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Best Foot Position for Big Quads

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Best Foot Position for Big Quads

by: Robbie Durand

Altering foot stance is often prescribed as a method of isolating muscles during the parallel squat. If you want big quads, you need to squat with a narrow stance. Lifters have all heard this for years, but researchers wanted to put the foot position theory to the test. Researchers compared activity in six muscles when the parallel squat is performed with different stances (narrow, wide, and shoulder width apart) and bar loads (60 and 75% of a 1-RM). Nine male lifters served as subjects and the researchers attached electrodes all over the lifters leg’s to measure muscle activation during different leg stance. Subject’s completed five nonconsecutive reps of the squat using:

-Shoulder width stance

– Narrow stance (75% shoulder width)

-Wide stance(140% shoulder width) stances with low and high loads (60% and 75% 1RM, respectively). Rep time was controlled.

Although Tom Platz used a narrow stance during squats, current research suggests that foot position is not going to alter quad activation.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that for the quadriceps muscle, foot position made no difference in the quadriceps. Additionally, it made no difference for the vastus medialis either. So the researchers’ found that the foot position made no difference in quadriceps activation, but foot position did affect hamstring and glutes activation. The results suggest that stance width does not cause isolation within the quadriceps but does influence muscle activity on the hamstrings and buttocks. A similar study was conducted in 2009 and found similar findings. Researchers measured the EMG of 8 different thigh muscles while performing 3 x 10 repetition squats at three different stance widths, with three different bar loads (no load, 30%RM and 70%RM). Results showed a significant difference only in the gluteus maximus, whereby the electrical signal was at its highest during the widest squat and heaviest load. So altering you foot position from narrow to wide is not going to affect your quads, but a wide grip stance will activate more of your glutes and hamstrings. Wider stances activate more muscles. Women looking to get better glut development should squat with a wide stance as opposed to a narrow stance. The glutes are a tremendous developer of power and strength, so if you have the capability to utilize their strength in a movement, you should do so. Wide stance squats activate a total muscle groups, so if your looking for total leg development, a wide stance is the way to stand.

McCaw ST, Melrose DR. Stance width and bar load effects on leg muscle activity during the parallel squat. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Mar;31(3):428-36.
Paoli, A, Marcolin, G, and Petrone, N. The effect of stance width on the electromyographical activity of eight superficial thigh muscles during back squat with different bar loads. J Strength Cond Res 23: 246–250, 2009.

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