Squatting, science, research, back, position

The Secret to Stronger Glutes

Why you should opt for a low-bar squat

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, experts address some of the latest fitness research, nutrition, style, and health stories.


THE SCIENCE
When back squatting, there are two potential locations to position the barbell: atop the traps at the base of the neck (high-bar), or a bit further down, more on the meat of the shoulders (low-bar). It turns out that these few inches really matter. A new study from researchers in New Zealand found that in the low-bar back squat (LBBS), there’s greater muscle activity of the erector spinae, adductors, and gluteal muscles, while in the high-bar back squat (HBBS), the quadriceps are more dominant.
EXPERT INSIGHT
“Squatters doing high-bar back squats usually take a narrower stance with the feet and hands," says New York City-based tier 3+ trainer and precision running coach Rachel Mariotti. “This translates into more range of motion in the ankles and knees and less of a hip hinge.” However, when the bar is moved just a few inches lower, it shifts the center of mass just enough that the athlete will take a wider stance, bending forward at the hips a bit more deeply. “This means there's a smaller hip angle, and the hamstrings and glutes are activated to press back up to stand,” notes Mariotti.

Apart from the muscle-activation differences, the bar placement may simply be a preference based on your body proportions. Athletes with longer legs can find the more upright torso position of the high-bar squat to be more challenging to execute with proper form, adds Mariotti.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“People who are looking to strengthen their posterior chain may be better off with a low-bar back squat,” says Mariotti. “Those looking to train quads more may be better set with the high-bar squat.” But no matter which you pick, she recommends sticking with it for a minimum of four weeks.