Written by Jack Boardman
Wide Or Close-Stance Squat?
When performing squats your aim is to develop the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, quadriceps femoris muscle (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris) and hamstrings.
General advice suggests that when performing squats you should have your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, your hips back, shoulders and chest up straight and, for a standard squat, keep your feet flat on the floor.
Poor technique and posture when squatting can result in injuries. The most common injuries include lower back issues, knee pain and pulled hamstrings. Injuries to the hamstrings are often a case of not warming up properly or over-working your muscles. Knee and back pain, however, may be avoided with correct technique.
With all weightlifting you should bear the strain in the muscles you are intending to develop. With squats, you are developing your quad muscles. If you’re unsure whether your technique may be causing your problems, check that you are bearing the weight in your hamstrings and glutes with minimal to no strain on your lower back.
But how much does your foot positioning help or hinder muscle development when squatting?
If your feet are close together with the toes pointing straight ahead you will develop your outer thighs – the vastus lateralis. Other exercises that will help develop this muscle include the front squat, hack squat and the abductor machine.
By performing squats with your feet wide apart and your toes pointed out at a wider angle, you will develop your inner thighs (adductors) and the front of your thighs (vastus medialis). To develop these muscles you could also focus on weighted lunges and the adductor machine.
Having your feet wider apart than your shoulders is known to activate your quads as effectively as a more standard narrower stance. However, a wider stance works more muscles.
Among other distinct advantages is the fact you will better develop your glutes and will therefore not trouble your knees and lower back. Squatting with your feet at 140-150 percent of your shoulder width will allow greater posterior displacement of the hips, which will better activate your glutes when at the deepest point of your squat compared to a narrow stance.
Changing the stance changes the movement. Narrow stances require an anterior tracking of the knee, and while this is not necessarily a bad movement, it does place a greater stress on the knee – something that you definitely want to avoid in terms of longer term injuries.
When performing any compound lift your aim should be to encompass as many muscles as possible with simple movements. Sure, varying the degree of the depth of your squat may isolate some muscles more than others, but in general, you are performing squats to work the quads as a whole.
Wider squats are more powerful because of the more muscles you will use. You can, therefore, lift greater amounts of weight with a wider squat, which is exactly what you wanted to hear if you’re after gains.