Foot Position During Squats

How Your Squat Stance Matters

Squat with kettlebell
Getty Images/Adrianna Williams

Squats are no doubt one of the staples of almost any exercise routine - or it should be, if you're wondering.  Squats work every part of the body - the glutes, hips, thighs, calves and even the core.

There have always been rumors about squats, namely that changing your foot position can help you target different areas of the lower body. 

  • Wide Stance Squats - With this squat, your toes are out at about a 45-degree angle and your knees stay in line with the toes, which supposedly targets more of the inner thigh muscles
  • Narrow Stance Squats - In this stance, your feet face forward, about hip-distance apart and theoretically target more of the outer thigh and glutes.

The question is, does your foot position make a difference?

According to one study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, no.  In this study scientists studied different foot positions during squats and found they made no difference in the muscles activated (which include the glutes, quads, inner and outer thighs).

So if you think you're targeting certain quadriceps or glute muscles by changing your foot stance, that isn't the case.  It just means that all of your muscles are working, with an emphasis placed on one muscle over another.

What Does That Mean For You?

That doesn't mean you should stay with the same old squats workout after workout.  The body will always become more efficient at an exercise the more you do it and it's good to change things up to work your body in a different way.

Changing how you squat, whether you change your stance or the type of squat you do, can make them feel fresh and more interesting.

Choosing Your Squat

When positioning yourself for squats, take your feet out to a comfortable distance and keep your knees in alignment with your toes as you squat. Practice different stances and foot positions until you find what feels good to your body.

Each person will have a different stance based on his height, body, and goals.

Basic Form For Squats

Here are the basics if you're performing your average even squat:

  1. Feet are about hip-width apart
  2. Begin by bending the knees as you squat, sending the hips back behind you.  You may want to put a chair behind you as a guide.  It's just like you're going to sit down but change your mind at the last minute
  3. At the lower end of the squat, your thighs will be parallel to the ground and your torso will be parallel to your shins.
  4. Push into the heels to stand up and avoid locking the knees.

For the average lower body workout, you could include 2-3 different types of squats that work a bit differently from one another.  For example, a goblet squat, a wide squat weight exchange, and a ball squat.

Squats You Should Try


Boyden, Gareth. A Comparison of Quadriceps Electromyographic Activity With the Position of the Foot During the Parallel Squat. J Strength Cond Res 2000 Nov; 14(4): 379–382.

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