What if someone invented a way to perform a squat, or any exercise for that matter, many years ago, and no one ever thought to look closely to see if it is harmful to your body?
Let’s take the push-up for example, when you do a push-up, you put your palm flat to the floor and you press through the ground as you bend the elbows and then straighten them again.
Duh! Seems logical. However, when you open your fridge, pull open a drawer or even do a pull-up, your wrist is straight.
Imagine doing a pull-up in the exact same manner as you do the traditional push-up. Your wrist join would be in big trouble!
I won’t go in to the details as to why that push-up is still popular, however lack of strength in many is the biggest variable.
If you are first learning how to squat, chances are you have all ten toes facing forward with your feet parallel and “shoulder width apart”. I added the quotations because shoulder width can vary depending on what part of the foot you decide to use as a landmark when aligning it with your shoulders.
You can perform a squat using this stance, however for the majority of the population, your back will end up moving too far forward as the hips get “stuck”.
Let me elaborate as to how this happens. Imagine you have a tall and fairly narrow glass in your hand and suspended from the roof with a string or two, is a ball (one from a pool table).
The ball is just a bit smaller than the glass.
You take your glass and from underneath, you gently begin to put the ball in it; this is done by moving the glass upwards.
With me so far? Now the ball is sitting inside the top of the cup, and there is not much space between the ball and the glass.
Now, you are holding the glass at the base with the ball inside and you decide to move the glass, in any direction.
Does the glass hit the ball?
it does, quite quickly actually as there was little distance between the ball and the glass in the first place.
This is what it’s like when many squat with a narrow stance. The head of the femur (the ball) is inside the Acetabulum (Hip Socket. Aka: The glass in the above analogy).
So once the ball hits the socket, it can no longer move. What happens next is the back will move as you continue to bend.
This squat technique, which is very common, is one of the biggest causes of low back pain in those who use it.
So What Should My Stance Be On My Squat?
is there a way to move the glass somewhat without it coming into contact with the ball?
Absolutely, if you pull the glass down a bit, to only allow half of the ball, or even a third of the ball to be inside, you can move the glass further without it making contact with the ball.
Now that we know that, as we first learn how to squat, we can use this technique.
An open stance is used on squats to allow the head of the femur (ball), to move more freely, allowing the back to stay straighter, which is critical to proper form on a squat.
How Wide Should I go?
Squat stances vary depending on the type of squat and how low you go, however if you are performing a full Olympic Squat or Power squat, having some part of your foot aligned with your shoulders would be ideal.
Earlier in this article I mentioned how you can align a certain part of the body depending on how you landmark it.
Well, a good marker is the heel of the foot (it’s okay to have only part of the heel and shoulder aligned with each other), as the toes will be pointed slightly outwards. And as you draw an imaginary line up, it should pass through some part of the shoulder.
Even the outside of it is fine. The most important thing is that you keep the barbell aligned and you have your back positioned properly.