High bar/low bar back squats

This was originally intended to be a small blurb on the WOD page as to why we are specifying the low bar back squat in the programming.  It got a bit out of hand so this was given it’s own post.  Read on for details that lead to the conclusion of “it depends.”

high low bar squats

You may recognize this photo from the wall in front of one of our lifting platforms. From left to right, it shows the bar potions and effect on the body of the front squat, high bar back squat, and low bar back squat.

The low bar back squat is a squat variation in which the bar is placed lower on the back (as the name would suggest) and is typically accompanied by a slightly wider stance and a forward inclination of the torso.  This type of squat puts more emphasis on the posterior chain and is typically the type of squat you will see from a Powerlifter (someone who competes in the squat, bench press and deadlift).

On the other hand, Olympic Weightlifters (folks who compete in the snatch and clean and jerk) and many non-barbell athletes tend to be proponents of the high bar back squat.  The bar is placed higher up, the feet are usually under the shoulders and an upright torso is the goal.  More of the load is placed directly on the quads when the squat is performed this way.

The high bar/low bar argument is a heated one that will probably rage on for the foreseeable future.  Low bar’ers usually claim that the low bar position will lead to a higher back squat to parallel one rep max, and this can certainly be true.  High bar’ers tend to argue that the high bar position translates to a better front squat, and clean, and snatch, and vertical leap, etc. where the low bar squat only leads to a better low bar squat.

There is so much information and opinion out there on this topic that you could read for hours and end up more confused than when you started.  In the end, each variation is just a means to an end.  Both methods have their merit and can be beneficial when used correctly.  If you’re specializing in one sport or the other than it should be clear which variation you should stick to.  I, personally, will end on an exerpt from this 70’s Big article.  When asked “which method should I use?”

It doesn’t fucking matter. Seriously.

…just pick one and do it at least twice a week.

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