Let’s Talk About Squats, Baby

All of you, I’m sure, are giddy with excitement after today’s back squat workout.

And all of you, I’m sure, are just anxious with anticipation to find out my opinion about bar positioning.


You aren’t?

Well too bad.

Let’s start from the beginning.  You see, when a man loves a woman very very much…



That’s not right.

There are two different positionings for your loaded bar during a back squat.  Simply enough, you can choose between either “low bar” or “high bar” placement. Both are great, and perfect for building up them legz, and both are entirely different beasts. So which do you use? Where do you put the bar? How deep do you squat? Why are we here?

I’ll get to all of those in good time.

First of all: Positioning.

As you can see from this de-skinned picture of a man with way more muscles than I – a low bar back squat sits much lower on the back than a high bar, which sits high on the trapezius.

What does this do to your squat?

Well, for starters, it changes your back angle DRAMATICALLY. This has cascading effects throughout your squat and changes muscle recruitment.

At the bottom of a high bar back squat, because of the more vertical back position required by the barbell placement, load is placed more so on the quads and glutes.

At the bottom of a low bar squat, the hamstrings and full posterior chain are recruited.

So what does this mean? Which style of squat should you do?

The answer is pretty unsatisfying.  Do whichever one you’d like. If you’re training for olympic weightlifting (Clean & Jerk, Snatch), you’d probably do better with a high bar back squat, as the more vertical positioning lends itself more to the vertical positioning required in the catch position of both those movements.  If you want to move more weight, the low bar is the squat style for you. Because of the extra muscle recruitment, low bar back squats are more suited to heavier loads.

But here’s what I do want you to take from this (long) post: once you pick your bar placement, do it right.  I don’t want to see and quasi-low bar high bar back squat mumbo jumbo around the gym on Wednesdays.

If you choose high bar – plant that bar high on your traps, keep your chest out and your back as vertical as possible, and squat low.

This gentleman weighs less than you, and squats more, lower than you.


If you choose low bar your life gets a little more complicated. Make sure you’ve got your back tight, with the bar rested across the shelf created by your deltoids. kick that butt out, and squat below parallel.

And this guy. This guy. This is a prefect example of putting the world on your back and squatting it.


Finally – don’t take my word for all this! Here’s an excellent article all about high bar vs. low bar written by 70’s big that really gets into all the tiny details.


Feel free to ask me any questions you have!

We're a just a couple guys and a couple gals who like working out at hours most normal people find unbearable. While you're snoozing, we're squatting. While you're dreaming, we're deadlifting. And while you're hitting your full REM cycle, we're talking about our emotions. Come join us.

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