Which squat variation is the most efficient?
If the athlete/client lifts the same amount of weight with all three squat techniques, the front squat variation will be the most difficult to perform. The low bar squat variation would be the easiest.
The LOW BAR BACK SQUAT is the most mechanically efficient out of these three variations because of leverage. Mechanically, our bodies can squat more weight when the moment arm is the longest at the hips. This squat utilizes a tremendous amount of muscle mass over a long range of motion and allows the lifter to handle more weight than the other variants.
The HIGH BAR BACK SQUAT is characterized by a more upright, vertical torso than the low-bar squat. Since every squat requires the bar to stay in balance over the middle of the foot, the more vertical back angle means the knees must shift farther forward to keep the bar over midfoot. The knee angle is thus more closed at the bottom of the movement. This leads to more of the work being shifted to the quads and less to the hamstrings. However, since the torso isn't as vertical as in the front squat and since the bar isn't carried on the front delts, more weight can be lifted in the high-bar squat than the front squat, leading to an intermediate between the low bar squat and front squat when it comes to load lifted, systemic stress, and strength adaptation response.
The FRONT SQUAT differs from the high bar back and low bar back squats in that the bar is carried in the rack position on the meat of the deltoids, which are bunched up by raising the elbows. It's trapped in place by the hands and fingers, but the weight of the bar is supported by the delts and torso. Since the bar must stay over mid-foot at heavy weights, an extremely vertical/upright torso is required in the front squat so as not to lose the bar forward and have to dump it. The torso is even more upright here than in the high bar back squat, leading to an even more forward knee position. This closed knee angle shortens the hamstrings even more than in the high bar back squat, limiting their contribution in the movement.
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