Low Bar Back Squat Basics: Your Guide to Leg Gains

Lexi Lutz
Reading Time: 10 minutes
low bar back squat
Table of Contents

Wanna give those leg muscles a serious boost and power up your overall strength?

The low bar back squat should definitely be a staple in your workout routine. This exercise is one of the most effective ways to target your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, while also engaging your core.

But before you dive in, it’s important to understand the proper technique and form for this exercise. In this article, I’ll give you an overview of the low bar back squat, including its benefits and how to perform it correctly.

 

So, get ready to take your leg gains to the next level with the low bar back squat. Let’s dive deeper into the ins and outs of this powerful exercise.

Understanding Low Bar and High Bar Back Squats

First, let’s break down the basics. 

The low bar back squat differs from the high bar back squat in where the barbell is placed on your back. With the low bar variation, the barbell sits lower on your back, near the top of your shoulder blades rather than your neck. This shifts the emphasis to your hips and posterior chain, allowing you to lift more weight and engage more muscle fibers.

When performing the low bar back squat, maintaining proper form and technique is essential to prevent injury and ensure maximum results. It’s all about maintaining a tight core, keeping your chest up and shoulders back, and hitting proper depth.

To master these exercises, it’s essential to understand not only the differences between them but also the proper form and technique for each variation. Below is a comparison chart highlighting the key points of proper form for both low and high bar back squats.

Check out this chart for the key comparisons between bar placement, squat form, squat technique, and squat muscles worked:

ExerciseBar PlacementBody PositionMuscles TargetedForm and Technique
Low Bar Back SquatLower on back, resting on rear deltoidsForward lean to maintain balanceGlutes, hamstrings, lower backPosition feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, maintain a tight core, keep the chest up and the bar close to the body, initiate the movement by pushing the hips back and down, squat until your hips are below parallel
High Bar Back SquatHigher on back, just below cervical spineUpright positionQuadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, lower backPosition feet shoulder-width apart, maintain a tight core, keep the chest up and the bar close to the body, initiate the movement by bending at the knees and hips simultaneously, squat until your hips are below parallel

Mastering the Low Bar Back Squat Form

Proper form and technique are essential for maximizing the benefits of the low bar back squat. Here’s how to perform the exercise correctly:

  1. Begin by setting up the bar on a rack with the appropriate weight. Step under the bar and position it so that it rests on your upper traps, slightly below your shoulders.
  2. Position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly outward. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with a closed grip.
  3. Step out of the rack and take a deep breath, filling your belly with air to brace your core.
  4. Lower your body by bending at your hips and knees, keeping your back straight and chest up. Descend until your hips are slightly below your knees.
  5. Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat, then exhale as you drive through your heels to extend your hips and knees. Push up through the bar, maintaining control and keeping your core tight throughout the movement.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps, maintaining proper form throughout.

When performing the low bar back squat, it’s important to maintain proper alignment and depth to avoid injury and maximize results. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your core braced throughout the movement, maintaining tension in your abdominal muscles to protect your lower back.
  • Keep your chest up and shoulders back, with your elbows pointed down to create a shelf for the bar to rest on.
  • Descend until your hips are slightly below your knees, aiming for full depth without sacrificing form. If you’re struggling to hit full depth, work on improving your squat mobility by incorporating exercises like hip openers and foam rolling into your routine.
  • Avoid common mistakes like leaning too far forward, allowing your knees to collapse inward, or rounding your back. These errors can increase your risk of injury and decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.

Low Bar Back Squat Form

Benefits of the Low Bar Back Squat

To get the most out of the low bar back squat, it’s important to incorporate it into your workout programming in a way that suits your individual needs and goals. This may include adjusting your squat depth, varying the weight and reps, and incorporating other exercises that target similar muscle groups.

squat benefits

  • Building Leg Strength: By targeting multiple muscle groups in your lower body, the low bar back squat is an effective exercise for building leg strength and power.
  • Improving Posture and Balance: Maintaining proper form and alignment during the exercise can strengthen your core and back muscles, leading to improved posture and balance.
  • Increasing Muscle Size: The low bar back squat is a compound exercise that can stimulate muscle growth in your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
  • Burning Calories: Because the low bar back squat engages so many muscle groups, it can help to burn calories and reduce body fat over time.

Overall, the low bar back squat is an excellent exercise for building leg strength, improving posture and balance, and developing overall muscle size and definition in your lower body. By incorporating it into your workout programming and adjusting it to your needs, you can reap the many benefits that this exercise has to offer.

Alternatives and Variations of the Low Bar Back Squat

While the low bar back squat is an excellent exercise for building leg strength and muscle, it’s always good to have some variety in your workouts. Here are some alternative exercises and variations to the low bar back squat to spice it up:

1. Front Squats

If you’re struggling with low bar back squats due to mobility or flexibility issues, front squats may be a great alternative. Front squats target similar muscle groups as the low bar back squat, but they require less ankle and hip mobility. Instead of placing the barbell on your upper back, you’ll hold it in front of your body with your elbows up.

2. Box Squats

Box squats can be a nice variation to the low bar back squat, as they can help build explosive power and improve hip and knee flexibility. The difference with box squats is that you sit back on a box or bench before standing back up. This takes the momentum out of the squat and requires you to use more force to stand up.

3. Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats are great for targeting each leg individually, helping to correct any strength imbalances you may have. To perform this exercise, place one foot behind you on a bench or sturdy surface and squat down on the other leg. This exercise requires more balance and coordination than the low bar back squat, but can be a great addition to your leg workout routine.

4. Sumo Squats

Sumo squats target the inner thighs more than the low bar back squat. To perform a sumo squat, take a wider-than-shoulder-width stance, point your toes outwards, and squat down while keeping your back straight. This exercise can also help improve hip mobility.

FAQ

What is the difference between a low bar back squat and a high bar back squat?

The main difference between a low bar back squat and a high bar back squat is the placement of the barbell on your back. In a low bar back squat, the barbell is positioned lower on your back, resting on your rear delts and upper back muscles. This allows for a more forward lean and places more emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. In a high bar back squat, the barbell is placed higher on your traps, right below your neck. This position promotes a more upright posture and places more emphasis on the quads.

What is the correct form and technique for a low bar back squat?

To perform a low bar back squat with proper form, start by placing the barbell on your rear delts and upper back, making sure it is securely positioned. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly pointed out. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, initiate the squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Lower yourself until your hips are slightly below parallel, then drive through your heels to stand back up. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid rounding your back or leaning too far forward.

What muscles does the low bar back squat work?

The low bar back squat targets several muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. It also engages the core, lower back, and upper back muscles for stability. This exercise is an effective compound movement that strengthens and builds muscle in the entire lower body.

How deep should I squat during a low bar back squat?

The depth of your squat during a low bar back squat can vary depending on your mobility and flexibility. Ideally, aim to lower yourself until your hips are slightly below parallel, meaning your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Going deeper than parallel can increase the recruitment of muscles in the glutes and hamstrings, but be mindful of maintaining proper form and not compromising your lower back.

How can I improve my mobility for the low bar back squat?

Improving your mobility for the low bar back squat is crucial for maintaining proper form and preventing injury. Some exercises and stretches that can help improve squat mobility include hip flexor stretches, ankle mobility exercises, and squatting with an elevated heel. Additionally, incorporating mobility drills and foam rolling into your warm-up routine can also be beneficial.

What are the benefits of incorporating the low bar back squat into my leg training routine?

The low bar back squat offers numerous benefits for leg strength and muscle development. It targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously, allowing for efficient and effective training. This exercise can help increase lower body strength, improve muscle definition, and enhance overall athletic performance. It also stimulates the release of growth hormone, which aids in muscle growth and recovery.

How can I incorporate the low bar back squat into my workout programming?

To incorporate the low bar back squat into your workout programming, consider adding it as a primary compound exercise for your lower body training days. Start with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form and gradually increase the load as you become more comfortable and stronger. Aim for 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions, taking adequate rest between sets. Remember to include appropriate warm-up sets and cool-down stretches.

Are there any alternatives or variations to the low bar back squat?

Yes, there are alternative exercises and variations that can complement or replace the low bar back squat. Some options include front squats, goblet squats, split squats, and Bulgarian split squats. These exercises target similar muscle groups and provide different challenges and stimulus for your leg training. Experiment with different variations to find the ones that work best for your goals and body mechanics.

SHARE THIS POST

RELATED POST

ACTIIIVE PURSUIT

Be the first to learn about our new fitness app launch, exclusive offers and more!