Squatting is an excellent exercise for energy expenditure, lower body strength, power training, fat loss, muscle gain and so much more. A common question regarding squatting is where should the feet be placed underneath the body when performing the movement. Let's dive in to hear my take.
You want to think of having a solid foundation for you body when you are doing a squat and it starts with the feet. I always like to say "If you were to jump as high as you could, where would your feet be?" Would they be 5 inches apart or 5 feet apart? The answer is something in between. There is no set distance between the feet that you must get in order to optimize your squat, but you will have a sweet spot that feels comfortable and that is what we want to find. As a guideline, your feet should be about 2 to 3 feet apart when lining up for a squat. Feet slightly turned out.
Now, changing the width of your stance and/or the rotation of your feet (turning outward) are only going to change the muscles being recruited during the squat. During a normal hip width stance squat we are primarily recruiting the glutes (butt) and quads (front of leg) when we lift... When we widen our stance and turn our feet out slightly we are simply just targeting a different part of the glutes and quads.. It isn't a right or wrong type of thing but it does change the muscle recruitment and depending on your type of goal that may matter.
As far as the movement of the actual squat, we want to initiate the squat by breaking at the hip and bringing our butt down to the floor like we are sitting in a chair. This is the image I want you to think about (a controlled squat onto the seat of a chair). Then at the bottom of our squat we drive through our feet and finish in our standing position.
Here are two quick cues I use with my clients for you to think about 1) Break the Floor in half, 2) Keep the canister filled.
Think of breaking the floor in half with your feet on the "upward drive" of your squat- This keeps the knees properly lined up with your feet and recruits the correct muscles near your hip to help you perform the squat safely.
Secondly think of a your midsection or "core" as a canister/cylinder. You want that cylinder to be like an unopened carbonated coke can. You do this by slightly drawing your belly button in. Note: You should still be able to breath while drawing your belly button in, don't hold you breath, just brace.. Creating this canister-like feeling will help recruit the right muscles in your mid section and will also protect the spine during the lift.
So, here are the takeaways. Feet about hip width, toes slightly pointed out, think about the chair, break at hips, break the floor in half and keep the canister filled. We will talk about the knee position during the squat in a following post, we could talk about this for days!