Woman in activewear doing barbell back squat. Text: barbell back squats: high or low bar? Which works best?

The Right Bar Height for Barbell Back Squats

exercise muscle building strength training workouts Feb 17, 2023

We have helped hundreds of women improve their health and fitness at KJO Coaching

Part of improving your health is developing a solid strength training routine, which we recommend for all our clients. (And p.s., I promise it won’t make you bulky!)

One thing that often comes up when our clients start getting more into resistance training is where to place the barbell when squatting. For some, it feels awkward in the “high bar” position, while for others, that position is perfect! 

It actually comes down to your limb length ratio! This can have a major impact on how you perform a barbell back squat. 

Someone with a longer torso and shorter limbs may have more difficulty at the bottom of the squat than someone with a shorter torso and longer limbs, so you need to adjust for this!


Your Body and Back Squats


Relative limb length affects your body mechanics when squatting and can help you determine whether a high or low bar squat may feel better for your body.

In the image below, you can see the difference between a high bar and a low bar squat. Notice where the bar sits on your back will differ slightly between the two.


If You Have Long Limbs 

You want to keep the bar path close to your center of gravity and over your mid-foot when squatting. 

If you have longer thigh bones compared to your torso, you will naturally lean forward a bit more while your hips sit further back, which is more conducive to low-bar squatting.

You may also need to stand in a wider stance to get to the bottom of your squat. 


If You Have Short Limbs

It's the opposite if you have shorter femurs. You’ll be able to maintain a more upright torso, and the quads will be more involved. 

This ratio is more conducive to high-bar squatting.

Being more upright when squatting will help you maintain balance and power throughout the lift.


Personal Preference Still Wins


These differences for squats are just due to the physics principles of torque and levers.

Does this mean you can’t and shouldn’t high bar squat if your relative limb length is longer?

No, absolutely not! They are both equally valuable and should be incorporated into your training.

More importantly, try not to let yourself fall into that fixed mindset of I know I can high-bar squat, and I want to get better at it! But I feel better low-bar squatting.

Embrace that growth mindset and work on the high-bar squat!

Understanding this concept of limb ratio helps determine which squat variation may feel better for your body, but ultimately you should perform the squat that allows you the most controlled range of motion and form!


Get Better at Squatting


If you didn’t even know that there were different positions for barbell placement during back squats, you might benefit from working with a coach

The KJO coaches can help you not only improve your mindset and physique, but we can also help you with your performance and form. 

Click here if you’re interested in learning more about working with our stellar coaches. 


And if you’d like to get a head start on a solid training program, check out our FREE sample 4-week training program.

This training program includes workouts as well as important information, videos, and terminology that will help you get the most out of this training plan. 

Get yours here!

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Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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