You may have heard of narrow stance squats, or seen them performed. You will commonly see them performed by powerlifters, weightlifters, and bodybuilders. This is done so to bring up any weaknesses and to strengthen and develop leg muscles and their size.
So what is a narrow stance squat exactly?
A narrow stance squat can also be called a close stance squat and is a back squat, which is performed with the feet at around shoulder-width apart, or sometimes even closer. The feet should point forwards and be in line with your knees. These are done primarily to target three key muscles; the quadriceps, glutes, and adductors.
Here, in this article, we will be looking at all aspects of this type of squat. Providing you with the ultimate guide to these squats. Providing everything you will need to know about using narrow stance squats in your training routine, regardless of what you aim to do in your training.
We can have a look at the pros, the cons and help you to understand whether or not this type of squat is ideal for you.
What is a Narrow Stance?
Narrow stance squats are very common as a variation of Squatting, these are performed with the purpose of developing leg strength and muscle.
Often used as a powerlifting technique, narrow stance squats are usually performed with the bar on the back as a back squat. Due to less movement through the nature of squatting with a narrow stance, this means that there is less of a demand for your thighs to abduct/ move outwards, or to the side.
And there is therefore more of a demand for your ankles to do what is called a dorsiflex, which is your shins moving forwards and over your feet.
These squats should be performed as deeply as possible, whilst maintaining as much comfort as you can. You should however do your very best to maintain a neutral spine. You can easily learn to squat deeper with much practice and balance. Practice makes perfect after all.
Should you attempt to perform this squat in the desire to make the most out of performing it, you should seek to have ample ankle and hip mobility so that you can squat to parallel or even deeper. Of course, once again, you should do so whilst maintaining a neutral spine.
Having good ankle flexibility/ mobility will assist you in performing a narrow stance squat. If you do not have adequate ankle abilities then your heels will likely lift from the floor. Check out this article on how to increase ankle mobility for squats.
In the case that your heels do lift from the floor when you perform a narrow squat, you may want to consider getting the best shoes for squats. These reduce the angle of your ankle when squatting and prevent injury as you train yourself to get used to the positioning.
A good reason to train yourself in doing narrow stance squats is that because the stance is narrower, it will often become visible that the person’s range of motion will increase. This is a great bonus for anyone but is especially so for bodybuilders, strength athletes, and anyone who enjoys the gym. This is a stance that is optimal for strength building and gaining muscle.
It trains muscle groups through a larger range of motion, and having longer muscle lengths is desirable in gaining muscles, this is something that you should consider before doing these types of squats.
What Are The Primary Muscles That Get Worked Out?
Doing a narrow stance squat is primarily a lower-body strength exercise, much like many other types of the squat.
We are going to take some time to discuss what muscles are engaged the most during a squat and how they are used the most during a narrow stance squat.
This type of squat is an exercise that focuses on utilizing extension through the hips and the knees. Doing this squat uses the following the most;
- Gluteus Maximum.
- Adductor Magnus.
We will now have a look at each of these are how they are engaged during the squat.
The primary knee extensors are the quadriceps. These are located at the front of the thigh, this is made from four separate muscles that group together to work as a knee extensor. At the lowest portion of the narrow squat stance, these muscles are shown to work the very hardest.
The deeper that you squat with these, the more you can allow your knees to travel and in turn, your quads will work more in the execution of the exercise.
Your quads are activated at the most during the scent of the narrow squat position, rather than the descent.
Gluteus Maximus and Adductor Magnus
These muscles are the main hip extensors during the narrow stance squat. These both contribute to extending the hip as you perform the squat.
As you perform a deeper squat the adductor will contribute the most the extending the hips. And then as you rise and come parallel the glute muscles take over to finish the extension.
Your glutes muscles are the ones you will most know as the muscles in your bottom, Whereas the Adductor Magnus is a group of muscles that comprise parts of your legs, hips, and up and around your pelvic regions. All of these assists and are worked during the action of the narrow stance squat.
Secondary Muscles That Get Worked Out
As well as the primary muscles that are worked out as you perform this squat there are also other muscles that contribute during this exercise. These muscles also benefit from this motion and help to stabilize the execution of the movement.
Let us have a look at these.
Hamstrings are the muscles opposite the Quads. Whereas the Quads are on the front of your thigh, the Hamstrings are on the back of your thigh. These help to stabilize the hips and knees.
Stopping your pelvis from going into too much on an anterior tilt during the movement and position of the squat.
Adbominal & Obliques
These muscles are in your ‘trunk’. You will probably recognize the name abdominals as this is often referred to as ‘abs’, there are in your midriff, obliques are also in your torso, on your sides, and surrounding your abdominals.
There assist in stabilizing the spine and stopping the spine from overextending and creating something called intra-abdominal pressure.
Spinal Erectors, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus
Spinal erector muscles are exactly what they sound like, they support and surround your spine. Quadratus Lumborum, are also in your back, going from the base of your ribcage, and from your spine to your pelvis.
The Multifidus travels your spine, whereas the spinal erector covers the spinal area, this muscle runs alongside the spinal bones.
These muscles run along the center of the back and keep the spine extended during the narrow squat.
Gastrocnemius, Soleus, and Tibialis Anterior
The Gastrocnemius muscle is a muscle in the back of your leg or your calf, this is the top part of the muscle. The Soleus is in a similar place rinning down from the base of the Gastrocnemius muscle to your ankle.
The Tibialis Anterior is a muscle that runs around the front of your lower leg and down to your ankle. These are shin muscles, these help with stabilizing the center of gravity.
Preventing the person from shifting too much onto the front of the rear of the foot. Helping to maintain position and balance.
Latissimus Dorsi, and Trapezius
The latissimus dorsi, if one of the biggest muscles, it stretches from your pelvis and up and under your armpits, covering all of your lower back and a segment of your upper back as well.
Then there is the trapezius, this muscle stretches from midway down your back over your shoulders and up your neck. These are large back muscles and they help to keep the shoulder blades pinched back and down, as well as assisting in keeping the back extended during the exercise.
Benefits Of Doing Narrow Stance Squats
There are five overall benefits from doing a squat in a narrow stance, first of all, it increases your range of motion, it also gives less stress on the hip joint and the surrounding muscles. It will also help to fix a good morning squat style and will help to minimize hip shifts and asymmetries.
Finally, it can improve squat strength from the bottom of the squat. But, let us look through each of these things in more detail so you can know exactly how they will benefit you, in the long run, and if it is worth it for you to do this type of squat.
Doing this squat will enhance the bottom of your squat, this is because you will be training your quadriceps through a longer range of motion. This can be very beneficial for people such as powerlifters who may be weaker at the bottom of the squad, as this is when quadriceps have to work their very hardest.
In other words, if you find that your quadriceps are a weak point for you in your training, using a narrow squat will help you alleviate this issue without having to train this area extensively, it can be a bit of a shortcut when faced with weak quads.
Fixing a good morning style squat
If you were to find yourself doing good morning squat styles unintentionally, then you could potentially use a narrow stance squat, especially if you can squat deeper than usual.
A good morning squat is when your torso pushes forwards and you end up on the front of your foot and off-balance. The narrow squat effectively prevents this as it allows the knees to travel slightly forward, as deeper. Therefore you can push your knees forward and maintain a more upright posture, preventing this issue.
As time goes on it can also help you load your quads and knees more and completely eliminate the problem of a good morning style squat.
Increases range of motion
As we discuss this we will assume that you will be able to achieve a similar depth to a regular squat, do not worry if you can’t, this will come with practice. However if you can reach the same depth, then that means you will be able to achieve an overall large range of motion in the exercise.
If you work your body, as a bodybuilder strength athlete, or as a general gym-goer looking to increase your training, then you may choose to include this type of squat in your normal workouts or lifting. This would increase how hard you are working out your muscles.
Science has proven that doing training exercises through a larger range of motion is beneficial for muscle building in comparison to the partial range found in typical lower body exercise.
Minimalizing hip shifts and asymmetries
As you squat wide, you place more emphasis on your hip muscles, this includes muscles such as the glutes. If you have any asymmetries in your hip musculature then a wide stance squat can emphasize this and could even lead to injuries.
Which we want to avoid. If you have hip asymmetry then you may notice you load one hip more than the other during a squat and the pelvis may shift to one side.
A narrow stance squat can help to minimize the exaggeration and issues of hip asymmetries, while also encouraging other exercises that could correct the problem in the muscles.
Less stress on the hip joint and muscles surrounding
Whatever your purpose for doing narrow stance squats, whether you are a weightlifter, bodybuilder, or just looking to improve your overall strength, you may decide to choose this stance for squatting as it will put much less stress on your hip joint and glute musculature. This can be really good for people who are concerned about their hip joint undergoing too much stress during their workouts.
However, this can also be very beneficial if you want to cut back on how much you are training your adductors. Squatting wide will train these in a longer muscle length, as well as your glutes more. If you are already training these muscles then squatting narrow will give them a break and give you a chance to work out other lower body muscles more.
How to (Step by Step guide)
There are a few steps to doing a good narrow stance squat. These squats are traditionally done with a barbell/ weight.
Here is how you can do a narrow stance squat in just some easy steps.
- First of all, you want to set up your barbell on the squat or power rack, whichever you use. Set it up so that it is at the armpit, or just under armpit level for you.
- Now, when you grip the barbell, you will grip it according to your individual level of mobility, and as well as the length of your limbs, this is a personal thing. However, as a rule of thumb, you may want to grip as narrow as possible, but still comfortable so that you can maximize the tightness with your barbell on your upper back.
- Next, you are going to walk the barbell out. You can start with your feet hip-width apart under the bar as you bring your body under the bar, as you put your back to the bar. It is up to you whether or not you use a low bar position or a high bar position on your back. If you usually do barbell squats you will probably already know your preference.
4. Now we are going to execute the narrow stance squat. To do this you want to keep the bar as the center of gravity over your midfoot. Be sure that at this point you keep your legs straight and your posture neutral before you take your deep breath in and brace for the squat.
5. Now, break at the hips and knees to squat as low as you ideally can to crease your hip below parallel. You can squat lower than breaking parallel if you can maintain a stacked torso in which you can keep that neutral spine. If you cannot, for now, do not pressure yourself. Pushing too hard and too fast is a recipe for injury.
6. As you reach your desired depth, stand straight back up until your hips and knees are fully locked out simultaneously, be sure to exhale once you are done. Repeat as needed.
Programming narrow squats for your needs.
If you want to use narrow stance squats to build muscle we can give you an easy and useful muscle building program for doing so.
Here we note the acronym ‘RM’, which means,’ rotation maximum’, or the maximum ‘number of times a load can be lifted before fatigue using good form and technique’.
- Week 1– 4×7 at 60 percent of your 1RM.
- Week 2– 1×7 at 62 percent of your 1RM, 3×7 at 60 percent of your 1RM.
- Week 3– 2×7 at 62 percent of your 1RM, 2×7 at 60 percent of your 1RM.
- Week 4– 3×7 at 62 percent of your 1RM, 1×7 at 60 percent of your 1RM
- Week 5– 4×7 at 62 percent of your 1RM
Performing a narrow stance squat can help you to build muscle and help your body with positioning and strength. However, if you cannot maintain a neutral spine during the performance of a narrow stance squat this should not be attempted.
If you have poor hip and ankle mobility then you may have an issue with your lower back rounding when you attempt to get to a certain squat depth.
This could also be an issue if you have pre-existing knee injuries, if you do a narrow stance may irritate your knees and they may not travel forward as far.
Remember that safety comes first and you should not push yourself beyond what you are capable of doing. Otherwise, a narrow squat can be a fantastic way to build your strength and work your muscles.