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.