Just like how like every single one of us is unique, squat width differs from person to person. The key is finding the stance that fits your anthropometry; imitating your favourite lifter’s squatting style will only give you less-than optimal results at best. Is there then a way to determine one’s ideal squat width without having to resort to numerous measurements and complicated equations?
Finding the ideal foot positioning for squatting can be as simple as perfofming a deep bodyweight squat! The deep squat (or “third world squat”) is a movement that’s as basic as they come, with toddler’s picking it up after they’ve learned how to crawl and walk.
Performing a deep squat carries with it less “rules” when compared to loaded or even air squats – slight rounding of the lower and upper spine is acceptable, although the weight of the squat should still be placed around mid-foot. In essence, it is a very relaxed squat and is one that you should be able to remain comfortable in for several minutes.
Once you’re in the “hole” of your squat, remain stationary and observe your lower extremities. How are your feet positioned? What about your knees and thighs? Optimal positioning should have your knees in line with your ankles and your thighs in line with your shins. Looking down, there should be no lateral displacement in either of these areas. You feet should also be planted firmly on the floor, and not feel like they’re either pronating (folding inwards) or supinating (folding outwards).
From here, locating the optimal foot width and flare is just a matter of shifting around until the aforementioned conditions are met. Reinforcing this position is a matter of judicious repetition – you can start by performing multiple repetitions of air squats using eccentric isometrics to help acclimatise your body to this new arrangement (particularly if you’re breaking away from bad squat habits). Loaded static holds in the bottom position can also be programmed to build confidence and familiarity.
Do note that like most things concerned with the human body, squat positioning can change along with physical developments. We’re not talking about anything huge here, just some minor tweaks here and there. As your muscles grow and overall mobility changes, you might find that a slight wider foot flare or narrower foot stance works better for you. So keep an open mind and feel free to revisit this test to see how you can make leg day a little more awesome!