Low Bar vs. High Bar Back Squat

Page:  1 Next »
Print


We can all agree that having good squat fundamentals and building strength through back squatting is crucial, whether CrossFit is your primary sport or not. If you are an athlete, you better be squatting.

That being said, not everyone agrees about the low bar back squat vs. the high bar back squat. There are — not surprisingly — advantages and disadvantages to both, and some athletes train both movements. For the same reasons that it is important to understand the difference between American and Russian kettle bell swings, or strict vs. kipping pull-ups, so too should you have knowledge of both kinds of back squats so you can train according to your needs.

Here we bring you two thoughtful perspectives from athletes who have trained both the low bar and high bar back squat and discuss the efficacy of each style.

Low Bar vs. High Bar: The Difference in Muscular Recruitment

Justin Lascek of 70′s big describes the differences in muscular recruitment between the low bar and high bar back squat, the former placing higher demands on the hamstrings and posterior chain.

The high bar squat: the descent occurs, the knees flex acutely at the bottom in the hole, the ascent begins with zero hamstring tension due to knee flexion, as the knee angle opens the hamstrings can receive tension, and there is hamstring tension during the ascent.
The positioning of the bar will dictate what mechanics must be used to maintain lifting efficiency. The mechanics will dictate what musculature is used. Succinctly, more vertical squat techniques use the quads and glutes as the primary movers while the low bar puts a premium on the posterior chain (particularly the hamstrings) for hip drive. The low bar squat also has a balanced anterior/posterior force at the knee because the focus on the hamstring contraction pulls back on the knee. In contrast, the high bar has more of an anterior stress since the quads are the primary movers and attach at the front of the knee at the patella. There is some quadricep involvement in the low bar squat, but not nearly as much as the high bar squat. There is a little hamstring involvement in the high bar, but not nearly as much as the low bar squat.

The forward knee placement in the front and high bar squats result in an acute knee angle. An acute knee angle means that the hamstrings — crossing the knee and hip joints — are contracted and slackened. If the hamstrings are fully contracted, then they cannot contract to help extend the hip out of the hole. This means that in vertical squatting styles, there is no hamstring involvement out of the hole, and limited involvement throughout the ascent. However, note the slight torso difference between the front and high bar squats; the inclination in the high bar style provides more of an angle that allows some hamstring tension. The upper two-thirds of the ascent of a high bar squat can have assistance by the hamstrings to hold the back angle in place (the same way that they do with the low bar or a deadlift). This makes sense as the position can re-apply tension on the hamstrings once the knees are no longer acutely flexed. I have felt this when high bar squatting, but you can see it during these hellacious sets that Max Aita did at California Strength.

The low bar squat maintains tension throughout the descent, creates a stretch reflex to “bounce” off the tense hamstrings, and then utilizes the hamstrings to extend the hip. During the ascent, the quads obviously extend the knee, but they help create balance around the knee so that the hip drive doesn’t tip the torso forward.
To clarify the hamstring involvement during the high bar: the descent occurs, the knees flex acutely at the bottom in the hole, the ascent begins with zero hamstring tension due to knee flexion, as the knee angle opens the hamstrings can receive tension, and there is hamstring tension during the ascent. Note that this tension is not a primary mover due to the torso angle.

In contrast, the low bar squat maintains tension throughout the descent, creates a stretch reflex to “bounce” off the tense hamstrings, and then utilizes the hamstrings to extend the hip. During the ascent, the quads obviously extend the knee, but they help create balance around the knee so that the hip drive doesn’t tip the torso forward (the torso obviously needs to maintain it’s angle out of the hole). Since this style of squatting is dependent on the hamstrings, the body’s positioning — particularly the knees — is much more important. If the knees shift forward at the bottom, then hamstring tension will decrease and will result in no bounce whatsoever. Discussing other faults in the low bar squat leaves the scope of this post.

Page 1 2 3 Next »
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Printable Version

We Are Scouting Top Writers

Are you passionate about fitness and have something to say? Reach a huge online community and get the discussion going - start writing for Tabata Times today!

Share this post
@TabataTimes on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook 

Contribute to this story by commenting below:

Advertise Here

Most Popular of All Time

CrossFit Focus shared an image on Facebook

It's Thursday, ladies!

CrossFit Focus shared an image on Facebook

Now that's teamwork right there!

CrossFit Focus shared a link on Facebook

Only as high as I reach can I grow; Only as far as I seek can I go; Only as deep as I look can I see; Only as much as I dream can I be.

Salvador published the post To cheat or not to cheat? The "misscounting disorder" on Tabata Times
You hear the signal "3-2-1...go!", the adrenaline starts pumping, you are fully beast-mode. You...
CrossFit Prime posted an article
CrossFit 77 posted an article
CrossFit 77 posted an article
CrossFit LKN posted an article
Oak City CrossFit shared an image on Facebook

Members of the OCCF Rowing Team are at the box RIGHT NOW getting those last meters in before the Concept2 Fall Challenge ends. Nice work y'all!

Fearless Athletics CrossFit South Philly posted an article
CrossFit Invoke posted an article
paleobutter published the post Sicilian Stuffed Peppers on Nutrition WOD
[yumprint-recipe id='124']
CrossFit Invoke shared an image on Facebook

Emily is putting in work with sand bag thrusters! #getit #workout #workhard #cfinvoke #cfiathlete #cfibootycamp #relentlesslife #crossfit #strong #barbellbabes #fitness #fitlife

CrossFit Novem posted an article
CrossFit Love shared an image on Facebook

LV III – 10.16.14 Competition Programming Swim Intervals 50 meters x 15, Rest is :30 - :60 between each Inflammation Maintenance Mobility Weakness Work - spend 20:00 improving range of motion "Optional" - Performance Upper Body Strength Programming

CrossFit Focus shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit RTP shared an image on Facebook

The community keeps you coming back! Check out our community at our FREE intro class this Saturday at 10:50 am!! Tag a friend who wants to try crossfit. #CrossfitRTP #Crossfit #DurhamNC #Community #TeamPlayer

CrossFit Gastonia shared a link on Facebook

Thursday's WOD http://www.crossfitgastonia.com/w-o-d

CrossFit Wilmington posted an article
CrossFit Harrisburg posted on Facebook

Barbell for boobs. Sunday, October 19 at 3:00pm Deload week, will max next week. Thurs Squat Clean and Jerk (5x5 @ 60%) Touch and go Speed and technique stay light Metcon (AMRAP - Reps) 12 min Amrap 3-6-9-12… slamball 30/20 box jump 24/20

CrossFit Main Line shared an image on Facebook

Our 6am class took on a 20 minute AMRAP loaded with lots of fun movements today! 14 Oct 2014 WEDNESDAY 10.15.14 W.O.D. WEDNESDAY 10.15.14 W.O.D. Explosive Strength Skill: Seated Box Jumps (Max Height) ** Sit on box at knee height WOD: 20min AMRAP 50 Wallballs (20,14) 50 Dubs (x3) 40 Box Jumps (24,20) 40 T2B 30 C2B 30 Burpees 20 Power Cleans (135,95) 20 Push Jerks (135,95) 10 Snatches (135,95) 10 MUs

CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Main Line posted an article
CrossFit Center City shared an image on Facebook

Woohoo! These dumbbells now have clearly labelled homes and are also much easier to find to use. By our powers combined we can keep these organized! Jordan, Meg, and Perrin are the heroes responsible for this little project! #captainplanet

CrossFit Wake Forest posted on Facebook

10/16/2014 WOD: A single set of Strict Pull-ups for max reps. Then: Helen 3 rounds for time of: Run, 400 m 21 Kettlebell Swings, 1.5/1 pood 12 Pull-ups

Raleigh CrossFit posted an article
Raleigh CrossFit posted an article
CrossFit King of Prussia shared a link on Facebook

Come watch the area's best compete at Team SuperFit this Saturday at CrossFit King of Prussia!http://www.superfitgames.com/1481/team-superfit-philadelphia-competition-information/

CrossFit 77 posted on Facebook

***Attention: Vida and Michael Cox, the 5pm crew misses you and demands you show your face!*** For every class that you miss from this post till the end of the year, the 5pm class will do 1 extra burpee. This starts tomorrow.

CrossFit 77 shared a link on Facebook

"@khalward: @CrossFit_77 I made a sweat devil!

CrossFit Delaware Valley shared an image on Facebook

The 4 pm class hitting it hard in today's Triple-Girl Monster Mash.

CrossFit Durham shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Wilmington shared an image on Facebook

Who's in your gym posse? At #CFW, everyone is! #crossfitfamily #teamwork #fitness #homies #trainhard #havefun #accountability #supportsystem

CrossFit Main Line shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit Main Line and R5s Master and Scaled teams finish up the CrossFit Team Series with top rankings! Masters: 11th in the WORLD Scaled: 6th in the Mid Atlantic

CrossFit Coastal shared an image on Facebook

Happy Humpday! Noon class working on 10 x 30/30 row sprints.

CrossFit Exchange shared a link on Facebook

We supplement our eating typically because we are nutrient deprived. What about preventative supplementation? We know protein is the building block of life and in effect should get that intake of protein post wod but here's something to consider: http://www.sfh.com/blog/1/post/164

CrossFit King of Prussia posted an article
CrossFit Local shared an image on Facebook

Comet's enjoying #doublebarley #gourdrocker for her birthday! #kegishere #feelthelove #bringafrienddays

tamarascull published the post Why "Strong is the New Skinny" is Here to Stay on
I don't remember when I first heard the phrase "Strong is the New Skinny," but I remember vividly...
CrossFit 77 shared an image on Facebook

Bostic and his son giving directions to the gun show!

CrossFit Coastal shared an image on Facebook

Rainy morning didn't stop the 9:15am crew from getting up and pushing through the longest day of the week! Great job everyone!

CrossFit King of Prussia posted an article
CrossFit LKN shared a link on Facebook

Have you ever tried to learn kipping HSPU's and gotten frustrated that you can't quite get them? Here's a new blog post by Coach Brenden about kipping HSPU progressions that will help you learn them!

CrossFit 910 shared an image on Facebook

CrossFit LKN posted an article
CrossFit KSX posted an article
CrossFit Main Line shared an image on Facebook

Don't forget! Dr.Katzen will be at the box tomorrow from 6:30pm - 8:00pm, so get those appointments before they're gone! (610) 664-8330

CrossFit King of Prussia shared an image on Facebook

Check out the recipe here! http://goo.gl/Muijpx

CrossFit 77 posted on Facebook

What color hoodies would everyone like this year? Blue or Black? And Zip Up or Pull Over?

CrossFit 919 posted on Facebook

Endurance WOD tonight at 6:30 PM. If it's still raining we'll be inside.

CrossFit Harrisburg posted on Facebook

Ordering supplements today!

CrossFit Delaware Valley shared a link on Facebook

Join us tonight at 6:15 pm for a nutrition workshop run by Coach Larry. This event is free for CFDV members and $10 for non-members. All are welcome!

CrossFit LKN posted on Facebook

Clarification **The ASPCA WOD will be held at 9am this Saturday, October 18th**

CrossFit Wilmington shared an image on Facebook

Want to get stronger? Wilmington Strength & Conditioning helps take Scott B. next level #middlebox #tempo #focus #timing #trainhard #allthemuscles #WSC #strength #power #speed #CFW #CFWStrong

CrossFit Charlotte shared an image on Facebook

Every day there comes new challenges, as in CrossFit. Do we not show up or do we embrace the suck? Take on the challenges at CrossFit Charlotte, "The Original".

cfbedry published the post Let's Rethink that Camille Leblanc-Bazinet Bikini Cover on
First off, let’s be clear about what we’re agreed upon: a photoshop job softening CrossFit...
CrossFit Durham shared a link on Facebook

@TabataTimes on Twitter

Watch the latest episode of GPTV