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11
27
2010

High-Bar Back Squat vs. Low-Bar Back Squat – Stupid Minutiae

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Minutiae are the trivial and minor parts of a larger issue. This includes the giant debate that rages on the Internet – should lifters do the high-bar squat or the low-bar squat? Well, as I talked about before in Back Squat vs. Front Squat for Baseball Pitchers:

While I use the low-bar squat (due to training as a powerlifter), the high-bar back squat is likely to be less annoying for baseball pitchers due to the more comfortable position for the shoulders when the bar is higher up on the traps. However, nothing’s free: Due to the more mechanically efficient position of the low-bar variant, you can squat more weight. Of course, this comes with a more “compromised” forced shoulder external rotation position and the increased risk of losing the bar forward if your squatting mechanics are not up to snuff, but these things are not a problem if managed correctly.

But the actual answer is that this issue is stupid. Yes, it’s just a dumb thing to focus on that everyone loves to talk about. We Americans love to talk about these minor details as if they matter – we discuss whether the Atkins Diet is better than the South Beach Diet, or if a stick shift is better than an automatic transmission. We argue over these silly points because we don’t want to think about the very easy-to-understand concepts that are too hard to stick to.

Squatting is simple – if you aren’t squatting, you are doing it wrong. Beyond that, you don’t need to think too much about it. Olympic lifters need to front squat and back squat. That’s as specific as I’m going to get into it. They can debate for hours on end about the Rippetoe low-bar style (more glute/hamstring activation, better mechanical efficiency) and the Olympic high-bar style (more erect spine, better athletic carryover to the barbell quick lifts), but the reality is that for 99% of the people debating this issue, it simply will not matter. You could take your average amateur Olympic lifter who competes as a weekend warrior and change his/her back squat from low-bar to high-bar or vice versa and his totals will probably not change meaningfully over a year. The reason for this is that the difference is so minimal for non-elite athletes, yet we want to focus on it as if it matters. You know what they should be doing rather than arguing? Figuring out how to duplicate the success of the Average Broz lifters in Las Vegas. Their guys do the quick lifts (clean / snatch) and their power variants twice per day while finding time to back squat and front squat as well.

You’re going to tell me that your average amateur Olympic athlete (much less baseball pitcher) who lifts 3-4 times per week absolutely must change from low-bar to high-bar because it is more sport-specific? Give me a break.

My advice to people who like to argue about this stuff and don’t have elite totals: Shut up and train.

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Chris Melton

Strong words…but sound logic. Just squat, unless you have specific training needs that require squat specialization.

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