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Nova Performance Weekly Blog

by Adam Smith on Sep 14, 2021


There is a lot of difference between the 2 styles of squats.

A high bar squat is way more common than a Low Bar squat. So let’s start with this one.

The high bar back squat is used within weightlifting more due to it being more quad dominant. Therefore the carry over into the snatch and clean n jerk is massive.

The Low bar squat is used within powerlifting much more. It's very uncommon to see a competitive powerlifter use a high bar style instead of the low bar style.

The Low bar is more hip dominant. Therefore we use our hips and back more. On average with technique and mobility out of the picture. The athlete should be able to lift 10-20% more than a high bar squat.

You’re now asking why anyone would high bar back squat instead of Low bar as it can move so much more weight.

Let's look into these in depth.

High Bar

In a high-bar squat, the bar goes across the shoulders at around the upper trap level. The torso is kept as upright as possible. As a result, the hips won’t move as far back as they would in a low-bar squat, and the knees will move forward a bit more over the ankles. It’s more quad dominant, while the low-bar squat is more hip dominant.


It offers a good balance of lower-body development with an emphasis on quads (if you can maintain a proper torso position). The carry over into front squats and the olympic lifts are massive.


It’s not ideal for those with long limbs relative to their torso, especially if they have long femurs/short tibias. Those with a shorter torso and longer legs will have more trouble with the high-bar placement since their natural squatting pattern is to include more hip action. If they have long femurs, it’s even worse.

Long-limbed lifters will tend to do a high-bar squat with the same mechanics as a low-bar squat (hip-dominant), but when you combine that high bar placement with a hip-dominant squat, you’ll be limited in how much weight you can use.

Low Bar

It allows lifters to handle more weight during a powerlifting competition. While it’s named after the placement of the bar, the key is really the hip-dominant squatting mechanics.

You squat while pushing your hips back (sitting back). Naturally, this will make your torso lean forward. When you lean forward, the higher the bar is on your shoulders, the harder your lower back must work. So if you put the bar lower – on your back rather than shoulders – you reduce the resistance arm and the amount of force the lower back has to produce. You’re using a low-bar position to maximize the weight you can lift while using a hip-dominant squat.

Once someone’s efficient with a low-bar squat, it’s not unusual to use 10-20 percent more weight than what can be lifted with a high-bar squat. However, someone with a long torso and short legs won’t see much of a difference between their high and low-bar squats. In fact, someone with a long torso could squat less weight with a low-bar, hip-dominant squat.


You can use more weight by involving the hip muscles to a greater extent. It can develop the posterior chain.


It overloads the lower back and requires good shoulder mobility. It offers less quad stimulation and isn’t ideal for people with longer torsos.

A longer torso means that even with a low-bar placement, the lower back will have to work a lot more. This can counterbalance the strength gained from using the hips more.


To summarize the difference between the 2 squats is that the High bar placement and the the Low bar placement is that high bar is quad focused and Low bar is Hip focused.

I program and coach high bar placement more than low bar due to coaching more weightlifters than powerlifters.

If you really struggle with squatting, do the movement pattern that makes you comfortable at the bottom with technique.


I hope you enjoyed the read and stay posted for the next one. If you have any questions just shoot me an email on

If you want to see some of my training logs and videos follow me on Instagram @thicc__astley or @npbarbellclub

See you all soon!

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