Low-Bar vs. Excessive-Bar Squats: What is the Greatest Decrease-Physique Builder for You?

Squats are most likely the primary train an individual ever performs — merely standing up from the bottom. That is doubtless why squats are sometimes dubbed because the king of workouts. Certainly, they’re top-of-the-line, if not the greatest workouts to develop decrease physique dimension, power, and energy whereas making you a universally stronger athlete with a core of metal. 

Ivan Kochergin / Shutterstoc

When lifters speak about squats, they’re typically referring to the barbell back squat, though there are lots of alternative ways to carry out “a squat.” However there are even two main varieties of again squats — the low-bar squat and the high-bar squat. Within the high-bar squat, the barbell is resting in your higher traps, whereas the low-bar place nestles the bar throughout your posterior deltoids and even decrease in some excessive circumstances.

Regardless that the 2 workouts would possibly look comparable from a distance, they’ve their very own advantages and one or the opposite would possibly higher fit your particular objectives. To determine which squat setup is greatest for you, let’s evaluate them.

Low-Bar Squat and Excessive-Bar Squat

Train Variations

At first look, there are just a few inches of distinction in bar placement. Absolutely that may’t make a dramatic distinction, can it? It may possibly. Right here’s how every squat greatest serves a unique goal.

Power Potential

Setting the barbell in a decrease place decreases the second arm between the bar and your hips. As such, you should use heavier hundreds with the low-bar squat. The lever is shorter, which suggests the identical quantity of pressure generated by your hips and again muscle mass, you’ll be able to transfer extra weight.

muscular person performing barbell squat
Credit score: Dragon Photos / Shutterstock

Your core can be extra compact and resilient, and your higher again is stronger in a low-bar place. You face much less danger of bending ahead or having your higher again collapse with the low-bar squat.

That is why this variation is favored by powerlifters and most power athletes. A few of them even put the barbell as low on their again as it may be with out sliding down — to lower the second arm as a lot as doable, enhance their leverage, and carry as a lot weight as doable. If you happen to’re involved with lifting as a lot weight as doable, then it is best to most likely make the low-bar squat your main alternative. (1)

Muscle Recruitment

One consequence of getting the barbell decrease is that you need to undertake a extra forward-leaning torso place. This will increase your hip angle and, the larger it’s, the extra you’ll recruit your hip muscle mass: glutes, decrease again, and hamstrings.

Then again, with the high-bar squat, you’ll be able to preserve a extra upright posture, but it surely will increase knee flexion. You’ll put extra stress in your quadriceps and it will likely be simpler to really feel them working. You additionally goal the abs extra as a result of they’re extra strongly recruited in an upright place.

This makes the low-bar squat extra of a “posterior chain”-dominant motion (emphasizing your glutes, decrease again, and hamstrings) whereas the high-bar squat additionally recruits your “anterior chain” (emphasizing your quadriceps and abdominals).

That is why the high-bar squat is the extra widespread alternative for bodybuilders and physique-focused lifters.The train fits these concerned about building more muscular legs, significantly the comparatively bigger quadriceps.

Go together with the high-bar squat if you wish to emphasize your quads, however use low-bar squats for those who’re extra involved with concentrating on your glutes and hamstrings.

Method and Mobility

It may be tough to search out your ”groove” and adapt to low-bar squatting. It’s important to discover your individual perfect torso angle, determine an optimum barbell place, decide how a lot to sit down again, and so on. And that is emphasised as a result of mobility necessities in your shoulders and hips will dictate the bounds of your kind.

Certainly, the barbell place in a low-bar squat requires a great deal of shoulder mobility to carry the bar in place, in addition to exterior rotation and wrist stability. Low-bar squats are infamous for placing a comparatively excessive diploma of stress in your wrists and shoulders. That is why some powerlifters put on wrist wraps when squatting, or keep away from the low-bar squat to avoid wasting shoulder pressure for his or her bench press.

When you have no mobility points or outdated accidents nagging you, you’re good to go. However for those who’re a battered fitness center veteran, or in case your shoulders and elbows are tender, follow the high-bar squat — not less than till the ache and points are gone and you’ve got developed satisfactory mobility to squat pain-free.

Train Similarities

With each workouts being squats, they do share many similarities and overlapping advantages.

Bilateral Growth

Each varieties of squats are multi-joint leg exercises that contain hip, knee, and ankle joints to work many muscle teams together with the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and even your again and core. (2) Squats will primarily develop your legs, however they’ll really contribute to creating your complete physique greater and stronger. (3)

As a result of these squats work each decrease physique limbs on the similar time, you’re extra secure, and might generate extra power, carry extra weight, and probably stimulate extra hypertrophy. In addition they assist save time because you don’t have to modify legs with each set you carry out.

Posterior Loading

In comparison with different squats variations, each the low-bar and the high-bar squat are again squats, which means that the loading is targeted in your posterior chain as a result of the bar is resting in your higher again muscle mass. This isn’t the case, as an example, with the Zercher squat or front squat which load the entrance half of your physique and emphasize your anterior chain.

As such, each the low-bar squat and high-bar squat have the potential to load comparatively heavy weight and they’re efficient for building strength. In comparison with front-loaded squat actions, your torso is much less upright and also you bear extra hip flexion and fewer knee flexion.

Shirtless muscular person in gym doing barbell squat
Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

The back-focused bar place, whether or not it’s low-bar or high-bar, implies extra recruitment within the posterior chain — hamstring, glutes, and decrease again — and fewer recruitment within the anterior chain — quadriceps and abs. (4) If you happen to’re concerned about creating your posterior chain and lifting loads of weight, then one in every of these again squat variations are your go-to.

Easy methods to Do the Low-Bar Squat

With the low-bar squat, the barbell shouldn’t be positioned on the traps. Get underneath a barbell and place it even decrease, in your posterior deltoid (the rear of your shoulders) above the highest of your armpits. Squeeze your shoulder blades as a lot as doable to create a “shelf” wanted to carry the barbell in place. Bend ahead barely on the waist to stop the bar from shifting round or presumably falling.

As soon as the barbell is safe, step again and undertake a shoulder-width (or barely wider) stance. Bend at your hips and knees till your thighs break parallel with the ground. Goal to maintain the barbell over your midfoot always. This retains you in a robust place of leverage.. Push again up till your legs are straight.

Type tip: To assist create the cushion of arm, shoulder, and higher again muscle mass crucial to carry the barbell in place, deliver your arms barely nearer. This can enable you to squeeze your shoulder blades much more. It would show uncomfortable at first, so be certain that to correctly warm-up your shoulders and again earlier than low-bar squatting.

Advantages of the Low-Bar Squat

  • The low-bar squat places you ready to carry essentially the most weight of any squat variation. That is the one you wish to prioritize if you wish to compete in power sports activities like powerlifting or strongman/strongwoman contests, or for those who’re merely concerned about lifting actually heavy weights for enjoyable.
  • Low-bar squats ship extra posterior chain recruitment. Your glutes, hamstrings, and decrease again shall be activated greater than with different squat variations.

Low-Bar Squat Variations

If you wish to give your shoulders a break, or wish to assault the squat from one other angle, listed here are some variations you would possibly wish to strive.

Security Bar Squat

When you have entry to a security bar, it may be a superb piece of fitness center gear. Its principal goal is to make the train much less hectic in your shoulders, elbows, and neck. In abstract, it’s a really accessible squat for individuals who have joint mobility points. You may mimic the low-bar squat torso angle and normal method, whereas sitting again farther and bending ahead with much less bother.

The protection bar squat additionally has the advantages of overloading your traps, higher again, and abs. (5) If the low-bar squat irritates your shoulders or if you wish to enhance your higher again power, give this variation a go. 

Field Squat

Technically, you possibly can do field squats with a high-bar place, however the general mechanics and goal of field squats are higher suited with the low-bar place. For this variation, you employ a field or a bench, sit again, and squat down. Pause for a second on the bench or field, then contract your glutes and hamstrings to blow up upwards. Don’t enable your self to crash down uncontrolled onto the field.

This motion is a favourite amongst powerlifters as a result of it’s an effective way to show correct squatting mechanics and constant depth. The field squat additionally recruits your posterior chain extra effectively and teaches you to enhance explosive energy out of the underside place.

Easy methods to Do the Excessive-Bar Squat

Place your self in entrance of a barbell in a rack, then duck underneath and place the bar to sit down within the “shelf” of your higher again and traps. Do not relaxation the bar in your neck or cervical backbone. When you could have a considerably snug place, grip the bar tightly and unrack it.

Take one step again, then one other small step to regulate your place. Your ft ought to be round shoulder-width, however your actual stance will fluctuate barely relying in your individual morphology. When you have longer legs, you might be extra snug with a barely wider stance.

Take a deep breath and brace your core. Bend your knees and hips concurrently till the crease of your hips is decrease than your knees. Rise up with the load, exhaling as you move the midpoint of the repetition.

Type tip: Ensure that your huge toes, little toes, and heels are at all times in touch with the bottom. It is going to enable you to interact your glutes and will stop bending ahead in the course of the ascent.

Advantages of the Excessive Bar Squat

  • This is likely one of the greatest workouts to develop muscle all through your decrease physique, particularly your quadriceps. The highly effective stimulus of this total-body train is an unbelievable set off for general dimension and power.
  • Excessive-bar squats are a comparatively easy and beginner-friendly barbell squatting variation.
  • This motion will put comparatively low stress in your joints, significantly sparing your hips from extreme pressure.

Excessive-Bar Squat Variations

If you wish to take issues to the subsequent degree and transcend the standard high-bar squat, strive these variations. Every has its personal advantages and may very well be a greater swimsuit in your coaching purpose when you grasp the preliminary train. 

Smith Machine Squat

The Smith machine has the benefit of being extra secure for the reason that bar is on a guided rail. As such, this variation would require much less stability and coordination, and you’ll push your self tougher with decreased danger of damage (from dropping the bar of fatiguing your core and higher physique). This can be a helpful variation if you wish to flip up the depth and method or attain muscular failure.

It additionally permits you to deal with the mind-muscle connection and actually really feel your legs working. This is a perfect train for those who prioritize hypertrophy or general security above power and heavy weights.

Entrance Squat

With the high-bar squat, you’re standing fairly upright, however the entrance squat takes issues to the subsequent degree by demanding super-strict kind — for those who bend ahead, the bar will roll away. This can be a helpful train for instructing good normal squat mechanics. The entrance squat additionally prevents the lifter from bending too far ahead, which might flip the squat right into a lower-back targeted good morning train.

The front-loaded place of the entrance squat may even emphasize your quadriceps and core much more than different squat variations. It’s a chief alternative to spice up your Olympic lifts and has direct carryover to the clean & jerk. Nonetheless, a correct entrance squat requires a level of thoracic (higher again), shoulder, and wrist mobility, so it is probably not a direct choice for all lifters with out doing a little mobility work. Select the entrance squat if you wish to develop your quadriceps as a lot as doable, enhance your core power, or assist your Olympic lifts.

Easy methods to Program the Greatest Squat For You

Each of those lifts are bilateral multi-joint workouts, recruiting a ton of muscle mass. As such, they are often an efficient slot in many coaching packages for quite a lot of functions.

Constructing Power

To get as sturdy as doable, your greatest wager is to make use of three to 5 units of 1 to 5 repetitions with a heavy weight. Each variations are suited to this type of programming. Which one you utilize will rely in your objectives. If you happen to’re a powerlifter or a strongman/strongwoman, follow the low-bar squat, as it’s the one with which you carry essentially the most general weight.

If you happen to’re an Olympic weightlifter or a CrossFitter, the high-bar squat shall be your variation of alternative, because it has extra carryover to the Olympic lifts and the actions you’ll discover in competitors. If you happen to’re a normal gym-goer, decide the variation that feels most pure.

Rising Muscle

For maximal muscle development, use a traditional repetition scheme of three to 4 units of eight to 12 repetitions. The decrease rep vary will ship a reasonably heavy stress on the physique, whereas the longer period units create a burning sensation for muscle development.

In case your purpose is to construct muscle, both squat setup may very well be helpful, however most skilled bodybuilders and physique-focused lifters stick to the high-bar squat. Why? They’re not involved with placing the most important weights on the bar, however with getting the most important muscle mass.

The high-bar squat will goal your quadriceps, that are among the many largest muscle mass on the human physique. Excessive-bar squats additionally put comparatively much less stress in your shoulders and elbows, which typically take a beating from numerous presses, extensions, and diverse higher physique coaching.

Explosive Energy

If you happen to’re an athlete attempting to run quicker or soar larger, it’s a good suggestion so as to add some explosive, power-based squats to your coaching routine. 5 to 10 units of two to 5 reps, utilizing a reasonably heavy weight you could nonetheless speed up, shall be your greatest wager. Persist with the high-bar squat. The final method and muscle recruitment can have essentially the most carryover to enhancing leaping and operating.

Don’t Finish Up With Diddly Squat

Squats are dubbed the king of workouts for a purpose. Don’t miss out on again squats. Use the bar place greatest suited to your physique and objectives, whether or not you wish to construct a powerful set of wheels, carry a pile of weight, change into a greater athlete, or enhance your general health.


  1. Glassbrook, Daniel J.1; Brown, Scott R.1; Helms, Eric R.1; Duncan, Scott1; Storey, Adam G.1,2. The Excessive-Bar and Low-Bar Again-Squats: A Biomechanical Evaluation. Journal of Power and Conditioning Analysis 33():p S1-S18, July 2019. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001836
  2. Ribeiro, Alex S. PhD1,2; Santos, Erick D. MSc1,2; Nunes, João Pedro MSc2; Nascimento, Matheus A. PhD2,3; Graça, Ágatha MSc3; Bezerra, Ewertton S. PhD4; Mayhew, Jerry L. PhD5. A Temporary Evaluate on the Results of the Squat Train on Decrease-Limb Muscle Hypertrophy. Power and Conditioning Journal 45(1):p 58-66, February 2023. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000709
  3. Myer GD, Kushner AM, Brent JL, Schoenfeld BJ, Hugentobler J, Lloyd RS, Vermeil A, Chu DA, Harbin J, McGill SM. The again squat: A proposed evaluation of purposeful deficits and technical components that restrict efficiency. Power Cond J. 2014 Dec 1;36(6):4-27. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000103. PMID: 25506270; PMCID: PMC4262933.
  4. Yavuz HU, Erdağ D, Amca AM, Aritan S. Kinematic and EMG actions throughout back and front squat variations in most hundreds. J Sports activities Sci. 2015;33(10):1058-66. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2014.984240. Epub 2015 Jan 29. PMID: 25630691.
  5. Hecker KA, Carlson LA, Lawrence MA. Results of the Security Squat Bar on Trunk and Decrease-Physique Mechanics Throughout a Again Squat. J Power Cond Res. 2019 Jul;33 Suppl 1:S45-S51. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002912. PMID: 30363042.

Featured Picture: Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock

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