Strength in Conditioning for Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Squat width (hips) and foot placement both affect squat depth, knee position, and the ability to keep an upright torso. While the default stance for a bodyweight squat places the hips under the shoulders and has the feet turned out to 15-30 degrees, it is important to find a stance that’s best for you.
Hip anatomy, hip mobility, and motor control during the squat affect your ability to keep your weight on your heels, keep the knee inline with the second toe, and progress your squat depth overtime.
Here are some anatomical, mobility, and stability factors to consider when selecting an appropriate squat stance…
#1: Anatomical Considerations
- Hip socket depth and shape
- Femural head length and shape
- Anthropometry (femur versus torso length)
The hip is a ball and socket joint. The head of the femur (thigh bone) comes to a head and fits into a socket called the acetabulum. The acetabulum is surrounded by a layer of cartilage called the labrum that can become impinged during squats. While this condition can be genetic (femoral acetabular impingement) it is important to find an appropriate squat stance and suitable depth to prevent abnormal stress to both the head of the femur and hip socket, which can cause abnormal bone growth.
Stuart McGill points out that the depth of the hip socket depth has a strong genetic component. Great Olympic lifters are often from Bulgaria and the Ukraine who have shallow hip sockets, whereas the “Scottish hip” is characterized by a deep hip socket that is better suited for rotation and less suited for producing power at the bottom of the squat.
The important point is that your hip anatomy will determine how deep you can squat comfortably and what types of exercises are best supported by your own anatomy. The images below show two very different femoral heads and acetabulums, which require different squat stances.
“The depth of the anterior labrum of the hip joint acetabulum is a major determinant of the ability to squat deeply.” – Dr. Stuart McGill
The following two assessments in this video can help you determine your optimal squat depth and what squat stance supports the greatest depth.
Quadruped Rock Back
“In order to find the optimal hip width (or amount of standing hip external rotation), have the athlete adopt a 4-point kneeling stance. From neutral, rock or drop the buttocks back to the heels. Mark the angle at which spine flexion first occurs. Then repeat with varying amounts of space between the knees. Look for the optimal knee width that allows the buttocks to get closest to the ankles without any spine motion. This is the hip angle that will produce the deepest, and ultimately the highest performance squat.” – Dr. Stuart McGill
Rotation During Hip Flexion
The second assessment in the video above is examining the degree of internal and external hip rotation available during hip flexion. By looking at what degree of hip rotation best supports hip flexion, an athlete can find a squat stance that will maximize squat depth.
Check out tomorrows post for two more tips on how to find the strongest squat for your anatomy.
- Kevin Kula, “The Flexibility Coach” – Creator of FlexibilityRx™ – www.FlexibilityRx.com
50 Push Ups + 50 Air Squats + 10 Burpees