High Bar Squat vs. Low Bar Squat -Which Is BETTER - GGP
High Bar Squat Vs. Low Bar Squat

High Bar Squat vs. Low Bar Squat -Which Is BETTER

What is High Bar squat ? What is Low bar squat ? Should I do High Bar Squat Or Low Bar Squat ?

There is much controversy going on high bar squats and low bar squats. Both are powerlifting techniques with different biomechanical implications.

Now, there are a lot of factors that must be taken into consideration when speaking about these two types of squats: joint angles, the leverage and the range of motion, as well as the muscles that are engaged and how much weight each of them takes.

Of course, one of the main difference between the two is the position of the bar, that’s obvious even from their names. Force production and movement (and the mechanics behind it) are, again, different.

But let us delve a little deeper into this discrepancy to see which one would be the best for you. In order to do this, we shall analyze every aspect that we’ve talked about until now, but first of all, let’s see what squatting means, in case some of you are not familiar at all with the term and what exactly it designates:

Squatting

In bodybuilding, fitness and strength training, squatting represents an exercise meant to train the following muscles: hamstrings, abdominals, lower back and upper back muscles, quadriceps, thighs, buttocks and hips.

Although it is mainly used in growing muscle, it also strengthens tendons, bones, and ligaments. You may have heard about bench press and deadlifts. Well, the squat is the third element of this holy trinity in powerlifting.

Barbell squatting, for example, has plenty of forms: sumo squat, hack squat, overhead squat, Zercher Squat, Box Squat and many, many others. Don’t worry; we’ll talk only about two types in this article.

High Bar vs. Low Bar Squat – Position of the Bar

If you are one of those persons for whom working out is a daily chore, you may already have an idea vis-à-vis the position of the bar in each case.

If you are anything but an aficionado, but you are quite interested in workouts, and you plan on becoming a giant pack of muscle, don’t worry, we’ll tell in those that follow everything you need to know. Let’s start with the low bar squat bar position.

Low bar

When you do a low bar squat, the bar is placed further down on your spine than when you do a high bar squat, hence the name. In order to develop this further in more technical terms, in a low bar squat, the bar is placed just above the spine of the scapula, whereas in a high bar squat, the bar is positioned underneath the C7 vertebrae of the spine, just above the shoulders. We’ll see what this position of the bar means for your overall balance when squatting.

High bar

When you do a high bar squat, you basically create a support for the bar with your traps. You can well imagine that when you do it, it’s much easier to lift the weights that when you get the bar lower on the back. Once again, in this case, you place the bar on your deltoids (the muscles on the backs of your shoulders).

This is the main difference between the two when it comes to the position of the bar. You mustn’t think that this is superficial: the position of the bar influences a lot of things. The most obvious one is the stance: when you squat with a low bar, your legs must be in a wider angle, whereas in a high bar squat, they are in a more closed one.

At all times, however, the bar must be precisely over the center of your feet. Moreover, when you perform a low bar squat, your hips are pushed back. By contrast, when you do a high bar squat, your hips are directly under.

The angle of the chest and the position of the arms are different, too: in a high bar squat, the angle of your chest is tall, and in a low bar squat, you lean the chest forward. In respect with the hands, in the former case your hands are tightened, and in the latter they are wide.

See? There are a lot of implications already that you may have never believed they existed in the first place. Given that this has been established (with the most of ease we daresay), it’s time to move to the next contradictory aspect.

Balance

You may think that balance is all about squatting on your heels; you couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, it does look like when someone’s squatting, the heels are creating the balance, but the truth is that this is the task of the mid-foot, from calves to the behind of your knees. If you were attempting to balance yourself on your heels, you would be carried away by the weight in all directions, which can be a potential harm to your body.

Let’s put it like this, simply: when you do a high bar squat, the barbell is placed exactly in the center of your feet, which means that you will be squatting on a vertical position. Subsequently, the balance is going to be more stable as your quads get pumped up. On the other side of the spectrum, when you do a low bar squat, the balance is automatically more difficult to keep, since the barbell is not placed in the center of your feet.

Technically, the balance determines how difficult it is going to be to lift the barbell. As a result, when you perform a low bar squat, it is going to be harder, because you must focus on keeping your balance, too. A high bar squat pretty much creates balance by itself.

Another difference that pertains to the balance is the strain you put on your hips. In a low bar squat, the hips are considerably more requested than in a high bar squat or even a front bar squat, for that matter.

Let’s move on to the next sections of our analysis, where we will see when it’s recommended to use a high bar squat and when it’s recommended to use a low bar squat, the advantages of each of them, as well as the downsides.

Insights in High Bar Squat

Insights in High Bar Squat

Squats are indispensable in any workout, regardless if they are high bar squats, front bar squats or low bar squats. Of all of these, the high bar squat is the most common. The high bar squat form puts a lot of stress on the glutes and the quads, making them grow.

The glutes and the quadriceps are worked out properly. This is of utmost importance particularly when you are planning on participating at Olympic lifts because it will train your knees, ankle angles, hips and torso in the same fashion they need to be trained for competition.

When you do a high bar squat, you will naturally take what is known as the “athletic stance”; that will concomitantly strengthen the whole process of weightlifting. The high bar squat is also recommended for those with faulty hips – i.e. the persons that cannot sit in the much-needed wide stance in a low bar squat.

If your shoulders are in bad condition, you won’t be able to pull a proper low bar squat anyway. In this fashion, high bar squats are the most common squats because they allow pretty much anybody to do them properly, without further injuring their hips or their shoulders.

When it comes to the negative aspects of high bar squatting, they are mainly in regards to the weight: you won’t be able to lift as much weight as you would lift with a low bar squat. The squat bar position doesn’t allow that to happen, and it’s a direct consequence of the verticality of your body and the opening angle of your feet.

Another disadvantage of high bar squatting is that if you have knee problems, the anterior force that is produced in the process of squatting will create, in its turn, knee pain. You can fix that with all sorts of professional creams and lotions, but not when the pain is chronic. In this case, workout as a whole might not be a pastime that your body affords.

Insights in Low Bar Squat

Insights in Low Bar Squat

As you’ve already seen, when you do a low bar squat, the position of your torso is more horizontal (maybe horizontal is a poor choice of words, let’s say it’s a slightly forward-bended vertical position) than in the case of a high bar squat.

Just by taking this into consideration, the low bar squat provides more balance, reinforced by the wide angle of the feet and the full grip on the bar itself. From this point of view, the low bar squat is undoubtedly superior to the high bar one.

When you do a low bar squat, the mechanics of the body enable you to lift more weights than you would be able to lift with a high bar. Moreover, the workout is more efficient on the entire posterior chain when your body takes the low bar squat form.

The range of motions is shortened in contrast with that of the high bar squat, an aspect that provides an almost unwavering balance. This squatting technique is preferred by professionally-trained powerlifters precisely thanks to these positives. There’s less stress on the knees, which is a godsend gift for those with knee issues.

The low bar squat is not devoid of disadvantages. Minor ones, but nonetheless disadvantages. First of all, it is harder to execute than the high bar squat. Because there isn’t as much shoulder flexibility in the former case, it can be harder to get the bar in the proper position mid-process. In this case, your elbows, shoulders, and wrists might get sore or even damaged. Of course, if your objective is to lift as much weight as possible, your natural choice will be the low bar squats, despite these downsides.

If your knees and shoulders are in a top-notch condition, you don’t have to worry about any of these negative aspects, since they won’t affect you at all. That doesn’t justify being reckless and straying away from proper posture, so be cautious.

With squatting, there is always the possibility of injuring your spine. There’s no need for someone to tell you that this can be absolutely catastrophic. We don’t mean to scare you – that’s just how things are. You know that lifting too much can cause back problems, right? Imagine what tens of kilos would do if not lifted in complete concordance with some pre-existing principles.

How to High Bar Squat

If this article has served as an inspiration to you to start squatting, but you still are quite confused about the process itself, then you will be happy to read this section. First of all, let’s see the process of high bar squatting, so you don’t have to pay for a tutorial on the web (at least for now):

  • Get close to the power rack, approach the weights and get under them.
  • Take the barbell and position it carefully on your back, just above the shoulders.
  • Grip the barbell as narrowly as you can and set the chest onto the bar.
  • Tighten your back by squeezing the muscles.
  • Make sure that your head is on the same perfect vertical line with your feet.
  • Brace yourself by preparing your calves. Attention: don’t use your back to lift the weight. Ever! Your legs are assigned with that task. Now you’ve lifted the weight from the rack.
  • Breathe. Take a deep breath and tighten your abdominal muscles. You need those muscles tensed before you begin the squatting. If they’re not, it will throw you off and you’ll fall on your buttocks. It’s needless to say that buttocks pain is the least pain that this occurrence can inflict on you.
  • Start bending the knees. Take it slowly, don’t hurry. This is not something you should do just for the sake of getting through with it.
  • Keep your muscles tense at any given time throughout the exercise. At some point, your calves will feel as if they have been set on fire – that’s good. It means they’re getting pumped. Your abdominal muscles, too, will hurt, but that’s the sacrifice of efficient bodybuilding. As you reach the highest point with the barbell, take another deep breath, store it until you’ve reached the lowest point and then gently exhale it as you go back to the top.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: it takes time to learn how to do a proper barbell high bar squat. In this case, the Internet is a potential goldmine for you. There are endless training videos on YouTube. If you feel like you’re missing something and the squat doesn’t come up as planned, watching one of those videos can be enlightening, to say the least. Now let’s see how to low bar squat.

How to Low Bar Squat

  • The first step in doing a low bar squat is, of course, to approach the weight and dip under the barbell.
  • In comparison with the high bar squat, when you had to put the barbell just above your shoulders, now you will have to position it on that bump that is made by the conjoining shoulder blades.
  • Just like in the case of the high bar squat, you have to take a firm, narrow grip on the barbell and adjust your chest to the bar.
  • Tighten your back muscles and keep them tense. With the risk of being redundant, we’ll tell you that if you do not keep your muscles tensed, it is less likely you are going to lift that weight. If you manage to do it, your balance will be really flimsy and you know what the consequence of a bad balance is already: the floor.
  • Prepare your legs: remember, when you do a low bar squat, the radius of your feet must be wider than when you do a high bar squat. Now unrack the barbell and plant your feet into the ground.
  • Once again, take a deep breath and start squatting. Release the breath as you go towards the highest point with your barbell. Breathing is extremely important when you squat: if you don’t release your breath in time, you could faint. It’s not a joke. There are numerous videos on the Internet with weightlifters that just drop stiff on the ground because they didn’t exhale. If you don’t get that air out, you can’t take another breath. Subsequently, you will deprive your brain of air.
  • In the case of the high bar squat, you had to pump your abdominal muscles, but now you have to focus on your hip muscles and push back the glutes. It’s called “hip break.” When you lift the barbell, you have to push your hips backward in order to bend your knees properly.
  • One thing you must remember when doing this type of squatting is that you shouldn’t rely on your shoulders as a power source but on your hips. It takes focus, yes, but it will come naturally in time after you’ve accustomed to the entire paraphernalia of low bar squats tenets.
  • It will take some time until you’ve mastered the art of breathing when squatting. “It’s breathing, how hard can it be?” – you’re right there, but when you have to focus on legs and hips to keep your balance with a barbell that could produce some serious damage if dropped, it’s not that easy anymore. You cannot imagine how easy it is to forget to inhale or exhale when you should. That won’t only make lifting more difficult, but you could black right out.

How to Choose Between the Two

High bar squats and low bar squats have different purposes. While the former is the quad dominant squat, the latter is recommended when you want to work the entire posterior chain.

The low bar vs. high bar squat contest is pretty much a fiasco because there is no definitive answer on which of the two is best. It all depends on your objectives as a weightlifter or powerlifter, or both. Of course, you can combine the two for even better results. Once again, there is no “the best” – you must choose the one that fits perfectly with your training and professional objectives.

With all these, if your dream is to compete in a weightlifting contest, you should allow yourself a few months of practice for low bar squats.

You don’t necessarily have to include those in your routine for the rest of your life, but you must master them for competitions nonetheless. Many experts and weightlifting enthusiasts opine that there’s really no need of doing low bar squats if you’re not competing. The differences between the two types of squatting aren’t really that big in the first place.

Wherever you look for advice, you will get the same, mutual one: squat as you like, and it’s only up to you if you incorporate low bar squats in your workout routine or not. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading and you’ve developed a new interest in squatting correctly.