Difference between the High Bar Back Squat and the Low Bar Back Squat | Fitness Science Fitness Science

Difference between the High Bar Back Squat and the Low Bar Back Squat

The barbell backHigh Barbell Back Squat squat is a very popular and effective exercise to increase the strength and size of leg muscles. However there are two different variants of the barbell back squat. The high bar back squat and the low bar back squat. Weightlifters and strength and power athletes mostly use the high bar back squat or “Olympic Style” squat. Which is characterized by a narrower stance and upright torso. The barbell is placed on top of the trapezius muscle around the 7th cervical vertebrae. Powerlifters mostly use the low barb back squat because they believe that it allows higher weights. Stance width is more variable but the trunk is more inclined than during a high bar back squat. Bar placement varies from on top of the posterior deltoids, below the scapular spine, on the scapular spine or two inches below the shoulders. To determine the differences between the effects of the high bar and low bar back squat, researchers performed the following study.

What did the researchers do?

Six trained men with at least two years of squatting experience were tested after four weeks of familiarization training sessions. Another inclusion criterium was that thy had a high bar back squat to body weight ratio of 1.5 (meaning they should at least be able to squat 1,5 times their body weight). The researchers tested the subjects on force, power and velocity under different training intensities. They divided the testing sessions in one high bar back squat session and one low bar back squat session. The scientists measured force, power and velocity with a forceplate underneath the subjects combined with position sensors on the barbell. The intensities the researchers used were 20-90% of high bar back squat 1RM. These sessions were one week apart to allow the subjects to recover.

What were the results?

High Bar Back Squat compared with Low Bar Back Squat Peak Force

Figure 1: Difference in peak force (in N) between High Bar Barbell Back Squat and Low Bar Barbell Back Squat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Bar Back Squat compared with Low Bar Back Squat Peak Power

Figure 2: Difference in peak power (in W) between High Bar Barbell Back Squat and Low Bar Barbell Back Squat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Bar Back Squat compared with Low Bar Back Squat Peak Velocity

Figure 3: Difference in peak force (in m/s) between High Bar Barbell Back Squat and Low Bar Barbell Back Squat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the results, there are no significant differences between the high bar and low bar back squat. There were significant differences as a result of the amount of weight used but this was independent of squat condition. The researchers noted however that the high bar back squat displayed a trend towards higher scores on force, power and peak velocity. Further research could shed more light on this.

What did the researchers conclude?

Since the researchers found no significant differences between the high bar and low bar back squat they concluded that both exercises are very effective to develop leg strength and power. They note that the high bar back squat can be more useful in supporting sport-specific activities since it is similar to tasks such as jumping. In addition they stress that the number of test subjects is rather low and that research on a greater number of subjects is necessary before drawing final conclusions.

What does this mean for me?

Both the high bar and low bar back squat are very useful and effective exercises with similar results. You are best off to choose the one you prefer. Only those that want to increase performance in a certain area of their sports such as their jumping ability might be better served by the high bar back squat.

Reference:

-Goodin, J.R., Bazyler, C.D., Bellon, C. DeWeese, B., Mizuguchi, S., Sato, K., Kavanaugh, A., Stone, M.H. Comparison of External Kinetic and Kinematic Variables Between High Barbell Back Squats and Low Barbell Back Squats Across a Range of Loads. 2015.  Thesis East Tennessee Stae University.