As you already know, the squat is one of the most common and helpful compound lifts which utilize more than 1 joint. When doing this movement, you’re likely to focus on important things such as our back, hips, knees, and ankles, right? But really, have you ever thought about the bar position? Believe me, what you do with the bar is just as important as what you do with your body. So, high-bar vs low-bar squats, which one is your best choice? If you don’t what to do with the bar, just scroll down and read.
Click to View Post Navigation
What Are High-Bar And Low-Bar Squats?
Whether or not it is a high-bar squat or low-bar squat depends on the placement of the barbell on your back. In details, a standard high bar position places the bar right on top of our traps. With the low-bar version, we place the bar lower, and usually, it rests on our rear deltoids. Now, you may think that it is no big deal, however, it does drastically affect your joints, muscles involved and entire squat position.
Remember that no matter how you squat, you have to make sure you’re keeping the bar over the center of your foot during the movement. This way you can stay balanced even when you’re lifting heavy weights. Also, to protect your spine, you should wear a weight lifting belt. It will help you a lot and prevent you from injuries.
With that said, if it is the high-bar squat, this will automatically put the bar over the center of your foot. Therefore, this bar position forces you to squat with your butt straight down and knees forward.
With the low-bar position, the bar will be put behind the center of your foot if you stand straight. In order to stay balanced, you will have to lean your chest and shoulders slightly forward and sit your butt back at the same time.
High-Bar Vs Low Bar Squats
As mentioned before, the high-bar squat helps you prevent lower back injuries. Why? Remember that your hips will stay under the barbell, which means there is no torque on your lower back. That’s why it helps prevent lumbar spine injuries which are very dangerous for any lifter. Besides, the high-bar squat is helpful for exercises requiring vertical torso such as the front-squat, overhead press, and even snatch/ clean (Olympic lifts).
Another thing I like about the high-bar squat is that it involves a great range of motion. The more range of motion, the more muscle soreness. And in case you don’t know, the more muscle soreness, the more muscle growth. Hence, this squat style is beneficial for over leg development.
I’m pretty sure that this is one of the most common problems when it comes to squats, especially for beginners. That is the requirement of ankle mobility. For me, when I first started squatting, I was quite difficult for you to go all the way down.
In fact, pushing the knees forward requires your ankles to be very mobile. That’s the reason why some lifters with poor ankle mobility have difficulties maintaining balance and reaching depth during the high-bar squat. My advice is that if you’ve just started squatting high-bar, just put on knee sleeves or wraps for knee support.
The Low-Bar Squat
It is obvious that the low-bar squat recruits more muscles than the other. That’s why we can lift much heavier when compared to the high-bar style. In short, the more muscle you’re using, the more muscle you’re developing.
Additionally, the low-bar squat puts a great amount of stress on your posterior chain. When doing a low-bar squat, you have to shoot your hips back, thus, lengthening the hamstring. This will help you build stronger hamstrings and at the same time, prevent you from knee injuries.
Have you ever experienced any problems when you’re squatting high-bar and the bar keeps rolling onto your neck? For me, that is a terrible feeling and you can’t squat heavy comfortably at all. However, with the bar low on your back, it will be more stable.
Furthermore, unlike the high-bar squat, the low-bar version requires less ankle mobility. For anyone with tight ankles, this exercise is very beneficial.
Unlike the high-bar squat, this style neglects your quadriceps. This is because when you lower the weights, you don’t push your knees forward while sitting your hips back. However, this can be fixed if you squat ass-to-grass but it’s not very common.
I don’t know about you but for me, the low-bar squat is no different than the conventional deadlift. As you can see, they both recruit the hamstrings, lower back, and the entire posterior chain. Thus, if you do both low-bar squats and deadlift regularly, then I’m afraid that you’re repeating the same pattern all the time.
The Bottom Line
Now, let’s get back to the question at the beginning: High- bar vs low-bar squats to find out which is the winner? Well, as you can see, each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages. If you look at the big picture, none of them is better than the other. So, which one is suitable for you?
For those who want to be better at the Olympic lifts such as the snatch, clean and jerk, the high-bar squat is their best choice. These people need to practice deep high-bar squats with a vertical upper body since that is the position they practice Olympic lifts.
For people who are interested in Powerlifting, it is important to try to lift as much weight as possible. Therefore, the low-bar squat is better as it allows you to lift more weight than the high-bar style.
Anyway, if you are a person who just lifts for health and fitness purposes, my advice is to squat high-bar. This is because it is the most natural and purest form of squats. To be honest, it is also more challenging and is that what your training all about?-challenging yourself and pushing yourself to limit
Just put the bar on your trap, sit your butt all the way down with chest and head up, and stand straight up. Sounds simple, huh? However, that’s my personal opinion, so if you have poor ankle mobility or anything difficult like that, it’s fine to choose the other.