Low Bar or High Bar Squat: Which is Better?

Low Bar or High Bar Squat Which is Better

Squat is one of the most promising exercises that can benefit your body in multiple ways (1). The best part is you can perform squats in a variety of ways and adjust the variation using props. From using your own body weight to props like bars, dumbbells, kettlebells etc. efforts can be made to make squats more effective.

If you are fascinated with using the bar for back squats, you can hold the bar in two ways- high or low. Wondering how to perform back squats with a bar and what’s more beneficial, high bar vs. low bar squat?

Keep reading to find out everything about high-bar and low-bar squats in detail.

Squats with Bar

In squatting, you push your body down towards the ground, folding your knees. While performing back squats with a bar, you hold the bar across your back and lower the body down.

You can hold the bar in two ways-

  1. High on the upper back
  2. Lower on the mid back

Whether you want to hold the bar high or low depends upon which muscles you want to be worked out.

Difference Between High Bar Squat and Low Bar Squat

High Bar Squat

In a high bar squat, you place the bar high on the top of the shoulders. Basically, it is placed on the trapezius muscles. Below are the steps involved in high bar squat-

  • Place the bar on the top of the shoulders
  • Keep the feet shoulder-width apart
  • Your toes should point slightly outwards
  • Maintain an upright torso position
  • Slowly descend in the squat position, moving your knees forward

It is essential to maintain balance during the squat, and for high bar squat, it can be done while holding the bar over the midfoot.

Low Bar Squat

In a low bar squat, you need to place the bar low on the upper back. Unlike the high bar squat, in this variation, the bar is not placed on the top of the shoulders but on the posterior deltoid.

The steps of low bar squat are the same as high bar squat with the difference in bar’s placement and leaning movement. You have to keep the feet shoulder-width apart and bend slightly at the hips. It will ensure that you won’t fall backward while leaning forward.

Below is the table comparing high bar vs. low bar squat under different aspects-

AspectHigh Bar SquatLow Bar Squat
Bar PlacementPositioned higher on the upper trapezius muscles.Positioned lower on the rear deltoids and upper back muscles.
Torso PositionMore upright torso position.Slightly more forward-leaning torso position.
GripUsually a narrow grip on the barbell.Typically a wider grip on the barbell.
Hip MovementMore emphasis on knee movement during descent.More emphasis on hip movement during descent.
Quadriceps EmphasisGreater emphasis on quadriceps engagement.Less emphasis on quadriceps, more on hamstrings and glutes.
DepthTypically allows for deeper squat depth.May restrict squat depth due to bar placement.
StabilityGenerally requires greater stability in the upper back and shoulders.Requires strong posterior chain and lower back stability.
Muscle ActivationPrimarily targets quadriceps, glutes, and lower back.Emphasizes posterior chain muscles such as hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Foot PlacementFeet positioned slightly narrower, often shoulder-width apart.Feet may be positioned slightly wider apart.
Performance in PowerliftingOften preferred by Olympic weightlifters and those aiming for maximum depth and vertical torso position.Commonly used by powerlifters for heavier loads and focusing on hip drive and posterior chain strength.
Mobility RequirementsGenerally requires good ankle and hip mobility.Requires good shoulder and thoracic spine mobility.
Common UsesOften used in weightlifting and general strength training.Popular among powerlifters and strength athletes.
Potential RisksIncreased risk of forward knee movement, which may strain the knees.Increased stress on the lower back and potential for rounding if proper form is not maintained.

High Bar Squat vs. Low Bar Squat- Benefits

High bar squat is highly beneficial for those wanting to improve their muscle mass in quadriceps. At the same time, this variation of squat requires greater mobility of knees; thus, make them more flexible.

Since in high bar squats, the bar is placed on the top of the shoulders, it is easy to balance compared to low bar squats. Additionally, it places less stress on the lower back; thus, it is easy to balance.

On the other hand, low bar squat works on glutes, hamstrings, and back extensors, making them stronger. These posterior chains of muscles are more stressed during low bar squat; thus, suitable for those who want to activate their hamstrings and build glutes.

Also, low bar squats are good for people with low ankle mobility as it involves hips movement more than knees.

High Bar Squat vs. Low Bar Squat- What’s better for me?

What your goal of exercising determines whether you should go for low bar squats or high bar squats.

High bar squat will be best for people who want to build power and increase strength. However, if your focus is more towards posterior chain muscles, low bar squats will be the right choice.


Both the variations, low bar squat as well as high bar squat are beneficial for the body, focusing on building strength and improving muscle mass (2). Irrespective of what you choose, it is important to maintain balance during squats to prevent injuries.

Try both the variations to see how your body responds. The squat you can do in good form is the best for you. Take help of a trainer to know the right ways of doing high bar squat and low bar squat.

Image Source : canva

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