Wide Vs Narrow Squats

Well, I realized if the discussion continued as it was going, I would wind up totally hijacking the Diablo Barbell thread, so, I’m going to post my thoughts and questions here.

As I stated over in that thread, I’ve been squatting with a moderate width(about 22", thats measured from the heels, though I keep my feet slightly turned out) and getting ass to the grass. However, noticing the tendency towards very wide stances, I asked after why that method was used and learned from several that it was a matter of minimizing ROM, sparing the knees, and equalizing strength distribution between quads, hams, and glutes.

Now, I’ve tested my ability to squat wide, and its pretty sad. I lose my balance while trying to sit back and avoid putting my knees over my toes(I’m glad I did this sans weights). When I squat normally the knees come a bit foreward but just to the toes or not quite even that.

I’ve also seen pictures of persons(generally olympic lifters) squatting about like I do(a little more then shoulder width) and they seem to handle plenty of weight, and not be suffering terrible knee problems.

So, in the end, where does everyone stand?(no pun intended)

How far is too far for the knees to go? Should the back wind up slightly inclined but straight? For those that are wide standers, did you have to work up to this, and how?

i squat wide stance because thats what feels natural to me and it allows me to use more weight, i only go down to parallel though, if i am trying to go ass to grass i narrow my feet up a bit (just outside shoulder width) with wide stance i feel it alot mroe in my calves, hammys lower back, and glutes vs i feel it alot more in my quads the narrower my stance is…hope this answers your question


[quote]Moon Knight wrote:
How far is too far for the knees to go? Should the back wind up slightly inclined but straight? For those that are wide standers, did you have to work up to this, and how?[/quote]

It really comes down to what you’re squatting for.

Powerlifters only need to break parallel, so from a sport-specific standpoint there’s no reason for them to squat any deeper. Getting out wide brings in the hips, hams and glutes more, allowing them to use more weight.

Olympic lifters squat deep because the deeper they can squat, the lower they can pull the barbell and still get under and catch it. The narrow stance just goes along with that, because as you get out wide you can’t get as much depth.

The arguments about squats damaging the knees are pretty much all played out with the bottom line being that properly utilized squats lead to healthier, stronger knees. My main concerns are keeping the weight on the heels and the back neutral and braced.

So squat for what you need to do. If it’s just general fitness, I think it’s good to do at least some ATG squats for the flexibility and strength through a full ROM, but it’s probably not a bad idea to use a variety of stances.


OK, here’s my thing with close stance. I always naturally liked squatting close stance and deep and trying to keep the body upright. This was because I had large quads and really good knee flexibility. I used Louie Simmons guidelines for squatting form, and my wide stance squat rose, but I noticed that my close stance squat went up EQUALLY even though I wasn’t training with it, however, close stance squatting did not improve my wide stance squat, and in fact close stance squatting was no longer improving my CLOSE stance squat. I might use close stance and deep for 2-3 weeks every 6 months now.

Now as far as mechanical advantage, (and actually for the sake of physics correctness, you want a LOW mechanical advantage to move the greatest weight-just a note about commonly misused terminolgy) you actually are at your worst mechanical advantage it parallel-hip joint to knee joint parallel. If you go below parallel, you actually get better mechanical advantage because your shortening levers and you also pre-stretch some muscles that don’t get stretched as much at parallel, however, the greater distance you have to move may negate that.

I actually think that with balanced leg musculature, if you train to be explosive from the bottom of the deep close squat, it may be your stongest squatting form, but you have to get the weight moving real fast and avoid reflexive mechanisms that actually tend to make you slow down after the first initial burst-especially tight hip flexors and some degree of inhibition in the prime movers.

Sorry, just ideas, no answers.

Well I’m not a competitive powerlifter right now, though, I would like to consider doing it somewhat casually in the future, along with casual strongman events, when I am strong enough.

I’m working on building up from almost nothing. I’ve spent 2 of the last 3 years dieting down from almost 300 pounds of pure fat with no nutritional or fitness knowledge whatsover, and then spent the last year gradually moving from inconsistant gym time and lousy routines(think Flex) to more consistancy and routines found here or inspired by what I’ve read here and elsewhere(other then Flex).

I really just want to make sure that I don’t continue a practice that might limit my ability to squat in the future(ie knee problems or muscle imbalances caused by too much quad development).

I think something in the middle works best for me toes slightly out. Take example of captain Kirk’s Squat one of the best squaters in powerlifting

[quote]Moon Knight wrote:
I really just want to make sure that I don’t continue a practice that might limit my ability to squat in the future(ie knee problems or muscle imbalances caused by too much quad development).[/quote]

I’ll repeat a point that Mel Siff brings up repeatedly in his writings and in the Supertraining archives, which is that the stresses placed on the knee during running and jumping are higher than those produced by maximal squatting.

Of course no activity is 100% safe and there is no guarantee you will never have pain or an injury, but I think the comparison really puts the squatting/knees debate in perspective. Certain people will get themselves worked up into a frenzy about how full squatting is bad for the knees, but I’ve never heard an equally passionate indictment of running.

I would not worry about muscle imbalances as a result of deep squatting. Partial squatting is far more problematic as it does not strengthen the knee joint through a full ROM and leaves the VMO undeveloped (although I’m talking gym-weenie style, 1/4 rep partials). Glute recruitment is also much higher with deeper squats, and strong glutes are essential for a strong and healthy back.

I think mertdawg brings up a lot of good points. I would always keep some full squats in my routine to maintain the flexibility and mobility, but the power squat has some advantages for raw strength development. If your training doesn’t have to be super sport-specific, mix it up.


Form my own experience squatting, I’ve found that using a wide base and really sitting back emphasizes the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, lower back) involving the hips / hip extensors. The quads play a secondary role of stabilizing the body.
With narrow based squats, the quads come into play more in standing up the weight.
The knees do come forward more in narrow based squats. I can to lower in narrow based squats.
Narrow or medium based squats have made my legs stronger and thicker. I support more weight more easily.
But my wide based squat limits have not gone up as my emphasis has been to catch my quads up to my posterior chain.

It’s interesting how Olympic lifting shoes have a ramped up heel. Kind of makes a good argument for the board-under-heel thing when squatting close.

I used to have a problem with balance too on wide squats. The problem turned out to be tight hip flexors and weak hamstrings.

Wide stance is better for field athletes(sprinters, football players, etc.), correct?

Gumba, thanks for the picture. I find it very inspirational both because of the man’s size and strength, and because he is performing that feet with a stance much like the one I’m using right now.

I’ll continue to work on wide squats, and hopefully be able to work them in, in the future, but its nice to know I’m not completely fuckering things up right now.

cap’n salty, I think you hit it right on the mark there. I’m not sure about being tight, but my hip flexors have always been a weakness. Meanwhile, while my hamstrings are not terribly weak, they aren’t quite the strength of the quads(ex. back when I had leg extensions and curls in my routine, while both progressed, the extensions would always be 20-40 pounds ahead of the curls).

On a related note, should I be feeling back squats(at the medium stance I have) in my lower back? I think my form is a might sloppy at times, causing some reps where my legs fire up a fair bit before my back starts kicking in significantly. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this slight foreward lean is a core problem, though I’ve heard it attributed to weak back, or weak ab muscles, depending on the author(I know my abs are not as solid as my lower back is).

[quote]wek wrote:
Wide stance is better for field athletes(sprinters, football players, etc.), correct? [/quote]

I would say yes because an athlete using a close stance would need to jump at the top (or use bands) or else they would be training themselves to decrease force production as they approach full extension.