The low bar squat is a weight lifting exercise you'll find throughout many of the weight lifting workouts here at WLC.
The vast majority of exercises that are squatting movements will be great exercises. The squat movement is something we do at a very young age without instruction. If you ever get a chance to watch a toddler move, you should do so. You'll see them do squats all over the place.
As we age, many of us stop moving like we should especially in this day and age when sitting at a computer or sitting to watch TV is normal. Squats are something many people never do, and then we all wonder why we injure our backs. To prevent back injuries, we are then told to stop lifting heavy things.
Instead of taking that advice and trying to prevent injury by doing less, we should be doing squats often while always trying to improve our mobility. It feels great to be able to move without pain and perform tasks that the normal person just can't do.
The low bar squat is one of those weight lifting exercises that's only going to help you.
You'll develop strength, power, and musculature all over your entire body but especially in your lower body. Your thighs will be the main beneficiary of low bar squats. The quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings are going to be targeted in all squatting movements.
I want this page to be the most comprehensive page on the low bar squat that you'll find anywhere.
About the Low Bar Squat Exercise
The low bar squat, as you know, is a form of the barbell squat. The squat is considered to be the best overall weight lifting exercise by many experts. The squat is definitely top 2 for me as the deadlift is also an amazing weight lifting exercise. Some forms of the deadlift really work the lower body very well.
When it comes to targeting the entire lower body with a single exercise, though, the squat is the king of all weight lifting exercises. If you add the entire body into the picture, the deadlift will give the squat a run for the money.
There is some controversy over the low bar squat and the high bar squat as you will see if you do a search for high bar squat versus low bar squat.
The low bar squat is used by most power lifters because most people will be able to lift heavier weight with this version of the squat. The high bar squat is used in Olympic style lifting. In my opinion, the 2 versions are quite different and the feel of each are totally different.
The low bar squat may be somewhat more difficult to learn than the high bar squat, but many times it will depend on you as an individual and which movement fits with your body better.
I highly recommend that you NEVER stick with a single exercise style for really long periods of time. Sticking with the same type of exercise movement for a long time doesn't fit well with the mobility goal I talked about earlier.
Working on different movements will always lead to higher mobility and less injury as you go throughout life.
In the WLC Level 1.1 BASE 3×5 Full Body Strength Specific Training Program, I have you start with the low bar squat because I believe you need to spend time learning how to squat properly. You can always substitute the high bar squat if you like it better. If you're not sure, start with the low bar squat as instructed.
Required Weight Lifting Equipment for the Low Bar Squat
In order to perform the low bar squat, you're going to need a safe place to do this exercise and the correct weight lifting equipment:
– Power Rack. A power rack is highly recommended so you're able to safely perform the low bar squat. All power racks will have safety bars you can set at the right height in case something unexpected happens while you're doing this exercise. You can also use a squat rack or squat stands but please be safe.
– Olympic Barbell. A high quality Olympic sized barbell is highly recommended. You can always use a standard barbell as I did when I first started out but it's much smaller and usually doesn't fit in a power rack properly. When I first started, I would clean and press the weight over my head to get into position. That doesn't work well once the weight gets heavier.
– Olympic Weight Plates. An Olympic sized barbell weighs 45 pounds so it might be too heavy for some beginners. A standard weight set might be good to start with for people with lower beginning strength levels. Once you get stronger, though, you'll need more weight plates. I highly recommend loading up on smaller plates as well as some larger weight plates. Get plenty of 2.5 pound and 5 pound weight plates. This makes it easier to add small amounts of weight to the barbell with each weight lifting workout.
That's all you need to perform the low bar squat exercise properly. If you don't have the above weight lifting equipment, there are always many other squat variations you can use.
Preparing for the Low Bar Squat
Follow all the steps below in order to get ready to do your first rep with low bar squats.
You should always start by getting your body warmed up properly by doing mobility exercises first followed by some low rep body weight exercises. A good warm-up might be front to back leg swings, side to side leg swings, body weight squats, and jumping jacks.
Each workout program you'll find here will outline the warm-up routine you should use before loading up the barbell for low bar squats.
Once you've warmed up properly for the low bar squat, you'll load the barbell with your working weight.
Before stepping up to the barbell, make sure you're going to step backwards out of the power rack and not forward. This allows you to step forward after the set when you're tired. If you have to step backwards to rack the weight when you're tired, it might not end up very well.
Safety is always number one so make sure you get this part right.
When you step up to the barbell, place your hands
Tips, Tricks, and Secrets for the Low Bar Squat
Do not use a pad on the barbell. Instead, learn how to place the bar properly which is low on your back. You may need to work on flexibility in your shoulders, chest, and arms in order to get the bar lower on your back.
If your posterior chain is weaker than your quadriceps, choose low bar squats over high bar squats to help move focus to these areas.
The low bar squat is the recommended starting squat movement for most beginners to weight lifting.
Most people should be able to lift heavier weight with the low bar squat than any other squat movement. This is because you will be using the larger and stronger posterior muscles.
The high bar squat is also a great exercise, and you should be able to lift heavy weights with that movement also. The high bar squat uses the quadriceps much more than the low bar squat so focusing on the high bar squat can help you develop the quadriceps better than the low bar squat.
I highly recommend you learn proper squat technique for the low bar squat and work on getting as strong s possible on this version of the squat.
A Description of the Low Bar Squat
Coach Rippetoe will describe the low bar squat in the video below. Please take the time to watch the video and understand this version of the squat.
Taking the time to understand the low bar squat will help you to understand how this version of the squat should be done. Very important information in the video above.
Proper Bar Position for the Squat with a Low Bar Position
In order to perform the low bar squat properly, you've got to first get the setup correct. Setting yourself up to do the movement properly is one of the most vital pieces to proper form and technique.
Make sure to watch the video above and most importantly you need to practice. Practice really does make perfect.
Putting it All Together for the Perfect Squat
Notice every portion of the squat movement including the setup, eccentric movement, hip movement, concentric movement, and the completion of each rep.
Even if you think you know how to do the low bar squat properly, you might not do it as well as you think. Take some videos of your squat from the front, back, and sides. See how well you are doing.
You might just spot something you aren't doing correctly. Proper form and technique is vital to getting the most out of the low bar squat.
How to Do the Low Bar Squat Properly
Here's a picture from Starting Strength showing you how you must move your body as a unit in order to do the squat properly.
I highly recommend Starting Strength if you want to learn how to do the low bar squat properly. You won't find better instruction anywhere.