Ask The Trainer

What is the best squat stance?

February 21, 2015

Q: When squatting, does your stance matter, or is there a foot position that is best for each individual?

A: Conventional wisdom for proper squat stance says stand with feet shoulder width apart with your toes angled slightly outward.

Although this may work for most people, there several things to consider that could change the game completely. Your flexibility, height, quad strength and even the shape of the ball and socket joint in your hip could determine the squat stance that's best for you. So the idea that one size fits all doesn't hold water, and you may need to consider the following suggestions.


It would be great if we all were very flexible, but the truth is, some people are born very flexible while other are tight as a drum, and depending on which category you fall under, you may need to adjust your squat stance accordingly. People with loose hamstrings and inner thighs can use a wider stance when squatting. While you can improve your flexibility through stretching, there are still genetic limits, and you should never squat wider than your flexibility range. A good rule of thumb is if your stance is not comfortable, you are probably too wide.

Hip joints

Hip joints come in all sizes and shapes, and this plays a very big role as to what foot stance will be best for each individual. Some people have different-shaped bones, and others have more narrow sockets. Some people even have different-shaped ball joints that extend off their femur at different angles. Really, you don’t have to take an x-ray to know what your bones look like to determine your squat stance, but you do have to consider that there are some anatomic differences that will determine the best stance for optimum performance. No matter how much stretching or strengthening you do, your body will tell you the stance that works best.


As a general rule, most tall people have long legs, and this will enable them to squat wider, but there are also those who have shorter legs and long torsos, and this will change the game a bit. If you’re tall with long thighs, a wide stance with your feet pushed outward will be a good stance and will compensate for the longer distance you must go by shortening the femurs. People who are tall but longer in the upper body and shorter in the legs will probably squat at shoulders' width or even more narrow and will have great success at it because this is the perfect combination that allows for moving more weight.

Quad development

There are several schools of thought on squats and quadriceps development and some are as different as people's opinions on politics. Some say a narrow stance works the outer thigh, a wide stance works the inner thigh, and a shoulders' width stance works all four quad muscles comprehensively. Others say foot placement variation has no bearing on leg development at all, but one of the primary principles of weight training and muscle growth is to try different things and that includes foot placement and stances, as long as they are not too dramatic or outside your genetic capability. The bottom line is if you find a stance that’s comfortable, it’s probably right for you.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter