Strength-Building Benefits of the Low Bar Squat

Male sports model exercising outside as part of healthy lifestyle.


By Ben Johnson

Trainer Bret Contreras once said, “If I had to choose one muscle, I’d say that the glutes are the most important for total athleticism.”


I agree with Bret, and so do lots of other strength and conditioning coaches. The glutes are the power center of the body. And they’re key to peak performance for athletes in any sport—from crushing a golf ball a few hundred yards to knocking a defensive tackle on his back.


The Low Bar Squat will help you build the powerful glutes you need to perform well on any field.


High vs. Low
When it comes to barbell Back Squats, there are two ways to set up the bar.


1. High bar
A High Bar Squat involves resting the bar on your upper traps, high up on your back. Odds are if you’ve done Barbell Squats before, you’ve done High Bar Squats. They are much more common in most gyms than their low-bar brother.


2. Low Bar
For a Low Bar Squat, you rest the bar on your rear delts, lower on your back. At a glance, Low Bar Squats don’t seem much different—after all, the bar is only a few inches lower on your back. But the Low Bar Squat alters the nature of the Squat in a way that helps build explosive, powerful glutes.


Small change, big difference

In the world of joint angles and biomechanics, what seems like a small change (lowering the bar placement) can make a big difference. And the biggest change occurs in the hips.


During any Squat, you want to keep the weight directly over your base of support—your heels. With a High Bar Squat, this means breaking at the knees and dropping nearly straight down. Because of the bar placement, there is little need to hinge at the hips to keep the weight over your base of support.


The Low Bar Squat is different. During a Low Bar Squat, you want to hinge forward at the hips as you drop down. The hip hinge keeps the bar over your base, but it also turns the Squat—primarily a quad-dominant exercise—into a great glute exercise.


You can, and should, have it all

The Low Bar Squat develops more explosive athleticism due to its greater glute activation. But that doesn’t mean the High Bar Squat is worthless. A well-rounded program includes both variations. Check out the video player above for some technique tips for both.





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