2-0/
Wolf, M. (2015). The Complete Guide to Barbell Squats. Are You Using the Right Squat for Your Goals? Retrieved from: https://www.t-nation.com/training/complete-guide-to-barbell-squats