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Simple Squat Correction

By May 16, 2013January 11th, 2014Strength Training

Many people find squatting to be more comfortable with a slightly wider stance. Problem is, they don’t actively force their knees out during the descent, causing their knees to track inward during the squat. This can lead to sub-optimal performance and knee problems over time. I’ve found that having people keep a narrower stance and then forcing the knees outward aggressively helps alleviate knee pain and leads to better squat performance over time. Please take a moment out of your day to watch this short, 60-sec video showing a simple squat correction that might be of great value to you.

Of course, there are many different ways to squat, including full squats, parallel squats, half squats, quarter squats, front squats, box squats, and Zercher squats. Not everyone can go deep due to hip anatomy or mobility impairments. And many Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders have been successful without aggressively forcing the knees out during squatting. Nevertheless, I feel that squatting in this manner will help the majority of squatters. squat4


  • Shane Miller says:

    Totally agree Bret.. Simple correction.

    Interestingly, many people think because you push out on the knees that its weak abductors that cause the knees to cave in, but weak adductors can also contribute.

  • Mark says:

    I hope to god I don’t see anyone squat like that.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Well played, BC. Also, I love it when a 6’4″ dude squats to the basement in an organized manner!

    Freeze it at :45 in the hole on the “good squat”. Track the line of force from the knee through the tibia through the ankle, and through the floor. It runs through the lateral heel. You will not, CANNOT, cave at the knee, or overpronate the foot/ankle if the line of force runs through the lateral heel. It’s just geometry.

    Drive your lateral heel through the floor, against the wall, against any surface, at any hip/knee angle, and palpate the glute. It switches on. Actually you don’t need to palpate. You will feel the glute fire. (Works on hip thrusts, too.)

    Load the instep, or worse yet, the medial ball of the foot, and you are eventually going to run into trouble as you express more and more force at greater loads. The medial knee just has no “back up” to transmit, and disperse the force.

    • Brian says:

      I was just going to say at the :45s mark, it looks like Bret has some left ankle mobility issues, as the tibia is more vertical than on the right leg. Otherwise a good looking squat! Any history of ankle trauma there?

      • Derrick Blanton says:

        Excellent observation, Brian. I have the exact same situation in reverse. My right leg is more vertical, and I have to consciously guide that leg out. Meanwhile my left leg effortlessly tracks perfectly.

        (By the way, this is hard, if not impossible, to correct in the mid-squat. Far better to “set the angle” before the squat commences.)

        Now I’m right handed, and I suspect that BC is a lefty b/c he pronates his left hand and supinates his right hand on DL’s.

        So if my suspicion is correct, this jibes with my theory that the off leg and hip become dominant stability wise, and starts to take over the pelvis; as it is constantly anchoring for thousands of “reps” to set the dominant contralateral arm and hand up to perform the lion’s share of dexterous tasks.

        Spend a few days doing every task with your off hand. You are going to immediately see how much you use the contralateral hip to set up your actions. This is another reason that I really, really dislike the mixed grip for DL’s.

        But I’m a symmetry freak! (Also, I enjoy hijacking threads…:))

      • Bret says:

        I don’t have ankle mobility discrepancies – just checked. Could just be the video, or it could be form-related and I’m unaware of it. Good eye!

    • Bret says:

      Great stuff DB! Agree.

  • Mia says:

    As always, important AND useful info from you. Thank you:)

  • tim mercer says:

    Brett, I appreciate the video, and am on board with this concept. The one question I have is in regards to your comment about flaring the feet out more. Kelley Starett always talks about trying to keep the feet pointed more forward, because it allows the athlete to create more torque. I have been playing around with foot position quite a bit, and I do find that I can create more torque at the hip if I keep my feet only flared around 5-10 degrees. What are your thoughts on foot position?

    • Bret says:

      I think that maybe 80% of people do best with around a 10-20 degree foot flare Maybe 10% do best with feet straight ahead, and maybe 10% do best with a greater than 20 degree foot flare. Can’t ignore hip anatomy (and tibia/ankle/foot) – one size does not fit all. My whole family walks with their feet turned out – if I try to squat with feet straight it hurts my hips and knees and I can’t get depth. If my friend Rob, who is the opposite of me, tries to squat with a foot flare, he experiences hip pain. To each his own!

  • John Buns says:

    Bret – It looks like you finally purchased a pair of olympic lifting shoes? Thoughts?

    • Bret says:

      I love them John, but surprisingly I’m not stronger squatting in them. Helps quad-dominant folks more so than hip dominant folks.

  • Andy says:

    For a long time, I had issues with my lower back hurting due to “butt tuck” or “butt wink”. Once I started pushing my knees out as much as I could, it helped tremendously but not all the way.

    Curiously, when I switched to a 14″ cambered bar for squatting, my “butt tuck” or “butt wink” went away and no pain at all. Maybe it’s because the bar forced me to keep my upper and mid back super tight. Dunno. But I’m a big proponent of the giant cambered bar for squatting now (as well as pushing the knees out as much as possible).

    • Bret says:

      Hmmm, I hear stories such as these all the time and then I try to make sense of them biomechanically. I could speculate as to the effects of the GCB on squat mechanics but it would just be a guess as to why this helps you. At any rate, great job finding out a solution for you!

  • Honorato Morente says:

    Hi Bret,
    I am trying to analyze this movement and I always thought that when you are forcing the knees outward you make more pressure on the external meniscus. It is true?

  • Ted says:

    Bret, very important piece of information/advice there.

    Have you ever seen a case where somebody pushed the knees out too far?
    To me, squatting feels better the more I push the knees out but I am afraid it might become too excessive. Thank you.

    • Bret says:

      Sure – too much varus is not ideal either and can be harmful to the knees. Most don’t need to worry about this though. But some folks, due to anatomy, will find varus to be painful and should keep a neutral alignment.

  • Marc Santis says:

    Well played good sir! I also use this cue in a similar manner telling clients to twist the ground outward. I find that it is also very important to cue a stable foot positioning. In regards to knee, I have also seen this alleviate most forms of medial knee pain, along with relavant hip openers.

  • Jake Johnson says:

    Nice video Bret.

    This is an adjustment I’ve made recently and it’s made a huge difference. My knees weren’t necessarily caving in, but they weren’t being pushed out aggressively enough.

    Definitely something that can be applied to many people, especially those with knee issues.

  • Catherine says:

    I just got your book Stronger Curves tonight! I am an in home health aide with constant lower back aches and so excited I found how to put it to an end.

    Thank you!!

  • Michael T. says:

    Bret! Thank you so much for this tip! I performed a few sets of heavy squats and this is the first time my knees haven’t felt “tender” in a few years! I was pretty much at the same stance as usual, I just consciously pressed the knees outward a bit and the weight shifted almost entirely to the glutes and hams… I just want to say thank you again for having the most substantial and informative site on the web! Every time I log on I learn something of great benefit!

  • Joe Miller says:

    Nice video. In fact, I’ve learned SO much from your various videos. Many Thanks.

    I have chondromalacia in my right knee and so I need to be careful about the amount of patellar pressure that various exercises exert on my knee. Following your instructions on proper squat technique (including box squat) has really helped me. It feels natural and good and there’s no grating sensation in my knee!!

  • Iza says:

    Bret, does this advice apply to front squatting too?

  • Max says:

    Hy Bret,
    hy folks,

    i literally studied the squat over the last weeks because i was into olympic weightlifting nad due to lack of form i strained my left butt and outer thigh. It was very painful and i started to analyse what was wrong. So i examined my squat and snatch receiving position and i figured out that my left knee tracked to far outward and so all my butt and lateral thigh muscles done the work. This is because i have flat feet and X bent legs which means my shins are twisted a bit so that my legs slightly point inwards . So when i turn my feet out a bit and focus on pushing through my lateral foot my knees literally tends to drop to the outside because they already point out a bit with slightly outward turned feet So i have to focus that my knees don’t travel too far outward and force them knees in a bit. My knee tracking is best when i focus my weight mainly on the line between big toe and heel. The moment i try to push through the laterl foot edge or more laterally my knees rotate out excessively by itself. This is very interresting because i’ve never read about such condition ….

  • Erica Soucier says:

    Thank you so much!! How did I not even recognize I was doing this!! Now I can continue to go up in weight and NO PAIN! You’re the best as always!

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