Monthly Archives: December 2015

Not All Squats Are Created Equal

Have you ever put in any kind of significant thought on your foot placement when performing squats?

If not, you could be hindering your progress without even being aware of it. Where you place your feet when squatting greatly determines the muscle fibers being emphasized, as well as secondary muscle activation. The quadriceps are a very complex muscle. However, training it doesn’t have to be as complex.

Here, I’ll attempt to decipher the importance of and exactly how foot placement manipulation can help you to bring up lagging areas and help you to blast through stagnating plateaus in your training.

The importance of foot placement when squatting

Knowing where to put your feet when you squat may seem like a small detail that if overlooked, won’t affect the type of results you are after. However, your foot placementshould be in a specific area, if you want to benefit from your squatting efforts. And you do, of course.

Firstly, let me start off by saying that there is no such thing as squatting “the right way”. Everyone’s body is different: back length, leg length, stature, shoulder width, and so on. Squatting “the right way” will be different for every person and depending on their goal. This brings me to the premise of this article: How by manipulating foot placements when squatting can dramatically affect the development of your muscles. Let me first explain by discussing on squatting with a “wide stance” and what will result from it…

How to hone in on the tear drops

Squatting with a wide stance (wider than shoulder width with the toes pointed out) will put a greater amount of stress on the vastus medialis muscle aka the tear drop muscle. This is the quad muscle most medial to the knee cap. Once fully developed, it can be a magnificently impressive and unique muscle given its “tear drop” resemblance. The development of this muscle, or the development of any lagging quad muscle for that matter can be crucial to the success of any bodybuilder or weight lifter whom desires any type of symmetry in your physique.

Not only will squatting with a wide or “sumo” stance put extra emphasis on the vastus medialis muscles, but it will also greatly incorporate the hamstrings and glutes into the movement as well, versus squatting with a near shoulder width stance. This can be a great alternative for you if you are wanting to bring up the entire thigh area in one movement while emphasizing the tear drop muscle.

Getting wider quads the easy way

Focusing on the “sweep” (vastus lateralis) part of the quads doesn’t have to be a hopeless venture anymore for you if you are lagging in this area. Squatting with shoulder width to slightly narrower than shoulder width with your toes facing forward will put greater emphasis on the outer quadriceps, thus giving your quads a fuller 3D look to them. The outer quads can be a problem for many bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts who want massive wheels, yet struggle with the width aspect of it. This should no longer be a concern for you. Try squatting with a narrower stance and try to consciously “feel” the outer quads contract with each repetition. Squatting in this new position may feel awkward at first, so using a Smith machine at first may be for the best as to prevent any unwanted injuries. Also, developing a sound mind-muscle connection is very important for the development of any muscle for that matter.

Using this concept in other areas of leg training

Switching up your foot placements when squatting isn’t the only opportunity for you to manipulate gravity in a way to emphasize specific muscle fibers. Using the same concept works with calf training as well. Training the calves with your toes touching and heels opposing each other will emphasize inner calf development. Likewise, the opposite is true if you calf raise with your heels touching and having your toes oppose each other. Training in this way will emphasize the outer most fibers of the gastrocnemius muscles. Whether you use this technique with standing calf raises, seated calf raises, or even donkey calf raises, the results will speak for themselves.

Just as you may have imagined, performing dynamic leg pressing and hack squatting are also ways to merge this technique as well. If you have a sound understanding of which areas of your physique that you want to bring up, then you can easily switch up your foot placements with your leg exercises to help your physiques symmetry.

All in all…

If you are attaining optimal symmetry in your legs and are unsure how to bring up underdeveloped muscle fibers in your legs or you feel as though that you are stagnating with your training, then foot placement manipulation can help you hone in on muscle fibers that have never been “fully targeted” before. Of course, there is almost no way to completely isolate the vastus medialis (inner) or vastus lateralis (outer) muscles in the quadriceps, but training with intelligently positioned foot placements will put extra emphasis on the very areas you wish to improve.

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Sharpening Strength: Advancing Performance With Throws, Totes, & Runs

So you look at your training partner come Monday and the same old question comes up…“Are we training on the bench press today with barbells, or with dumbbells?” Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with this question, but if this the only question that ever comes up on your typical Monday training session then you need to start looking to make some upgrades. If it is then today you’re going to want to read this and expand the horizons on your iron game!


The beauty of strength is that it can be developed in a number of different ways and there are different types of strength that can be developed in a number of different ways on top of that! The thing is that I think people generally tend to lose sight of what the human body is designed to do.

Yes, it’s definitely cool to attack a bench press and throw up a truckload of weight. There is something very appealing about that very act and being able to see the weight continue to go up as the plates slap together on the way up. After all the sound of iron is the sound of physical progress.

However, the human body is a machine and throwing around weight needs to be the focus…literally! You see as far back as the beginning of mankind throwing and propelling objects through the air has been an essential part of human performance.

Whether it involved throwing a spear, throwing a rock, chopping wood with an axe, or wielding a sword the ability to throw an object in a controlled fashion has been at the center of man’s functional level of strength for thousands of years. Doing this requires practice and the development of skill to hone your muscles in a way to control them in a specific pattern of motion.

In the world of strength and conditioning I’m always encouraging the development of more explosive and functional movements through the act of performing various throws. One great way of doing this is by utilizing medicine balls.

As you can see this particular single arm version of the drill is more advanced than the double arm throw, but it’s great for developing a level of control while honing your hand/eye coordination, reaction time, and speed as well.


In terms of the human body the ability to do work involves being able to carry shit. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Most of us with two arms and two legs need to be able to utilize them in order to transport things from point A to point B.

I know that may be a hard concept to grasp for a lot of people in today’s society, but the body is built just for this reason. As a strength coach I am frequently getting my students to perform farmer’s walks and various other totes to teach them how to produce intrathoracic pressure while stabilizing an external load as they transport it from one location to another.

This anti-pattern stability is great for building a strong body which in turn will help an individual to maintain a level of control during moments that might challenge the individual in an unstable environment. The more a trainee can create force and stabilization in this manner the better they will perform…and they will be much less likely to fall victim to injury.

I believe I was little caffeinated prior to this workout. Anyways, give these tote variations a try and you’ll develop some serious grip, core, and overall total body strength. If you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells you can substitute other objects such as sandbags or even a weighted wheelbarrow.


After being able to train your muscles to cohesively function for the act of throwing and toting you still have to learn to move in a way that demands more natural speed. This is where the act of running comes into the equation.

Now to be specific when I talk about running I’m talking about performing running type drills that emphasize a more quality development of athleticism and not just your average light jog around the block. This is essential because sprinting and higher intensity running related drills will help to foster the development of your athleticism by training you to handle your body at a much higher level of ability.

We want to stimulate the fast twitch fibers and when you combine this along with the throws and totes I’ve specified here you’ll be well on your way to developing a more well rounded body that will be ready for most any physical demanding situation.

Of course your good ole fashioned sprints are great for emphasizing the running portion of this plan, but if you don’t necessarily have the room for sprinting you can easily substitute some intense and fundamentally effective lateral high knee runs on the agility ladder.

As you can see the focus here should be on the quality of the run. For the purpose of this drill each direction down the laddercounts as a half repetition. So when I advance to my left that’s a half repetition and the full repetition is completed once I advance back to my right side.

If you look closely the purpose of the ladder drill is to emphasize both quality and intensity. This is NOT a drill designed for the purpose of lumbering through for the sake of finishing. The purpose is to hone the skills of coordination and reaction time while also developing speed and speed conditioning for your performance.

The elbows should be locked at 90 degrees while the hands are driven from the hips (or pockets) to the chin. The elbow drive should be linear in nature and should be driven back behind the body as if you are trying to elbow somebody that is chasing you. Additionally the knees should be driven straight up and down like a couple of pistons in a car engine while the balls of the feet strike the ground and recoil with each stride.

The Takeaway

The point of all of this is that when the suggestion for doing the bench press comes up from your training partner on a typical Monday afternoon you can take the bull by the horns and suggest taking the training in a different direction by adding in a series of throws, totes, and runs for a different kind of strength. You don’t necessarily have to replace the bench press with these, but you can certainly use these on the tail end of your bench pressing days from time to time.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and if so then feel free to post up in the comments below. Are you including any of these in your current strength training model? Stay strong and keep training smart!

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