High vs Low Bar Squat

There are two types of people in the world. High and low bar squatters. Note that we are talking about a back squat or a squat with the bar placed across our back. Each has benefits and draw backs but which is better? Let’s take a look.

High Bar

A high bar squat is a squat in which the bar is placed higher on the back. The bar is placed across the uppermost portion of the traps, basically right at shoulder level. “It (the movement) is initiated with a slight movement backward of the hips. At this point the hips and shoulder begin to descend at the same rate. This causes this type of squat to work mostly on the muscles of the quads and glutes. Also the hamstrings and lower back are worked out to a lower degree.” This type of squat is better for taller individuals and those with a lower degree of shoulder mobility.

Low Bar

Photo Credit: Cindy Koops @cindykoops_

Photo Credit: Cindy Koops @cindykoops_

A low bar squat is placed lower on the back in line with the posterior shoulder and lower on the traps. “The movement is initiated with a movement of the hips as well. Except when descending the shoulders will begin to move slightly faster than the hips. This will cause the shoulders to move forward. This in turn causes your center of gravity to move forward and more pressure is shifted towards the hamstrings and lower back.” In other words, there is more of a lean forward. Those who are shorter and have good shoulder mobility can take advantage of this and find success.

Both positions have their advantages and disadvantages. Where you put the bar is less important than how you move. Make sure you can perform a squat correctly before even putting a bar on your back. Finding what’s most comfortable for you is best. Try both and make a decision.

Author: Sean Willitts is an ACE certified personal trainer. He graduated from Kutztown University in 2015 with a bachelor’s is sport management and a minor in fitness. Including training at Body Elite, he is also a record holding powerlifter. He uses his practical experience and knowledge to help his clients achieve their strength and fitness goals.