When it comes to heavy lifting, form is everything. In a recent YouTube video, Kelly Starrett, physical therapist and founder of The Ready State, broke down the key principles of what makes a strong stance while performing a squat. Drawing on popular powerlifter techniques as well as his own mobility coaching experience, he stressed the importance of having the most movement options.
"One way to trick the system to manage an upright torso and verticalize the shin, is to sit back a little bit, take that slack out of your femur, and put it wide stance," he explained. "So you can keep a pretty vertical torso, and squat a pretty wide stance position."
The issue that can arise with a wide squat stance, he points out, is that it may inhibit your ability to squat deeper. And while it's not necessary to squat with depth all the time, there are instances where you'll want full squat depth. "As soon as you bring your stance in, then all of a sudden you have access to that position," he said.
"Having open-ended movement choices, and I'm not saying you shouldn't squat wide or pull wide or swing wide, but if you're looking at a single choice that allows you to stay stable all the way down, chances are that's going to look narrower than a traditional powerlifting stance," he continued. "It has better carryover, and gives you full access."
According to Starrett, while it's not mentioned much, the width of your pelvis can also be a factor in figuring out what your best squat stance looks like at the lower end of the movement. "Narrow pelvis, you're going to see a lot more knee out, much wider pelvis, you're going to see something a little bit more straight," he said.
Ultimately, Starrett advises to look at what goes on with your ankle and foot positioning. Your knees should never cave in on a squat, and your heels should not leave the ground. If either of those things is happening, you need to reevaluate your squat stance.
Understand this too: You're not always going to use maximum squat depth in your training. But you should know the body position that helps you attain full squat depth, says Starrett, even if you only use it when you're not loaded. "That's the squat we teach in athletics," he said. "It's not an idea of who can squat the most weight to a specific depth, we're looking at how do we train full range of motion."
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