Today in the gym was a fun day for me. I love to Squat, talk about squats, make other folk squat in class or in a PT session. Luckily a member was in squatting when I had some free time and we worked on their squat. After a few tweaks here and there, the squat improved and they went on their merry way, a little more in pain than normal, but in a good way!
Got me thinking about a variety of squats and if there was a best type? I have a laugh with Andy as he is High Bar Squatter and I'm a Low Bar Squatter, so please feel free to make as much fun on Andy as possible when you see him.
Firstly, let's look at the main muscle groups trained when squatting (In no specific order) Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Erectors, Trapezius, Abdominals, Obliques, Upper back and Lats. Regardless of Back loaded, Front loaded or Overhead Squatting, the hips, knees and ankles are the primary joints that are targeted. The above muscles (Quads, Hammies, Erectors and glutes) all cross those large joints.
The main type of Squats are Bodyweight Squats, probably the most necessary and foundational movements that we can teach/learn , as it is the basis for all loaded squatting variations. The benefits of learning the bodyweight squat are to reinforce ankle, knee and hip flexion/extension mechanics. Also proper proprioception and breathing.
The High Bar Back Squat, also known as an Olympic Squat. The bar placement is high on the lifters traps, above the spine of the scapula. This placement forces the lifter to have a more vertical torso, therefore a more vertical descent into the squat by increasing the amount of knee and ankle flexion needed. Also placing a greater emphasis on the quads for strength. The benefits of high bar enable the lifter to mimic many foundational patterns used for jumping, running, Olympic lifting and leg development.
The Low Bar Back Squat. The bar is placed a few inches lower on the back, which will allow the lifter to have a more forward leaning torso. This placement places more loading stress on the hamstrings, glutes, erectors and posterior chain. Which in turn can be often done with much higher weight loads. The benefits of low bar are that you can use slighter heavier loads, increases both glute and hamstring involvement and can create greater back thickness and stability, as the upper and middle back is needed to lock in much more than high bar.
The Front Squat is a specific movement for Olympic lifting but not done in an Olympic lifting environment, it is a movement any lifter should utilise. Like the high bar back squat, the lifter is forced into a vertical torso position, which in turn requires greater ankle/knee mobility and quad strength. The benefits of the front squat can increase upper back strength, core stability and place greater emphasis on the quads.