Squatting - Where Do My Feet Go?
Almost anytime I see someone with a lower body issue, I will look at their squat pattern. Something I look at with interest is how long it takes for someone to set up their squat. Some people drop right down, come back up, and they don’t even think about it. Others will point their toes forward, make sure their chest is up, feet shoulder width apart, take a deep breath, then drop down to squat. From this, it’s easy to tell who has looked up “how to squat” on the internet and who hasn’t. But does that really make their form better? Let’s take a quick dive in. Spoiler alert: no one squat cue works for absolutely everyone.
There are times when I see people who have been over-cued in their squat to the point where they are going against the way they were made to squat. I wrote a blog post earlier on hip pain and the position of the spine when squatting here, but today I’d like to focus on the stance. (Click here to see that post)
When I am helping people find their optimal squat pattern, I start with changing two variables, and often just this is enough to make a big change. These variables are stance, width and out-toeing.
I just Googled “how to squat” and the first two items in a long list of cues are: 1) Heels shoulder width apart, and 2) turn your feet out 30 degrees. This is a good place to start. While this might work for some people, don’t think you’re breaking any rules by modifying this to suit your needs. You know you’re squatting right for you if it feels the most comfortable out of any stance and you’re satisfied with your depth (assuming mobility isn’t a limiting factor).
Go ahead, do this right now. Without any weight, do a regular air squat as you would normally do. Then, widen your stance slightly (but don’t change the angle of your feet yet) and squat again. Do another one with a more narrow stance. How did each one feel? Place your feet where they felt best.
Now, play with the angle of your feet. Start with your feet pointed straight forward. Then, turn them out intentionally further than you would. How did each one feel? Just for fun, let your knees go past your toes if you were looking at yourself from the side. There is no overload here, just your bodyweight, your knees will be ok. I will cover the knees going past the toes in a future blog post.
Normal Stance and Neutral Out-toeing
Wide Stance + Out-toeing
In the above pictures there are combinations of these stances. You might want to try a wide stance with a neutral out-toe, or a normal stance with out-toeing instead if that suits you best. Try out your new squat stance in your next workout and see what the difference is. The goal here is comfort. There is no reason to fight the way you’re built, cater to it! It will make the exercise much more enjoyable and beneficial.