High Bar Squat vs. Low Bar Squat

Squat Demonstration Video



The squat is one of the most beneficial movements for the body. The squat can be used to predict athletic performance, identify faults, and assess overall flexibility. Simply moving the barbell on the back can change the stimulus of the squat. The dynamics will change and there is a purpose and reason for it.

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  • High Bar Back Squat: The bar is placed on the trap/neck muscles which is known as the high bar position. Emphasized muscle activation will include the spinal erectors (along spine) and the quadriceps (quads). This technique is extremely popular in Olympic weight lifting and some performance sports. A higher amount of flexibility is required especially in the ankles. It’s highly functional and transfers well into other exercises such as the front squat.
  • Low Bar Back Squat: In this position the bar is lower than the upper trap muscles. The movement will load the hamstrings considerably more than the high bar position. As the lifter descends into the squat the torso tends to fall forward. This style is popular in the world of powerlifting. Someone who has poor flexibility can highly benefit from this technique.

Which is better?

This all depends on the individual’s body structure and goals. If the goal is to lift the most weight possible, then the low bar tends to be the favorite. However, the high bar is highly functional and translates well into many CrossFit movements. During both movements the bar should be directly over the mid foot at the bottom of the squat. A strong high bar back squat will yield greater strength gains in many complex movements. Increased functionality, and the comfort of the high bar back squat is the reason it is my favorite.

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If you want a more structured program, visit our web page and take a look at our tracks for the Maddox Method.

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