It’s no surprise that different techniques can change the resistance torque pattern during exercises and in turn, change the stress among different muscle groups. Let’s take one of the most commonly asked about exercises, low bar vs high bar squats.
During a low bar squat, the bar is placed low on the upper back (you know, that little muscle shelf that we create by retracting our shoulder blades together). In order to keep the center of mass over mid foot, the individual has to lean more forward. Stress is more on the hip and less on the knee extensors, because the bar is horizontally far from the hip and closer to the knee.
Whereas during a high bar squat, the barbell is placed higher on the back closer to the neck. Because of this, the position places more stress on the knees than hips (torque distribution increases the resistive torque about the knees, reducing resistive torque about the hip).
High bar squats
- Barbell sits on top of the shoulders by the back of the neck
- The torso stays more vertical
- Knees travel forward
- More knee stress, less hip stress
Low bar squats
- Barbell sits on the bock of the shoulders
- The torso leans forward before and through the descent, allowing weight to stay mid-foot
- More hip stress, less knee stress
Now, why is this important? Because everyone’s body is built differently and encompasses different leverages. How to choose what is best for you will not only depend on your goals (both can be great, and both can be trained to work on different strengths and weaknesses), but ultimately, what’s more comfortable? This is a question to ask yourself not just for meet prep, but also could be a session by session basis. For example, perhaps you are working with a little hip tenderness that day — you may want to switch to high bar squats that session to relieve added hip stress. Or if you are in an off season, you may want to consider varying your training for a longer period of time to give your body a break and build upon weak points.
Food for thought. Which are you? Team high bar or low bar?
Happy training friends!