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I was wondering if it is actually necessary to squat in different stance.

For example you have :-

Platz Squat--> Where you squat with your feets close together

Wide Stance Squat --> Where your feets are far apart

So is there really a need to do any other variation of squat stance? Will it greatly affect my squat such as making me stronger?

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The answer with all questions of this manner is "It Depends". Specifically, the factors that influence the decision are:

  • Are you competing in a strength sport? If so:
    • How close to the contest date are you?
    • Is the squat a contested lift (usually only Powerlifting, but occasionally this applies to Strongman as well)
  • Your individual lever lengths and insertion points. Everyone's skeletal structure differs in subtle ways, and where muscles attach to the skeleton also differs in subtle ways.
  • Your comfort level with any particular type of squat
  • Your training maturity
  • Personal preference

In all honesty, unless squats are a contested lift they really aren't even a required exercise. However, they are an excellent full body exercise that help build mass and strength overall. I know of several weightlifters and strongmen who squat routinely even though it isn't a contest lift because it has good carry over to the events they actually do compete in.

Taking a survey of some of the top powerlifters (the only sport to consistently include the squat as a contest lift) you'll find that training styles vary across all of them.

  • Bulgarian and Russian training favored always training the contest lift.
  • Westside style training (geared lifters) favored training other lifts to build up weak areas.
  • Several Raw lifters train variations when they are pretty far from a contest date, and then specialize in the contest lift when they are closer to the contest date.
  • Chinese weightlifters are known for hitting accessory lifts hard and doing something that resembles "powerbuilding" (hybrid of powerlifting and bodybuilding).

Beginners

Pick one style and make the most of it.

At this stage in your training career you are focused on just getting stronger. It's less important whether you choose wide stance or narrow stance, and more important that you consistently improve as the bar gets heavier.

  • Achieve depth: crease of the hips below the tops of the knees (or better if you can)
  • Balance: keep the weight of the bar over mid foot
  • Chest up: keep from folding over like an accordian (and it assists with point 2)

Beyond that your personal squat style is your personal squat style. Embrace it and get stronger at it. Subtle changes can lead to feeling substantially stronger and more stable under the bar. Those are the types of adjustments you'll want to make. Pursue better, ignore what everyone tells you is "best" or "optimal" since those are things that are impossible for anyone to truly know. Not to mention, "best" and "optimal" change as you get stronger. Just pursue better.

Intermediate to Advanced

Use different variations to fix weaknesses and to avoid boredom.

This is where the arguments of using squat variations really come to play. Several variations have a different training effect:

  • High bar vs. low bar: high bar lets you set up with a slightly more upright back position. It's less punishing on the lower back so it's good for a general strength builder. Low bar lets you push a more weight due to changes in leverages, but is harder on the lower back.
  • Wide stance vs. narrow stance: One of these will feel stronger and more natural to you. Using the opposite stance will hit muscles differently. Wider stance will involve more adductors and narrower stance will help you get more of a rebound out of the bottom.
  • Paused Squats: Paused squats take away the stretch reflex and force you to work harder to get out of the bottom. They are very useful if you are fixing squat problems, or you just need to build more strength coming out of the hole. Another variation is breathing paused squats where you release your valsalva while at the bottom and pause for a couple breaths before coming back up. Be sure to reduce weight when you perform these variations.
  • Box Squats and Partial Squats: These are special purpose tools to address certain goals. You can work with more weight using partial squats, so some bodybuilders use them to build more quadriceps mass and some sprinters will use them to build more quadriceps strength. Box squats can be used like pause squats, but they are more favored by geared powerlifters due to the way they have to load the squat suit.
  • Split squats, lunges, single leg work: These are useful to sort out discrepancies in strength between your right and left leg. When using both legs together, the proportion that each leg contributes to the squat doesn't change. However, when you work one leg at a time you can fix that to a certain degree.

The bottom line is that as you mature as a lifter, you'll pick your squat based on what you are trying to emphasize at the time. And some people are just fine doing nothing but one kind of squat and get stronger. There are no hard and fast rules, only guidelines.

I personally use more variation when I'm in my off season, favoring the variations that are harder for me to perform. As I get within 2-3 months of a competition, I focus primarily on the events in that competition.

  • Just to add to this answer when you take a narrow stance you might want to invest in Oly Shoes or stand on a small plates like 10s or 5s. It's also important to point out that Gear will mean wider stance so take that into account if you're watching videos of people squatting. – Ryan Jun 18 '15 at 19:38
  • You mentioned the usage of adductors being applied in the wide stance. Is it necessary for one to train their adductors as well as their abductor? Does this apply to sumo deadlift as well (the usage of the adductor)?I will probably vary my squat stance sooner or later. @Ryan, I agree that geared-lifters tends to use a wider stance, such as Eric Lilliebridge, Bradon Lilly. Is it a safe to assume that using a wider stance will aid in pushing a heavy load? Also, I'm not going to discount the fact that they too varied their squat stance, usage of wraps and so on. – Aizul Jun 19 '15 at 0:39
  • @Aizul No it is not safe to assume that, in fact as a life rule its usually a bad idea to make assumptions. But this one happens to be wrong. Gear requires a wider stance. That's the same reason you'll never see anyone pull conventional in gear (or very very rare). – Ryan Jun 19 '15 at 1:01
  • @Ryan, you'll see it in Strongman competitions that allow deadlift suits (which I believe the national competitions do). Strongman rules require conventional stance. – Berin Loritsch Jun 19 '15 at 1:04
  • @Aizul, there are other ways to train adductors and abductors, it's just that pushing your knees out while you squat happens to be one of them. – Berin Loritsch Jun 19 '15 at 1:06
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This is one of those questions where the actual answer boils down to your desire for variation in your exercise routine. While there are many anecdotal reasons to vary your squat stance, there aren’t that many actual studies to recommend variation as a key to squatting success.

There was, however, a biomechanical study done in 2001:

A three-dimensional biomechanical analysis of the squat during varying stance widths, by Escamilla, Fleisig, Lowry, Barrentine and Andrews, in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2001

the results of which are summarized in a Strength and Conditioning Research post. 39 powerlifters where studied and their movements were recorded (with several cameras providing a sort of 3d view) during a 1RM. Narrow, medium, and wide stances were studied. As a result, the researchers identified many key points. The one that sticks out for me is:

There was no significant difference in work done between the three stance widths although there was a trend for wider squats to involve greater work.

This implies…

… physique athletes looking to do as much work as possible in a set period of time are probably best advised to select the most comfortable stance.

While I agree with the above statement, I’m still a firm believer in exercise variation as a means to avoid plateaus. So, in the end, varying your stance is up to you, and will be significant, only if you think it is.

  • Read the studies and it was quite interesting. The fact that they emphasize the wide squat, stating things such as develop leg strength, power and quadriceps, makes me want to do wide stance. Anyways, will try varying it. – Aizul Jun 19 '15 at 0:02
  • Don't forget squats have more to them than just legs. There's also back strength involved as well. – Berin Loritsch Jun 19 '15 at 1:08
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Just speaking for me personally, I find it pretty impossible to get my hips to go below my knee if I'm not at least shoulders-wide stance. I would go as wide as you need to in order to:

  • Achieve depth.
  • Have your knees out and pointing where your toes are.
  • Be able to truly use your glutes.
  • Be able to keep your weight on your heels.

Even on a deadlift, which generally has a narrower stance (but certainly not always), I tend to widen up a bit more because it helps me to use my glutes.

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