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Gym Shorts: The High Bar Squat

New to the high bar squat or looking for a quick technique tutorial? Learn correct form in one short video.

How to High Bar Squat

Gym Shorts videos provide short video demonstrations of correct form for various exercises.

Follow these steps:

  • Set Up
    • Set the bar comfortably on the top of your traps but not on your neck
    • Feet shoulder width or slightly narrower
    • Toes out ~30 degrees
  • Descent:
    • Knees forward & out
    • Proud vertical chest
    • Maintain balance on midfoot
  • Ascent:
    • Maintain midfoot balance
    • Lead up with your chest
  • Other form pointers:
    • Breathe at the top
    • Gaze ~2 feet off the floor

The high bar squat is an alternative to the low bar squat (the squat). We tend to use it as a squat supplemental lift OR a variant for someone who struggles to get into the low bar rack position, usually because of shoulder issues.  

It uses less muscle mass, as it stresses the quadriceps more and the hamstrings, glutes, and low back less than a low bar squat. The higher position of the bar moves the center of mass of the lifter & barbell higher on the torso, so the lifter–to keep the center of mass over the center of balance (the midfoot)–maintains a more upright torso. This shifts some of the moment from the knee to the hips, ultimately meaning that the knee extensors (the quadriceps) will have to do more work than the hip extensors (hamstrings, glutes, and adductors) and also stress the muscles that maintain lumbar extension (the spinal erectors).

So, why high bar? Some people struggle to get their shoulders into position for the low bar rack position, and the high bar rack position is easier on the shoulders. It’s better than a front squat or machines in terms of training the most muscle mass or the greatest effective range of motion with the most weight.

This–or a front squat–may also help those lifters who tend to do a good morning squat where they shift the hips back & extend the knees without moving the bar up, as these lifts require more knee extension.

Finally, the it may simply be a supplemental lift used for an intermediate or advanced lifter, especially one who competes in Olympic lifting.

They’re programmed just like low bar squats, and you can do many of the same supplemental forms of high bar squats as you can for low bar squats if high bar squats serve as your primary squat: tempo, paused, pin, box, etc.

Consider the high bar squat if you have shoulder issues or are looking for a supplemental squat lift for your program.

Click HERE to watch a longer tutorial on the high bar squat and HERE to learn more about how to fix or prevent the good morning squat.

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