Changing the position of the bar turns the back squat into another exercise
Strength athletes who train their legs with the back squat can give their quadriceps a stronger growth stimulus if they place the bar a little higher on their back. By contrast, if they put the bar a little lower, the stimulation of the muscles in their midsection becomes stronger.
Ju-Hyung Park, an exercise scientist at Gachon University in South Korea, had 28 male strength athletes squat on different occasions at 50, 60 and 70 percent of the weight at which the athletes could just manage 1 rep. Park had applied electrodes to the subjects' skin, which registered the activity of the muscles underneath.
Park's subjects performed the squat in two different ways: they performed high bar back squats and low bar back squats.
High bar back squats stimulated the quadriceps better than low bar back squats. The first and second table below show the differences during the eccentric and concentric phases of the movement, respectively.
The tables below are scaled down. Click them for a larger version.
Low bar back squats, on the other hand, provided a better training stimulus for the core muscles. That's what the two tables above tell you. The first table relates to the eccentric part of the movement, the second to the concentric part.
The researchers think that the high bar back squats are the most interesting squat variant for bodybuilders who want to develop their legs.
Low bar back squats, on the other hand, are more interesting for powerlifters who want to train with as heavy weight as possible, but also for athletes who are recovering from an injury. During the low bar back squat, the body is more stable and the risk of injury is therefore smaller.
PeerJ. 2020 Jun 8;8:e9256.
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