Squats: Toes Forward or Toes Out?

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Justin further explains that although a 30-degree toe angle is still wide, it is the max width he allows for his athletes, even for those with poor mobility. So how do you help those athletes progress?

MobilityWOD users and 70′s Big readers always echo that they finally “feel” certain muscle groupings in basic lifts like the squat or deadlift after properly mobilizing the related structures. If structures are tight, sticky, or not fluid, they won’t be able to work through the full ROM properly and getting them to this point is an epiphany. Part of a coach’s job should be to develop the trainee towards “optimal mobility” by chronically improving their current mobility.

“Does foot angle really matter?”

Yes. While that does not mean that you can fix your foot angle overnight, every small improvement is worth the effort. Why?

If there is only an arbitrary 2% difference in mechanics due to the toe angle change, and we consider that 2% difference over 1,000 reps, then, yes, I think it matters. It could chronically train the hamstrings or quads more fully.
Efficacy in applying force. Safety from injury. Tighter and more stable positioning. It all reflects back to improved performance and safety. But what if you can only improve marginally from where you are now? If you have a toe angle, say, of 22.5 degrees, and you squat with good, neutral ankles and appropriately track your knees, then altering your toe angle may only have a minimal or subtle effect. However, I’m of the opinion that training should be conducted as efficiently as possible, so the subtlety matters. If there is only an arbitrary 2% difference in mechanics due to the toe angle change, and we consider that 2% difference over 1,000 reps, then, yes, I think it matters. It could chronically train the hamstrings or quads more fully. If there’s even a small potential for improvement, avoiding the “more forward toe angle” just because you don’t think it’s going to have a significant effect is just laziness and belligerence….

Remember that the focus isn’t on a “forward toe angle”; this is why I laboriously write “more forward toe angle”. The innermost toe angle will probably be about 10 degrees from “forward.”

Mobilize to Achieve a “More Forward Toe Angle”

By improving your mobility, even marginally, you can and will improve how effective your squat is.
On the one hand, as Coach Glassman has said, at some point you have to “just squat.” And on the other hand, the never-ending chase for virtuosity means that we should keep working on all of the details of having a beautiful, full ROM squat, including proper foot angle.

If your mobility is poor, then you shouldn’t try to jump into what would be the “optimal” position for people with good mobility. Instead, use the best toe angle you can and always work to improve your mobility. The end result will be an improvement in force distribution throughout the relevant musculature and tighter, safer, and more effective positions. Avoid excessively wide toe angles, especially those that are 30 degrees or greater. By improving your mobility, even marginally, you can and will improve how effective your squat is. This will pay dividends in your training.

And a necessary post-script from Justin’s original post:

…all of this discussion is dependent on the lifter/trainee wearing weightlifting shoes. If they aren’t, then it’s a moot point because their mechanics will not be optimal anyway.

While you should not stop striving to squat well sans Oly shoes, do keep that final point in mind as you progress toward an ideal squat.

Justin Lascek originally posted “Should I point my toes forward?” on ‘70s Big on March 21, 2012. Read the full article here.

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