In the article we will discuss four unique benefits of the low bar back squat to help strength, power, and fitness athletes further understand this squat variation.
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Powerlifting Athlete Spotlight! Athlete: 🏋️♂️ @hayden.bowe Squatting 273kg/602lbs x 3 BarBend: What got you into training? Bowe: Being 5’9” and playing hockey at the highest level while growing up in Canada. I had to get strong or get crushed. BarBend: Choose one for life: Squats or Deadlifts. Bowe: Squats allllll day. I can out squat my deadlift raw in sleeves, so it’s just a better & more enjoyable lift for me. BarBend: Favorite guilty pleasure food? Bowe: Mexican food. If I’m going to blow my macros via fat bring on the sour cream and guacamole!
Low Bar Back Squat Tutorial
The low bar back squat differs from the high bar back squat in that the lifter places the barbell lower on their upper back, often supporting the load on the rear delts. In doing so, the lifter’s back must have a greater horizontal shelf to support the load, which acts as a lever of sorts. As the lifter descends, he/she pushes the hips back underneath them while bending the knees and hips together. Once they reach full depth, the lifter uses their hips, legs, and back to lift the barbell.
In the below video the low bar back squat is demonstrated, along with a how-to-video for securing the proper low bar back squat bar position.
4 Benefits of Low Bar Back Squats
In the below section we discuss four benefits of the low bar back squat. Note, that the standard benefits of squatting are not included in this as this listing is specifically to point out the unique benefits of the low bar back squat relative to other squatting variations.
Squat More Weight
Low bar squatting often allows a trained low bar squatter to squat more weight than if they were to perform the high bar back squat. Due to the angles of the lift, the leverages allow the lifter to use greater hamstring, hip, and back strength to assist in the squat rather than relying primarily on the quadriceps (as in the high bar back squat).
Stronger Hips and Hamstrings
As discussed in an earlier article comparing the angles and muscle activity when performing the high bar back squat vs the low bar back squat, the posterior chain (hips, hamstrings, spinal erectors) are targeted to a greater extent due to the increased back angle and hip flexion in the descent.
For some lifters who find that their hamstrings are weaker in the bottom of the squat, the low bar back squat can be added into training to build stronger hips and hamstrings. It is important to note that some sports, like Olympic weightlifting, do not use low bar back squats for this, but rather integrate exercises like Romanian deadlifts to develop greater posterior chain strength and hypertrophy.
While there are sports that are best done with exercises like high bar squats (Olympic weightlifting) and low bar back squats (powerlifting), many athletes must first determine what their body structure and mobility will allow.
Low bar back squats may be a good squat solution for those individuals who lack necessary mobility to squat in and higher bar positions (poor knee flexion, hip immobility, etc). Note, that this is not saying that an athlete should disregard those mobility concerns, but rather that attacking mobility while also learning how to pattern a squat (regardless of the style) could be very beneficial for progress. Additionally, if an athlete has relatively long legs and a shorter torso, he/she may find the low bar back squat still allows them to build muscle, strength, and fitness.
Build a Stronger Back for Squats
When looking to squat big weights, a lifter must first learn to how to properly support a load on the upper back/traps with confidence and strength. Often, lifters lack back strength, confidence, and/or a combination of the two, leading them to have the bar either push them forward (their torso angle and bar past midfoot) or simply move around too much and produce unwanted movement.
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Things to do when you're squatting 160kg; -Get lower, until your hammies touch your calves (if you can maintain neutral spine) – Set rails at an appropriate height. Lessons to learn from my mistakes! @iron_curtis I'm sorry I did half squats. @trainer.abz Thank you for filming and assessing!
The low bar back squat can have impact on a lifters ability to support load and keep a strong, stable back positioning necessary for heavy squats (both high and low). In addition, building a stronger low bar back squat rack positioning can develop the posterior shoulder, scapular stabilizers, middle/upper back, and traps.
How to Build a Strong Squat
Take a look at some of the article below and learn how to build a strong squat and lower body!
Featured Image: @BarBend featuring @Hayden.Bowe on Instagram