Why High Bar Back Squats are superior if you want to build mass and or strength?

Not many discussions in the world of strength training experts are as heated as the discussion of High Bar Back Squats vs Low Bar Back Squats.

Whilst both squat variations have their place in the strength training world and each squat variation offers unique benefits, the High Bar Squat seems to have the upper hand over the Low Bar Squat, when it comes to maximizing muscle mass, strength gains and improving athletic performance.

This article and video discusses

  • Why you should you do High Bar Back Squats
  • Why High Bar Back Squats are better if you want to gain muscle mass or become stronger
  • Why High Bar Back Squats are better for athletes
  • Why High Bar Back Squats are better than Low Bar Back Squats

I know, this is going to be a controversial one, but here we go…

Why High Bar Back Squats? What are the benefits of the High Bar Back Squat?

In the previous article What is a High Bar Back Squat, I have outlined, that the High Bar Back Squat is characterized by a higher bar position on the shoulders, which results in a more upright upper body posture as compared to the Low Bar Back Squat.

Whilst the difference in the bar position on the back between the high bar and the low bar position is actually just a few centimeters (read the outline High Bar vs. Low Bar Squatting from Stronger By Science, that looked into the details of the bar position), it does affect the squatting mechanics.

The High Bar Squat Bar position and resulting in more upright body posture also allows you to achieve greater squatting depth, as compared to the low bar position.

The greater squatting depth leads to a higher activation of the anterior side (mainly the quadriceps muscle group) and allows you to train over a greater range of motion.

So, what are the benefits of a greater range of motion? Does it really matter?

It does matter, if you are interested in gaining muscle mass, want to become stronger or want to improve your sprint and/or jump performance.

Why High Bar Back Squats, if I want to gain Muscle Mass?

If you are interested in gaining muscle mass, a greater range of motion or a full range of motion is associated with a higher stimulus for muscle growth.

Yes, the Bros know that for ages.

Without getting too much into detail, the basic idea behind this is, that the eccentric phase and the stretching of the muscle results in micro tears, which in return send a strong signal to the body to build more muscle tissue to repair these micro tears.

The greater the range, the greater the eccentric part, the more micro tears, the higher the stimulus.

Ok guys, please note, that there is an ideal range of motion, more isn’t always better.

And with regards to the micro tears, the micro tears are a result of training, not the goal!

So, please don’t go out and find ways to maximally tear a muscle!

Why High Bar Back Squats, if I want to become stronger?

This is probably another very controversial topic, so just let me outline my thought process.

Looking at the physical formula of work, we can see that work equals force times distance (W = F * d).

If we are applying force over a longer distance we also produce more work.

Nice, but what does work have to do with becoming stronger?

Numerous studies have shown, that the more work you do, the stronger you become.

This is also the reason, why athletes who compete in a sport, where the expression of strength is important (Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, the throwing disciplines in track and field, etc) meticulously plan, manage and track their workloads through micro-cycles, meso-cycles and macro-cycles.

Why High Bar Back Squats are better for Athletes

What are the applications of High Bar Squats for sports and improved sports performance?

Studies have compared the effect of Front Squat and Back Squats on jump performance and sprint performance and the results showed, that Front Squat leads to greater improvement in jump performances and sprint performances.

Ok good, but what does the Front Squat have to do with the High Bar Back Squat.

The idea is pretty simple.

The Front Squat tends to have a more upright body posture than a regular Back Squat, similarly, the High Bar Back Squat is also characterized by a more upright body posture, which results in similar outcomes on jump and sprint performances as the Front Squat.

Why High Bar Back Squats are better than Low Bar Back Squats

To be honest, I don’t think they are better, they are just different.

Both versions of the Back Squat, whether it is a High Bar Squat or a Low Bar Squat have their benefits and the challenge is to determine, what the goal of the training is and find the right squat variation to achieve these goals.

The Bar Bend has done a great job by outlining the differences between both squat variation in their article

Why should you do High Bar Back Squats?

Next, to the arguments, I have outlined, my take on it is pretty simple and straightforward.

If you look at the movement pattern of a High Bar Squat vs a Low Bar Squat, you can see the High Bar Squat is more of a squatting pattern, whilst the Low Bar Squat is more of a bending pattern or hinging pattern.

What are squatting patterns and bending patterns?

A squatting pattern is a movement, that is knee-dominant and happens from the knee, whilst a bending pattern is hip-dominant movement and occurs more from the hip.

For a more detailed overview of different movement patterns, check out the guide on fundamental movements

Concluding Why High Bar Back Squats?

Due to the bar placement and the resulting movement pattern of an upright torso with greater squatting depth, the High Bar Squat offers some unique benefits, that the Low Bar Squat doesn’t offer.

The High Bar Back Squat leads to greater stimuli for gaining muscle mass and becoming strength gains.

Athletes that are interested in improving their sprint performance and jump performance might benefit more from a High Bar Squat, than a Low Bar Squat.

As a movement pattern, the High Bar Back Squat can be classified as a squatting pattern, whilst the Low Bar Back Squat can be classified as a bending pattern or hinging pattern.