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High vs. Low Bar Squatting


The squat is arguably the most revered exercise done in the weight room. No other movement quite forces you to work as hard. But no other feels quite as rewarding either when you are able to pull off a complete set. The squat works the part of your body that the world cannot see – your quads. And this is why it is a staple in only those who have developed a passion for weight training. Information online abounds about the squat with most of them offering insight on how to execute the movement correctly. One of the areas that spark most interest and discussion is that of the high vs. low bar squat.

The Art of the Squat

The how-to’s of squatting are greatly detailed online. Words paint vivid pictures of how to execute the movement while illustrations and video give a more direct approach. Your legs should be shoulder width apart, your heels firmly planted on the ground. This is the basic of it. Others say that your knees should not extend past your toes when you dip but that is a variable, and a very subjective one. Where should the bar sit on your back?

High bar squat. If it's too heavy, use a knee sleeves.
High bar squat. If it’s too heavy, use a knee sleeves.

The high bar squat movement requires that the bar sits on your trapezius. When you squeeze the muscle, they offer a cushiony place for the bar to rest on. The low bar squat however, needs you to lower the bar a little bit, just under the traps and rear deltoids. The typical squatting fashion is the high bar as its mechanics are much easier.

Low bar squat. Use a knee wrap if it's too heavy.
Low bar squat. Use a knee wrap if it’s too heavy.

The low bar squat needs a wider stance. Legs are spread much further apart and the degree of the torso lean forward is steeper. This kind of lift is used by power lifters. While it limits the depth of the squat, it does allow more weight to be moved. This is reason why bodybuilders use it. It enables them go past their perceived max, which, in theory, should increase their gains. It shifts the leverage to the hips and allows a more stable stance.

Which Squat is for you?

There is no one right answer. The right squat for you depends on what your end goals are. The high bar squat, which is the Olympic squat, remains the standard. It mirrors what your natural squatting position is, and is the most ideal for those looking to be fit. The mechanics of this squat are less complicated, and while you can’t move your maximum weight with it, it is in many ways more effective. But if you want to test your limits and move big weights the low bar is the better one.

There is however, no wrong way to squat. There are a lot of guides there, but none are so strict that they are absolute. As long as you understand the mechanics of the type of squat you are doing, and are certain that it won’t predispose to injury, then you can indulge as many types of squats as you can.

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