by Gage Reid of Nova Strength
"Untamed Strength: "How To" SQUAT - High Bar/Low Bar" by Alan Thrall
1. High Bar Squat
Probably one of my favourite accessories to the Competition Low Bar Squat; the High Bar Squat is similar in execution in that it is a Squat-variation with the bar on your back (therefore sport-specific enough to have a strong carry over), but it's also generally a more difficult variation due to the mechanics involved; increased Range of Motion, more upright posture, and more quadricep involvement.
Another huge benefit of the High Bar Squat is the lowered risk of injury compared to the Low Bar Squat. Since the bar is lower on your back during a Low Bar Squat it forces you to be in a more bent over position, thus putting more strain on your lower back and making it more difficult to maintain a neutral spine. Overall this is not an issue if you execute proper bracing maneuvers, as well as have safe, efficient technique. But, if you were to perform the Low Bar Squat for multiple sets of 8, 10 or even 12 reps then you increase the probability of technical breakdown due to fatigue, as well as increase the possibility of injury. The general rule of thumb for Low Bar Squatting is keep the sets in the 1-6 rep range at the most in order to limit the amount of technical breakdown, accumulative fatigue as well as overuse injuries (most notably the Lower Back).
So, if you should only train the Low Bar Squat in the 1-6 rep range, how can I effectively train my Squat in a Hypertrophy Block? In steps the High Bar Squat...
"The High Bar Squat builds strength, the Low Bar Squat displays the strength built." - Chad Wesley Smith
The High Bar Squat is the most effective way to train the Squat since it allows you the luxury of training at a higher level of sport specificity but also allows you to squat in the higher rep ranges safely without compromising form to the point of injury. The High Bar Squat is an excellent tool that can be used during Hypertrophy Blocks, General Strength Blocks or even during Peaking Blocks due to its high level of Specificity and correlation to the Low Bar Squat. If you aren't using this variation yet, I'd highly recommend programming it in. The applications are almost endless from Beltless work, Paused Squats, Tempo Squats or even just straight Hypertrophy work using 5 sets of 10-12 reps building up muscle and work capacity.
2. Safety Squat Bar (SSB) Squat
Much like the High Bar Squat, the SSB Squat has almost unlimited purposes and capabilities. From Hypertrophy development to giving you the option of still Squatting even with an upper body injury (IE: shoulder, or elbow) whereas you'd be limited by doing a High Bar or Low Bar Squat.
The SSB Squat has many of the same characteristics as the High Bar Squat, like forcing you to maintain an upright torso, more quadricep involvement, and more "core stability" due to the placement/distribution of the bar on your back. Where the SSB Squat sets itself apart from the HBS is that it has handles in the front which allows you to take all of the strain off your shoulder joint and elbows. This is an excellent choice if you've sustained a shoulder or elbow injury, but it is also an excellent way to get in extra volume in the lower body without taxing the upper body.
Personally, I use the SSB Squat as my second of three Squat workouts of the week on Wednesday, after my primary Deadlift movement. The reason is because I use it as a recovery tool, but also as a way to increase total weekly training volume, improve technical prowess and increase overall Squat frequency without taxing my shoulders or elbows. Although I'm not recommending squatting 3 times per week if you only squat 1-2 times now, but what I am suggesting is that having one of your current Squat Days consist of SSB Squats may be an excellent tool to increase workload, volume and Hypertrophy without taxing the upper body. They're a million different ways to get strong, and there's tons of different methods that you can follow, but what's most crucial is to find what works for YOU or your athletes and run with it.
"How to Use a Safety Squat Bar" by Brandon Campbell
3. Belt Squat Variations
A generally little-known accessory that's excellent for building your Squat, as well as developing lower body Hypertrophy and ingraining proper Squat mechanics; the Belt Squat.
The Belt Squat's beauty lies within it's simplicity; a very versatile movement that allows you to train the muscles involved in the Squat without taxing your upper body--- but it's capabilities don't end there.
One of my favorite uses for the Belt Squat is for fine tuning Squat mechanics, or teaching a brand new lifter how to Squat. Since the movement is done without a bar on your back it allows the athlete the "comfort" to focus on tracking their toes, forcing knees forward, opening hips up at the bottom and firing the glutes at the top, as well as developing the foundation required for future gains (which is another great example of Phase Potentiation). If the athlete has never Squatted before or has a major dysfunction in their mechanics, the Belt Squat is an excellent corrective tool to use.
The Belt Squat can also be used as a way to add in extra weekly training volume since the lift isn't very taxing on the upper body or lower back, you are able to perform the lift more often without compromising recovery or risking injury. Chad Wesley Smith and Max Aita are huge proponents of the Belt Squat and see it as a primary tool for all athletes ranging from Powerlifters, team sport athletes to Weightlifters regardless of what level they are at in their development. Although there are many varying opinions on how the lift should be performed, in my opinion, the Belt Squat should be done with a moderate to close stance, allowing you to properly force your knees forward at the bottom of the Squat, maximizing the quadriceps in the case of a Raw Squatter.
If you're going to utilize the Belt Squat in your training then I'd suggest using it in a Hypertrophy capacity for sets of 8-12 reps, focusing on a consistent tempo, controlled rest periods and a focus on the overall execution of the movement. Performing perfect reps, while adding 5-10 pounds to the movement per week can add up huge for your Squat. This is definitely a movement that emphasizes the saying "the smallest things matter" when it comes to putting pounds on your Squat.
"Belt Squat Machine" by Louie Simmons and Laura Phelps
"Hip Belt Squat" by Ben Bruno
If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below or on Facebook and I will answer them as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!