Like with many other questions in life, the answer to this one starts with “depends”. There has been information going around about what shoe to wear if any when doing lifting in general, but using the squat as an example lift to highlight the importance of the footwear, which is crucial, however, not the only thing to take into consideration.
Someone can have a good core bracing technique, right-hand placement on the bar, right placement of the bar on the back (or front if doing front squats), good ankle mobility, hip mobility, and many others. All these factors count when it comes to the success of a lift, but what if our foundation is not placed properly? There is no “cookie-cutter” mold for everyone when it comes to lifting, one of the old-fashioned beliefs is that if the toes are not pointed forward and knees are not aligned to the shoulders the squat technique is wrong, and once again, the answer is, it depends.
The reason that there is no “one fits all” technique for squats is because everyone’s anatomy is different, so, when squatting, each person needs to find what foot placement works for them in order to get the most out of their squat. That being said, the focus of this article is to teach how to determine which position is best for the body, depending on anatomy and mobility on certain planes based on your hip.
The femur connects to the pelvis at a slight angle forward, that is the case for some people, however, in other cases, the hips are aligned in a more angle forward (anteversion) or naturally flat, a little back (retroversion). These two positions are going to have a big impact on how the squat is set up. Now, the question is, how are the angles of the hips determined?
There is an easy assessment for this: Sitting up on a chair or elevated surface and laying on the stomach as well. In both positions in a very simple way, it will assess the internal and the external rotation of the hip by looking how far or limited the movement of the foot is. The Internal rotation will be determined by how far or how limited is the foot going out, and the external rotation will be determined by how far or limited is the movement of the feet going in. The images below show how the mobility is an asset in each position as well as a break down of what it means for each case regarding feet position when squatting.
Anteversion person: Excessive foot going out, little foot going in. Seating up
Anteversion person: Excessive foot going out, little foot going in. Laying down.
Anteversion person: Person is naturally able to squat with toes going forward, if toes go out, not able to squat
Retroversion person: Limited foot going out, excessive foot going in. Seating up
Retroversion person: Limited foot going out, excessive foot going in. Laying down.
Retroversion person: Person is naturally able to squat with toes going out, if toes go forward, not able to squat 30 to 35 degrees.
Textbook case: Limited foot going out, excessive foot going in. Seating up
Textbook: Excessive foot going out, limited foot going in. Laying down
Textbook: Textbook stance , neither too out or too in, slight angle, 7 to 12, 15 degrees.
Hip impingement can develop due to not using the proper squat stance according to their anatomy. Finding what position is best for the body will allow not only better movement and more benefit out of the squat but also avoid any possible injuries due to over stress on areas that are not aligned according to their natural position.
Something very important to take away from all this information is that all this does not mean anatomy is all when it comes to movement. Yes, femur alignment, hip socket depth, those are all factors that affect technique, but do not determine the quality of the technique. Mobility should ALWAYS be a work in progress, a constant development and maintenance as it is another important factor, but different from hip angles, mobility is a factor that can be controlled. Do not let anatomy be an excuse to not take care of the body as it needs to.