Why Low Bar Back Squat or what are the Low Bar Squat benefits?
This question usually arises after the consideration whether a High Bar Squat is better than a Low Bar Squat.
Whilst there is no better or worse in both squat variations, they are just different and either variation has its’ advantages and benefits.
The challenge is to know when to use which squat variation and what is the desired outcome.
This article and video discusses
- the Low Bar Squat benefits
- how the Low Bar Back Squat can improve the High Bar Back Squat
- considerations where the Low Bar Back Squat can also help to train through any injury
Low Bar vs High Bar Squat position
The Low Bar Back Squat is characterized by a lower barbell placement on the back, as compared to the High Bar Back Squat. Check out the different bar placements in the article
As a result of the lower barbell placement on the back, the upper body leans more forward during the descent and ascent of the Low Bar Squat vs the High Bar Squat. Check out the different phases of the Back Squat in the Back Squat tutorial
Due to the stronger forward lean during the Low Bar Back Squat, the Low Bar Squat is more a hip-dominant squat, whilst the High Bar Squat is more a knee-dominant squat.
Low Bar Squat muscles worked
A frequently asked question when discussing the Low Bar Squat or the differences between Low Bar Squat and High Bar Squat is, what are the muscles worked in a Low Bar Squat or better what is the muscular activation during the Low Bar Back Squat?
As discussed before, the Low Bar Squat is characterized by a stronger forward lean and is a hip-dominant squat, which places more emphasis and muscular activation on the posterior chain, the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Also, check out the tutorial on Fundamental Movements comparing a ‘Bending pattern’ and a ‘Squat pattern’
Why the Low Bar Squat will make you Squat heavier
The stronger forward lean not only engages the posterior chain to a greater extent than the High Bar Squat, the Low Bar Squat depth is also characterized by a shorter range, hence the bar travels less distance and consequently allows you to lift more weight.
‘So I can use more weight when I squat less deep, but once I squat deep again, I won’t be able to lift the same weight, right?’
Yes, this is a very valid concern, however, the Low Bar Squat will allow you to lift more weight in the High Bar Squat.
Let me explain.
There is a phenomenon when you were exposed to a heavier weight before, the same weight will feel subjectively lighter the next time.
As a practical example, if you can do a full Back Squat with 140 kg for 5 reps, you will be able to a Low Bar Back Squat with 160 – 180 kg for 5 reps within a few weeks.
Sorry for being vague here, but everyone responds differently to a given training stimulus. Let’s say you can expect an increase of 15 – 20% within 4 – 6 weeks.
So, what does this mean in practice?
Once you go back to your full Back Squat, the 140 kg from before will feel much lighter now than before and you will be able to move more weight in the full Back Squat in the following sessions.
The same principle is one of the mechanisms behind the effectiveness of partial reps and reverse bands, that you (and your nervous system) get exposed to a heavier weight than you are used to and gets more comfortable with this higher weight.
How the Low Bar Squat can be used in Rehab
The stronger forward lean and the more vertical shin position during the Low Bar Squat results in the knee traveling less forward, a knee angle of 90 degrees and essentially less knee friction.
Often times, when athletes are advised to limit the squat depth to a knee angle of 90 degrees and not go any further than that, the Low Bar Squat can be a suitable replacement of the full Back Squat without sacrificing loading.
Concluding Why Low Bar Back Squat?
The Low Bar Back Squat is a variation of the regular Back Squat and is characterized by a stronger forward lean, a more vertical shin angle and less distance traveled in the squat movement.
The stronger forward lean results in a stronger muscular activation of the posterior chain, the hamstring, glutes, and lower back.
The lesser distance traveled will allow lifting greater loads, which can lead to greater loads being lifted in the regular Back Squat after a period of using Low Bar Squats.
The Low Bar Squat can be used as a suitable replacement of the full Back Squat if a lesser knee angle is required.