The biggest mistake I made when first learning how to squat was trying to mimic the exact foot position of the coach, and surprise, surprise, it didn’t feel right at all and I thought there was something wrong with my body! (in hindsight I realize the coach also could have done a better job teaching squat mechanics to teenage girls who likely never squatted before, but it's okay. I'm still grateful I had some exposure to lifting).
Truth is, YOUR BODY's optimal stance or foot angle will depend on several factors. Consider the shape, size, and proportions of your bones—the entire skeleton comes into play in squat mechanics, but consider the femur, the head of the femur, the pelvis, shin bones, ankle and foot bones.
Your body is a complex but beautiful system of levers that allow you to move. These levers work when your muscles apply force to move your bones around your joints against a weight or resistance or gravity. Varying proportions of these levers will inevitably make a squat look quite different in a 5'4" woman's body versus a 6'4" man's body. Your goal should be to find the most efficient organization of the levers you have to work with.
Consider what "optimal" means. In lifting, we can aim to realize our potential strength by fine-tuning our movement as perfectly efficient as possible. Elite Powerlifting athletes spend years working on just three lifts and Olympic Weightlifting athletes just two. They are continuously striving to make their movement as clean as they can so no energy is wasted!
You can train variations in your stance and still be moving efficiently and building strength. The more you train, the more you will learn about your body and how to coordinate it best under load. Your window of safe movement isn't that narrow. Just look at all the incredible ways a body is able to move!
Finding your optimal foot position will take some experimentation:
What stance will enable you to maintain the arches in your feet and keep the knees tracking the same direction as the toes?
Can you keep weight in your heels, your big toe and the ball?
What position allows you to keep a braced, neutral spine and as upright of a spine as possible?
Drop me your squat questions below! 👇🏼