High Bar vs. Low Bar Squat

High Bar vs. Low Bar Squat

The Squat is the most fundamental and intense lift you can perform. It is a punishingly effective, compound movement because it works virtually every major muscle in your body, bolsters your overall strength levels and skyrockets your anabolic hormones!

The two main barbell variations are the high bar and the low bar methods. The difference being where the bar is positioned on your back, so let's explore both and determine the differences.

The High Bar Squat

Being likely the safest of the two variations, the bar is plahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTp1EdtKxhA&t=28sced at the top of your traps. Placing the bar here enables you to maintain a straighter spine angle with greater quad activation and knee flexion. This equates to less stress on your low back. A more narrow stance is need to accommodate this lift with the overall movement similar to a front squat 

The bar resting higher on your traps will also be easier on your shoulders. So those who lack shoulder mobility might want to experiment with a higher bar placement.

The Low Bar Squat

The low bar places greater emphasis on the posterior chain and requires less range of motion. The bar is placed across the middle of your shoulders. This naturally causes your torso to hinge forward during the lift leading to more stress on the low back and glutes. Don't immediately assume stress on the low back is all bad. This means the spinal erectors are fully activated during the lift to aid in maining a tight, neutral spine.

Due to the mechanics of the lift, most people can lift roughly 10% more with the low bar squat. This is mostly because there’s less distance between the bar and the floor and due to biomechanical differences.

Also, because of the forward position of the torso and the subsequent perpendicular positioning of shins; the low bar squat is a better option for those with stiff ankles.


Experiment with different foot, hand and bar positions. All these variables play into ultimately how you squat.

Both movements are solid options. Low-bar squats hit the posterior chain a little harder, where the high bar squat is more quad dominant. You will probably find the perfect squat for you is somewhere in the middle.

Shaner, A. A., Vingren, J. L., Hatfield, D. L., Budnar Jr, R. G., Duplanty, A. A., & Hill, D. W. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), 1032-1040.
Glassbrook, D. J., Brown, S. R., Helms, E. R., Duncan, S., & Storey, A. G. (2019). The high-bar and low-bar back-squats: A biomechanical analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 33, S1-S18.
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