Recently in the clinic, we got asked if you should squat with your toes straight or turned out in the gym. This is a common question people ask themselves and understanding the link between both these squats will help you to produce a stronger squat and avoid injuries.
A squat is one of the main movements you do day to day, but then can also be used as an exercise. In the clinic when we screen patients and assess your squat the aim is to see the quality of your squat as a movement, rather than an exercise. Squatting with your feet pointing forwards is more challenging than with your feet pointing out.
To squat to a full depth with your feet pointing forwards you must have three things:
Good ankle mobility
Good hip mobility
Pelvic and core stability
Your balance will also play a role in this and if you are more dominant on one side or the other. With your toes pointed outwards it is easier to squat to depth with an upright chest.
If you have a poor bodyweight squat and you play sports this will impact movements such as jumping and then landing. A lot of the time knee injuries occur because people jump up and then have their knee cave inwards because of the lack of control they have through their entire lower limb. If you can pass a bodyweight squat with your toes pointing forwards then you can effectively work on jumping to build speed and power.
Once you go into the gym and pick up a barbell you are squatting as an exercise rather than a movement. So there is a slight change in the pattern of movement. This means you will turn the feet out to give yourself a better base of support and will not challenge your mobility and balance to as much of a degree as a narrow stance toes forward squat.
When we squat deeper and turn out hips outwards you can get deeper into a squat.
This is why some athletes can squat deeper when they turn their toes out. By externally rotating the hips we can usually achieve a deeper and better-looking squat.
When our hips are turned outwards, the muscles on the inside of your leg which are called the Adductor muscles are lengthened, so in comparison to a narrow stance you will use your Adductors more when you have your feet turned outwards. Your adductors are useful in the standing up part of your squat. So strengthening them and using them more will help for a more efficient and effective way to move the barbell while in the gym.
Normally you should have your feet turned out somewhere between 10-30 degrees. Turning your feet out more can make your Glute and Hamsringmuscles less effective when performing the squat. Not everyone is the same so somewhere that feels comfortable for you will be likely best for producing a powerful and effective squat.
If you can not perform a good bodyweight squat with your toes facing forwards then there is likely some mobility or stability issues to work on, if you correct these then you will have a more powerful and effective weighted squat in the gym with your toes turned further outwards.
If you would like a full functional assessment and find out what issues are limiting you in the gym, then contact the clinic today on 0578678904, direct message us on Facebook or book now.
Yours in Health
The Lawlor Clinic: Spine & Sport, Portlaoise, Laois