10 squat options: which one is better for you?
Everyone’s favorite trainer, Thibadeaux, breaks down one of the most basic exercises, explaining why different variations are more effective for different purposes (and builds).
1. Back barbell squat, high barbell position (quadrodominant)
Originally it was just a squat with the bar on the back, but when lifters started to roll the bar lower, they had to lengthen and separate the names.
In this version, the bar rests on the shoulders and the top of the trapezius, the inclination of the body is minimal, the pelvis is not moved far back, but the knees are pushed forward. So more work is done by the leg extensor muscles.
The bottom is developed quite balanced, but the emphasis is still on the quadriceps. Will help those who have been skipping leg day.
Not suitable for everyone anatomically. If you have relatively long limbs (especially when your thigh bone is long and your tibia is short) and a short torso, you still have to bow and transfer the load from your legs to your pelvis/back with this bar position.
Who’s more effective for.
The base is for people with short limbs and a longer torso. You can do nothing else for legs at all, although the squat with barbell on the chest (see below) will be even more effective.
2. Back barbell squat, low barbell position (hip-dominant)
Allows lifters to take more weight in competitions. The point, of course, is not in the placement of the bar, but in the movement of the body: the body leans forward more, the pelvis is pushed further back. The low position of the barbell just makes life a little easier for the lower back. This way you can do 10-20% more than in the squat with a high bar position.
However, as I said before, it depends on your physique, for some this variant does not add anything, and even decreases.
Engaging more muscles of the pelvic girdle (and the rear surface of the body in general), you can increase the working weight.
Overloads the lower back, requires increased mobility of the shoulder joints. Stimulates the quadriceps less, not suitable for people with a longer body.
Who is more effective for
For powerlifters with long limbs and a short torso. The most suitable anatomically, in which you can overcome the maximum weights. But you must remember that it is impossible to pump up the quads with this variant, it is an exercise for the muscles of the rear surface.
3. Squat with barbell on chest
The bar rests on the front segments of the deltoids (and pecs if they’re so prominent). Weightlifters hold the bar with their fingers because they have superhuman joint mobility; mere mortals are left to cross their arms or use wrist straps.
The incline in this squat is even less than in the “back squat” with a high bar position, the pelvis is even less withdrawn back and the knees are even more forward. That is, the load on the quadriceps is even higher.
People with long limbs or tight ankles will need heeled weightbars or pancakes under their heels to get down to a full saddle.
Great builds quads. Extra load on the upper back and “cor”.
Requires well-developed ankles. Holding the bar on the chest (front delts) is not for everyone either.
For whom is it more effective?
Certainly for weightlifters and possibly for bodybuilders with long, but skinny legs, although you have to put your heels on the pancakes and place your arms crosswise.
People with short limbs are also quite suitable, but their thighs are already perfectly loaded by squatting with the bar on their back.
4. Squat with the Safety Bar.
This is a bar designed specifically for squatting, with a padded bar in the middle, also equipped with handles. Thanks to this design, it sits comfortably at the very top of the trapeze (even higher than in the squat with a high bar position), the inclination of the body is also low, which again shifts the load to the hips.
Intermediate is more quadro-dominant than the squat with a regular barbell on your back, more hip-dominant than the squat with a barbell on your chest. Adds “bark” loading, more comfortable for the shoulder girdle.
You need to learn how to properly place such a barbell so that it does not press on the neck (this is just dangerous). The working weight is less than in conventional squats with a barbell on the back. The highest placement of the bar requires a low incline – it will be difficult if you are used to inclined squats.
Who it’s more effective for
For older athletes and young athletes but with problematic shoulders. The benefit is the same as the squat with a high bar position.
5. Zercher Squat (with barbell at elbows)
Since the bar is again in front, the incline is minimal, as in the barbell-on-chest squat. Some people do an inclined version of this squat, though.
For those who haven’t tried it, it seems that the working weight will be limited due to holding the bar in your hands, but that’s not the case. I’ve had several clients get up to 200-220 pounds – more than in my squats with the barbell on my chest.
It will certainly be uncomfortable at first, thick bars, extension pads, or just towels/clothes help.
The body stays almost vertical, the quads work as hard as possible. The upper back and “cor” are engaged, as well as the beloved biceps. This carries over positively even to the standing position.
You can’t call it super comfortable, it’s still hard on the arms.
Who is more effective for.
For people with long limbs who dream of pumping up their quads. Also good for fighters and rugby players.
6. Anderson squat (from the bottom point).
Same as the regular squat – but you start from the bottom, taking the bar off the restraints/plinths in each repetition.
If the bottom squat is much smaller than the top squat, then you have a problem with the force development of the pelvic girdle muscles. In this case, incorporating the Anderson squat into the program will help boost your records in the traditional squat.
Although a similar effect can be achieved with the conventional paused squat, the Anderson squat better teaches the working muscles to develop force when lifting from a lower point.
Hip mobility is developed; just dropping into a full squat without a load is already an accomplishment for many. Great transfer to the stanza, as you no longer rely on the stretch reflex as in a regular squat.
Of course, there are also disadvantages: you already need to have enough shoulder and pelvic girdle mobility to assume the starting position. And, of course, you’ll have to significantly reduce your working weight first, which will underload at the upper end of the amplitude.
More effective for whom.
I seldom prescribe it as a basic exercise, but the Anderson squat is a great addition to the program for those who get stuck in the lower point of the regular squat or have trouble pulling the bar off the platform in the deadlift.
Anderson Squat with the bar on the chest
If you’re a weightlifter or crossfit athlete who is having trouble getting your chest up in a full squat and the regular front squat isn’t working, here’s the solution.
Again, you lack the ability to develop force at the bottom point, standing up thanks to the stretch reflex. Add the Anderson squat with a barbell on your chest to your program and you’ll notice improvements in as little as 4-6 workouts.
7. The Box Squat
This option, in my opinion, has a serious disadvantage (see minuses), but sometimes I apply it for certain purposes.
It should be understood that you are not just sitting on a crate. You sit backwards and on the box: at the lowest point, your shin is vertical (or even tilted backwards). In other words, it’s a more hip-dominant version of the squat with a low back bar position.
Engages the gluteals and biceps of the thighs more, teaches how to descend to the correct depth (by adjusting the height of the box), as well as rising after a pause from the bottom point. Great backup for the stanova.
Potentially more dangerous than the usual squats – higher compression load on the spine, which is pressed by the bar to the box.
Of course, if you try to do it correctly, the risk of injury is minimal, but it is too easy to make a mistake, such as too relaxed at the bottom point, quickly dropping onto the box or miss, not having reached it.
For whom is more effective
For powerlifters who perform in a special outfit (a squat suit helps lift from the bottom point). If you squat only in the belt, practicing this option will not really raise the result at the competition.
8. Frankenstein squat (with the bar on your chest, but without locking your arms)
The barbell simply rests on your delts and does not allow you to crouch forward, otherwise it will roll. The main purpose of this is to practice perfect technique, such as if you burrow or round your upper back in a regular squat with the bar on your chest.
Just like all minimum incline squats, it works the quadriceps perfectly. Strengthens the upper back and “cortex.” Stresses technique.
Obviously, you can’t use a large enough (for the legs) work weight. At best – when you learn and can perform this variation at maximum load – get to 85-90% of the squat with a barbell on your chest.
For whom is it more effective?
As a warm-up, for anyone who squats with a barbell on the chest. Or are learning to squat with the bar on their chest, but are too forward leaning for now.
9. Cup Squat.
Great exercise, but too boring for experienced lifters – you can’t take a lot of weight. Here we see the limitation of arm strength: it’s not so easy to hold a dumbbell or a weight of 50-60 kg, and what can you do if your legs need 2-3 times more weight?
Better than others teaches the correct technique: you do not bow forward, the thoracic spine is kept straight, the tool is comfortable to hold (while the weight is small).
Sooner or later the load becomes insufficient.
For whom is it more effective?
Ideal for children and older beginners.
10. Squat with a “grounded” (wrestling) barbell
Cup squat for adults – you can use more weight, although the arms remain the limiting factor.
The bar in front of you prevents you from leaning forward and even forces you to deviate slightly at the low point, so even people with long limbs are forced to sit down technically, loading their quadriceps.
Also useful for practicing proper technique + gives enough incentive to pump your hips if you do multi-rep sets. Minimal compression load on the spine, you can safely work to failure.
Working weight will still be limited to what you can hold in your hands.
For whom is it more effective?
For beginners with long and thin legs, as well as, for example, if for any reason you cannot squat with barbell on back/chest.