Different styles of squat

Discussion in 'Basic Training Principles and Methods' started by ratty, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. ratty

    ratty New Member

    I read the other day someone talking about the high bar and low bar squat...

    Whats the difference between them?
  2. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    If you think about the mechanics of the squat it will become pretty clear that the path the bar follows will be directly above the mid-foot or you'll fall over. Depending on where you hold the bar you will find that in order to accommodate the path of the bar and maintain balance, the angle the torso makes with the vertical (as dictated by hip angle and knee angle) will need to vary.

    For front squats, where the bar is held on the delts in front of neck, the torso will be closer to vertical than for other squat variants (more open hip angle).


    For high-bar back squats, where the bar is held behind the neck on the traps, the torso will need to lean forward more, away from vertical.

    For low-bar back squats, where the bar is held just below the spine of the scapula (or thereabouts), the torso angle will be still further away from vertical. You might think that with more of a forward lean you would be forcing a tendency to GM coming out of the hole but, because the distance between the bar and hips is reduced, the turning moment is not as great as it would be if the bar was held on the traps.

    In each of these cases, the actual angle the torso makes with the vertical will depend on the individual's anthropometry. The back should always be held in extension in each case.

    Watch the two vids I posted links to here:


    What this change in torso angle (and therefore hip and knee angles) translates to is a change in posterior-chain involvement. If you look at the vids you should be able to see that the knees come further forward during a front squat so there's less hamstring involvement and therefore the glutes and quads get to do more of the work.

    If you want to know more about this kind of thing, you could do a lot worse than to get yourself a copy of Starting Strength by Rippetoe and Kilgore.
  3. MasterCFI

    MasterCFI New Member

    As a former powerlifter, here's my two centavos.

    Do all three, and see how they feel to determine which style you prefer. They all have a place in your workout. Kind of like the difference between doing barbell curls and seated dumbell curls. Both work the biceps, just from different angles and slightly different technique. Plus, you'll be able to lift different amounts of weight between the two exercises.

    If you want to try all three, do make sure that you watch and learn the PROPER techniques for doing each. Bad habits learned early will be hard to correct later. In learning it's called the "law of exercise and the law of recency".

    The biggest differences between the three, in gym english:

    1. You'll notice that you can lift more weight with the low-bar squat - simply because of the positioning of the bar and the fact that the weight has a lower center of gravity. You won't be fighting balance issues as much. The weight of the bar is distributed across more of your back than on a high-bar squat.

    2. Your traps will hurt with a heavy, high-bar squat if they aren't developed. Like I said in number one - the traps will bear the brunt of the bar weight. (more weight in a smaller area)

    3. You'll lift even less weight on the front squat, due to balance and the strength required to keep that bar from rolling off your "shoulder area". This can be hard on your low back area if it isn't developed properly.

    With all three squats, you will need to "keep an eye" on your low back for proper development and rest. The higher and/or heavier the bar gets, the tougher the balance issues - which truly is hinged on your lower back region.

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