by Larry Pastor | January 9, 2013 12:01 am
There is no question that squatting is fundamental for any athlete or healthy person in general. But as we each strive to squat well and with better overall body position (Remember? You used to do that when you were a toddler), the question of a proper squat foot angle becomes an important performance point to address… thoughtfully, as always.
Should I point my toes forward?Prematurely adjusting to a “forward toe angle” stance could have a range of negative consequences… Instead, develop your trainee so that they are able to handle the new mobility demands by improving their mobility over time.The answer, as always, depends on the individual. If you don’t currently have the mobility to do so, then no, you shouldn’t try to alter your toe angle. If a person with “poor” mobility — in that they don’t have the capability to achieve proper positioning with the toes angled more forward of their current toe angle — attempts to squat this way, then at best they will facilitate poor mechanics and at worst could experience an injury. The poor mechanics could simply result in the inside of the foot being lifted from the ground, thus reducing the stability and force applied at the foot. The potential injury could be due to undue torsion at the knee if the ankles, knees, hips, and everything in between don’t have acceptable mobility. The message should be clear: don’t jump into it if you lack the mobility.
A corollary is to not cue someone to put their toes forward when they lack the necessary mobility. If you don’t know if they have the mobility, then reconsider your role or job as their coach. If you accept the consequences in the previous paragraph, then prematurely adjusting to a “forward toe angle” stance could have a range of negative consequences. Don’t blindly cue because you read something on the internet. Instead, develop your trainee so that they are able to handle the new mobility demands by improving their mobility over time….
Regardless of squat technique, the excessive outward angle of the toes limits the force distribution across the thighs and usually focuses the majority of the force on a single area.The contrast to the above coaching sentiment is that you shouldn’t cue excessively wide toe angles either…. A wide stance facilitates navicular drop (AKA dropping the foot arch), a position that results in the knee shifting medially and results in undue stress on the medial aspect of the knee — even with the knees shoved out. Excessive outward toe angles (those closer to 45 degrees) also make it hard to sit back with the hips properly in a low bar squat; this reduces tension on the hamstrings and places a lot of stress on the adductors (which would obviously result in lots of groin soreness). In the high bar, clean, or snatch, excessive outward toe angle typically results in a lot of torsion on the knee’s connective tissue (since the knees will typically track inward on the ascent) and places the majority of the stress on the medial knee extensors. This may be fine or desirable for competitive weightlifters, but not for general strength or fitness trainees. Regardless of squat technique, the excessive outward angle of the toes limits the force distribution across the thighs and usually focuses the majority of the force on a single area.
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?
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.”
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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