What is a High Bar Squat or High Bar Back Squat?
The terms High Bar Back Squat or High Bar Squat are used interchangeably and the ‘High Bar’ simply refers to the barbell position on the shoulders or better on the back.
The High Bar Squat is also called Olympic-style Back Squat and originates from Olympic Weightlifting. Olympic Weightlifters have used and continue to use the high bar squat as a training exercise to improve the performance of their competition lifts, the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk.
The reason is, that the higher bar position forces the body to stay more upright during the squatting movement and also allows to achieve greater depth, than a lower bar position.
The combination of upright upper body and low squat depth makes it an effective training exercise for the Olympic Lifts, as it trains the deceleration required during the catch phase and the final completion of the lift in the recovery phase.
To read up on the different phases of the Snatch technique and Clean technique, check out
What is the correct High Bar Squat bar position?
As I referred to earlier, the high bar refers to the bar position on the shoulders, so the question stands out what is the correct High Bar Squat bar placement?
The correct High Bar Squat bar placement needs a little bit of practice and feels uncomfortable on the neck or trapezius muscle when you start out learning the correct High Bar Back Squat form.
This is also the reason, why you can read topics in forums titled ‘High Bar Squat neck pain’, ‘High Bar Squat traps’ or ‘High Bar Squat hurts traps’.
The most common solution is to use the squat bar pad / squat pad support or how some people lovingly call it ‘pussy pad’, which in my opinion is not a good idea.
The only correct way to use the squat bar pad is shown in this video by Ruby Huisman.
By the way, this was a small joke…
Outlining all disadvantages of the squat bar pad would go beyond the scope of this article, however, in a nutshell, the squat bar pad alters the squatting mechanics and leads to a flawed High Bar Back Squat technique.
in addition to that, if you are serious about your squatting and you want to achieve similar strength levels, as I have outlined in the article
Do you think this small piece of foam will act as a cushion?
So, what is the solution?
Very simple, learn the correct bar placement for the High Bar Squat.
If you make an effort to learn it and stick to it, you will learn it within no time. I have not had one athlete, who couldn’t learn the correct position.
So, What is the correct High Bar Squat bar position?
The high bar squat bar placement on the shoulders is closely connected with the high bar squat elbow position and forearm position.
Let me explain in four simple steps
- Grab the bar with a tight grip, with the thumb is around the bar (and not on the same side as your fingers!)
- Place the bar high on your shoulders, specifically on the upper traps
- Chose a close grip, where the forearms are parallel to each other (if you look from the front), this will activate and slightly contract the traps and serves as a natural support, so no cushion needed
- Make sure your elbows are pointing down and you actively pull the bar into your traps, this will activate all important muscles of your upper body to optimally support the correct high bar Back Squat form
The high bar vs low bar squat discussion: Which one is better, the high bar vs low bar squat?
This will be the topic of an entire article since it requires a deeper look at each individual squat variation and a more nuanced discussion.
You will find various discussions in forums titled ‘high bar vs low bar squat differences’, ‘high bar vs low bar squat reddit’, ‘high bar vs low bar squat bodybuilding’ or ‘high bar vs low bar squat Rippetoe’, the list could go on and on…
However, there is no better or worse, each squat variation has its advantages and disadvantages, so the question you need to ask yourself is what you want to achieve with your squat and then chose the appropriate squat variation.
I have outlined the approach of starting with the end in the article
In a nutshell, the high bar squat focusses more work on the anterior side, whilst the low bar squat focusses more work on the posterior side.
The high bar squat is more knee dominant and reflects a squatting pattern, whilst the low bar squat is more hip dominant and reflects a bending pattern. If you are unfamiliar with the different fundamental movement patterns, check out
Concluding What is a High Bar Back Squat?
The High Bar Back Squat or High Bar Squat originates from Olympic Weightlifting and is also called Olympic Style Back Squat.
Olympic Weightlifters use the High Bar Back Squat to improve the performance of their competition lifts because of the transfer of the High Bar Squat technique to the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.
To learn the correct High Bar Squat bar placement might feel uncomfortable in the beginning and requires some practice. However, the common use of the squat bar pad is not only unnecessary, but also detrimental to your High Bar Back Squat form.
To achieve correct High Bar Squat bar placement, you just need to know a few key points, which makes the learning process fairly simple and you will achieve a great High Bar Back Squat technique.
More Back Squat information:
The Fundamentals of the Back Squat
Increasing your Back Squat – How much and how often to Squat
Insider Guide reveals How many Reps in the Back Squat you should do
How often should I Back Squat
How to get a stronger Back Squat in 7 steps
How much should I Back Squat
How to do a Back Squat
Why Back Squat
What Is A Back Squat
What is a Low Bar Back Squat
Back Squat video library