Low Bar Squat: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

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The low bar squat is one of the most effective movements in existence, being perhaps the best overall muscle and strength building exercise ever created.  

Moreover, with a little guidance, you will be able to master the low bar squat in no time at all. 

Let’s dive right into it and take a look at how to perform the low bar squat, the benefits that come from the low bar squat, the differences between the high bar squat and low bar squat, as well as some expert tips to help you progress faster.  

High Bar vs. Low Bar Squat: What’s More Effective? 

To be forthright; both the low bar squat and low bar are just as effective as each other.  

The high bar allows you to use less weight but produces more hypertrophy for the quads, while the low bar squat allows you to use more weight and puts more of an emphasis on the glutes.  

However, any differences in overall muscle development are minimal at best, and both exercises will grow strong and muscular legs.  

Of course, if you do a search for “low bar vs high bar squat reddit” you will find many people arguing that one is more effective than the other, but this simply isn’t the case. 

Taking this into consideration; you should just choose the grip that you prefer the most depending on comfort and hypertrophy emphasis.  

What’s A Low Bar Squat? 

The low bar squat is a variation where the barbell is positioned lower on the back, resting across the upper traps and rear delts.  

This placement shifts the center of gravity slightly backward, allowing for greater hip involvement and emphasizing the posterior chain muscles. 

What’s A High Bar Squat? 

In contrast, the high bar squat involves placing the barbell higher on the back, resting on the upper traps.  

This positioning keeps the bar closer to the center of gravity, resulting in a more upright torso and greater emphasis on the quadriceps. 

How to Do the High Bar Back Squat  

  1. Set the barbell on a squat rack at a height that allows you to unrack it comfortably. 
  1. Approach the bar, ensuring it is positioned evenly across your upper traps. 
  1. Step under the bar and grasp it with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Unrack the bar, take a few steps back, and position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Engage your core, keep your chest lifted, and descend into a squat by bending your hips and knees simultaneously. 
  1. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below. 
  1. Push through your heels and extend your hips and knees to return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

How to Do the Low Bar Back Squat  

  1. Set the barbell on a squat rack at a height that allows you to unrack it comfortably. 
  1. Approach the bar, positioning it across the upper back, resting on the rear delts and upper traps. 
  1. Step under the bar and create a grip that is comfortable for you, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Unrack the bar, take a few steps back, and position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Engage your core, keep your chest lifted, and descend into a squat by bending your hips and knees simultaneously. 
  1. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below. 
  1. Push through your heels and extend your hips and knees to return to the starting position. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Benefits Of A High Bar Squat 

Quadriceps Emphasis: The high bar squat places more demand on the quadriceps due to the more upright torso position, making it an effective exercise for developing strong and defined quads. 

Balance and Mobility: This squat style encourages a more balanced distribution of weight, improving overall stability and promoting greater mobility in the ankles, hips, and shoulders. 

Transferability to Olympic Lifts: The high bar squat closely mimics the positioning required in Olympic weightlifting, making it a valuable exercise for athletes who participate in these movements. 

Benefits Of A Low Bar Squat 

Greater Posterior Chain Activation: With the bar positioned lower on the back, the low bar squat targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back to a greater extent, making it an effective exercise for developing strength and power in the posterior chain. 

Enhanced Hip Involvement: The hip drive in the low bar squat allows for heavier weights to be lifted compared to the high bar squat, making it a popular choice among powerlifters and strength athletes. 

Reduced Stress on the Knees: Due to the hip-dominant movement pattern, the low bar squat often places less stress on the knees, making it suitable for individuals with knee issues. 

The Differences Between High-Bar Vs. Low-Bar Squats Explained  

The high-bar and low-bar squats differ in terms of bar placement, torso position, and muscle emphasis. High-bar squats place the bar higher on the back, prioritize quadriceps development, and require a more upright torso.  

On the other hand, low-bar squats position the bar lower on the back, engage the posterior chain more intensely, and involve a more inclined torso angle. 

The High-Bar vs. Low-Bar Back Squat — Performance Differences 

When it comes to performance differences, it’s important to consider individual goals and preferences. Here are some factors to consider: 

General Strength 

Both high-bar and low-bar squats contribute to overall strength development. High-bar squats may be more advantageous for individuals looking to target the quadriceps, while low-bar squats can provide a greater stimulus to the posterior chain.  

While the debate of high bar vs low bar squat for athletes may be highly debated, they are both great exercises that build a ton of muscle.  

Muscular Hypertrophy 

Both high-bar and low-bar squats contribute to overall strength development. High-bar squats may be more advantageous for individuals looking to target the quadriceps, while low-bar squats can provide a greater stimulus to the posterior chain. 

Which One Is Better? 

Which is Better For Strengthening Your Main Lifts?  

Determining which squat variation is better depends on individual factors, such as goals, body mechanics, and preferences.  

Some individuals may find that one variation feels more comfortable or suits their biomechanics better.  

Experimenting with both styles and observing the response of your body can help you determine which squat variation works best for you. 

When to Use High-Bar Back Squats  

Quadriceps Development: If your goal is to emphasize quadriceps strength and development, high-bar squats can be an excellent choice. The high bar squat wins when it comes to high bar vs low bar squat for hypertrophy.  

Olympic Weightlifting: High-bar squats closely mimic the positioning required in Olympic weightlifting movements, making them beneficial for athletes in those sports. 

When to Use Low Bar Back Squats 

Emphasizing the Posterior Chain: If you aim to target the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, low bar squats can be highly effective. 

Powerlifting or Strength Training: Low bar squats are commonly used by powerlifters and strength athletes to build overall strength and increase their performance in the squat, deadlift, and other compound lifts. If you searched “high bar vs low bar squat powerlifting”, the right type of squat for you is likely going to be the low bar squat.   

BENEFITS & USES 

A Brief History 

The low bar squat gained popularity in powerlifting circles, where athletes sought to maximize the use of the posterior chain muscles to lift heavier weights.  

The high bar squat, on the other hand, has been a staple in Olympic weightlifting training to improve mobility and leg strength for explosive movements. 

Max Strength 

Both high bar and low bar squats can contribute to maximal strength development. However, the low bar squat’s mechanics, which allow for greater hip involvement and posterior chain activation, often result in heavier loads being lifted. 

Hypertrophy 

For muscle hypertrophy, both squat variations can be effective. The high bar squat emphasizes quadriceps development, while the low bar squat places greater emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. 

The high bar vs low bar squat muscles worked are pretty much the same no matter which one you go with, so you should just go with the variation that you prefer.  

Equipment 

Gym Equipment 

To perform high bar and low bar squats, you will need a squat rack or power rack with adjustable safety bars. The barbell should be of appropriate weight and length to accommodate your training needs. 

Personal Equipment 

Wearing proper lifting shoes can provide stability and support during squats. Additionally, using a weightlifting belt can help with maintaining core stability and protecting the lower back. 

Technique 

Setup 

Approach the squat rack, position the bar at an appropriate height for your chosen squat variation, and ensure it is secure. 

Rack Height 

For high bar squats, the barbell should be set at about shoulder level. For low bar squats, the barbell should be positioned slightly lower, resting across the upper back and rear delts. 

Safeties Height 

Adjust the safety bars of the squat rack to a level that allows you to squat to the desired depth while providing a safety net in case you need to bail out of the lift. 

Grip 

Find a comfortable grip width on the barbell, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, to maintain control and stability during the movement. 

Placement 

Position the barbell on the upper traps for high bar squats and across the upper back and rear delts for low bar squats. 

Stance 

Set your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, ensuring your toes are pointed slightly outward to accommodate your hip mobility. 

Action 

Initiate the squat by bending at the hips and knees simultaneously. Maintain a braced core, chest lifted, and torso aligned throughout the movement. 

Exiting the Rack 

Take a step back to clear the rack, ensuring you have ample space to perform the squat. 

Descending into the Squat 

Lower your body by bending your hips and knees, keeping your weight centered and distributed evenly throughout your feet. 

Reaching the Bottom 

Descend until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below, maintaining good form and control. 

Ascending to the Top 

Push through your heels, extending your hips and knees simultaneously to return to the starting position. 

Returning to the Rack 

Walk forward and rack the barbell securely onto the squat rack once you have completed the desired number of repetitions. 

General Strength Programs 

Beginner Program 

For beginners, starting with a program that incorporates both high bar and low bar squats can provide a balanced approach to strength development.  

A typical beginner program may involve squatting two to three times per week, gradually increasing the weight over time. 

Intermediate Program 

As you progress, an intermediate program can introduce more specific training techniques, such as periodization, to focus on different aspects of strength. This may include alternating between high bar and low bar squats during different phases of the program. 

Advanced Program 

Advanced lifters may benefit from more individualized programming that considers specific weaknesses and goals. A knowledgeable coach or strength professional can design an advanced program tailored to your needs. 

Squat Focused Programs 

These programs typically involve higher training volume and intensity to promote significant strength gains. 

Smolov/Smolov Jr. 

For those looking to specialize in squat strength, squat-focused programs like Smolov or Smolov Jr. can be utilized. 

20 Rep Squats 

As a way to challenge your muscles in different ways, incorporating 20 rep squats could be the extra edge you need to continue to grow.  

Variations 

Band Assisted Low Bar Squats 

Using resistance bands attached to the barbell and anchored to the squat rack can help provide assistance during the ascent, making the movement more manageable for beginners or individuals recovering from injury. 

Band Resisted Low Bar Squats 

Attaching resistance bands to the barbell and anchoring them to the floor or a stable point can increase the resistance throughout the movement, challenging the lifter during the ascent. 

Chain Resisted Low Bar Squats 

Adding chains to the barbell during low bar squats increases the load as the chains are lifted off the ground, making the exercise more challenging at the top portion of the movement. 

Chain Suspended low Bar Squats 

Suspending chains from the barbell and letting them hang freely during low bar squats changes the resistance profile, making the exercise more demanding at different points throughout the movement. 

Paused Low Bar Squats 

In paused low bar squats, the lifter holds the bottom position of the squat for a specified duration before ascending. This variation helps develop strength out of the hole and improves overall squat control. 

Low Bar Box Squats 

Performing low bar squats onto a box or bench helps establish consistent depth and reinforces proper hip hinge mechanics, making it a useful variation for powerlifters and individuals looking to develop explosiveness from the bottom position. 

ACCESSORY WORK 

Accessory work for squats can target specific muscle groups and address potential weaknesses. Some effective exercises include: 

Front squats: Develop quad and core strength, improve posture, and reinforce an upright torso position. 

Bulgarian split squats: Enhance single-leg strength, stability, and address muscular imbalances. 

Romanian deadlifts: Strengthen the posterior chain and improve hip hinge mechanics. 

Hip thrusts: Target the glutes and hamstrings, enhancing overall hip strength and power. 

Leg press: Isolate the quads and glutes, providing additional stimulus to these muscle groups. 

Why Low Bar Squats Hurt Your ________ 

Knees 

One of the common concerns when it comes to low bar squats is their potential impact on the knees.  

While squats, in general, can be demanding on the knees, the low bar variation may place additional stress on this joint if not performed with proper form and technique.  

The positioning of the barbell lower on your back during a low bar squat alters the biomechanics and can lead to increased stress on the knees. 

To mitigate the risk of knee discomfort or injury during low bar squats, it’s crucial to focus on maintaining proper alignment throughout the movement.  

Ensure that your knees are tracking in line with your toes and avoid excessive inward or outward movement.  

Additionally, maintaining a controlled descent and utilizing appropriate footwear with adequate support can also help reduce the strain on your knees. 

Low Back 

Another area that can be susceptible to discomfort during low bar squats is the low back.  

The unique barbell placement in the low bar squat shifts the center of gravity and places greater emphasis on the posterior chain, including the lower back muscles.  

If performed incorrectly or with poor spinal alignment, it can lead to strain or even injury in this area. 

To alleviate the risk of low back pain during low bar squats, it’s crucial to prioritize maintaining a neutral spine throughout the entire movement.  

Engage your core muscles to provide stability and support to your lower back. It can also be beneficial to focus on gradually increasing the weight you lift, allowing your back muscles to adapt and strengthen over time.  

If you experience persistent low back pain, it’s advisable to consult with a qualified professional to assess your form and provide tailored recommendations. 

Wrists 

The bar placement in low bar squats may create discomfort or pressure on the wrists, especially for individuals with limited wrist mobility.  

Unlike high bar squats where the barbell rests on the upper traps, the low bar position requires a grip that places the wrists in extension, which can be challenging for some lifters. 

To learn how to low bar squat without wrist pain, consider experimenting with different grip variations to find the one that works best for you.  

Some individuals find relief by using wrist wraps or adopting a thumbless grip, while others benefit from increasing wrist flexibility through targeted stretching exercises. 

Additionally, ensuring proper bar placement on your back can help alleviate unnecessary pressure on the wrists. 

Shoulders 

While the low bar squat shifts the barbell’s position away from the shoulders, it doesn’t mean the shoulders are completely unaffected. 

Achieving proper shoulder mobility and stability is essential for maintaining a solid foundation and executing the movement with control. 

To minimize shoulder discomfort during low bar squats, pay attention to your shoulder positioning.  

Keep your shoulder blades retracted and depressed, creating a stable shelf for the barbell to rest on.  

Focus on maintaining tension throughout your upper back and shoulders throughout the entire squat.  

If you find it challenging to maintain proper shoulder position, incorporating shoulder mobility exercises and stretches into your warm-up routine can be beneficial. 

Hips 

The low bar squat can also place a significant demand on hip mobility and flexibility. To perform the movement effectively, it’s essential to have adequate hip range of motion to achieve proper depth and maintain proper form. 

If you experience discomfort in your hips during low bar squats, consider incorporating hip mobility exercises into your warm-up routine.  

Exercises like hip circles, hip flexor stretches, and dynamic warm-up movements can help improve hip mobility and reduce discomfort during the squat.  

Gradually working on increasing your range of motion and focusing on proper form will contribute to a more comfortable and effective low bar squat. 

How to Program Each Squat 

When programming high bar and low bar squats, it’s important to consider your goals, current strength level, and recovery capacity. Here are a few general guidelines: 

  • Incorporate both high bar and low bar squats within your training cycle to provide variety and target different muscle groups. 
  • Adjust the volume, intensity, and frequency based on your experience level and recovery abilities. 
  • Consider periodization principles, such as varying the sets, reps, and load to continually challenge your body and promote progress. 
  • Gradually increase the weight over time while maintaining good form and technique. 
  • Listen to your body and make adjustments as necessary to avoid overtraining or injury. 

The Bottom Line 

High bar and low bar squats are both valuable exercises for building strength and developing lower body muscle mass. Each variation offers unique benefits and emphasizes different muscle groups.  

Experimenting with both styles, finding the right high bar vs low bar squat ratio for you, seeking guidance from professionals, and paying attention to your body’s response will help you determine the squat variation that best aligns with your goals and individual needs.  

Remember, proper technique, gradual progression, and listening to your body are key to maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risk of injury. 

Low Bar Squat – FAQs 


What Is Low Bar Squat Good For? 

The low bar squat is good for increasing muscle mass and strength. 

Compared to the high bar squat, it allows you to lift more weight and progress quicker.  

Is It Easier To Do A Low Bar Squat? 

Yes, it is easier to do a low back squat. 

Most people find the position more comfortable than the high bar squat.  

Why Is Low Bar Squat So Hard? 

The low bar squat is so hard because it recruits muscle groups from all over the body, including the glutes and quads (two of the biggest muscle groups). 

This makes low bar squats incredibly taxing.  

What Is Low Bar Squat Vs Normal? 

The “normal” or most commonly performed squat is the high bar squat, which has the barbell placed at the top of the traps.  

The low bar squat has the barbell resting closer to the shoulder blades lower down on the back.  

We hope we have been able to give you a better insight into the low bar squat! 

If you master the low bar squat, you will be well on your way to developing a muscular and strong physique.  

For more advice on the low bar squat, don’t hesitate to check out what else we have to offer here at MovingForwards

See you next time.