I am doing bodyweight squats, and I notice that when I intentionally rotate my legs out during the descent, the squat bcomes significantly harder altho depth is significantly reduced?

Could someone explain to me why this happens? How does the muscles use changed?

  • You're not externally rotating your legs while squatting, because external rotation required the feet to come off the ground. Putting one foot up on top of the other knee while sitting is external rotation. Please edit your question to describe what you are actually doing. Do you mean that you are moving your knees outwards? Jan 7 at 10:45
  • I rotate my knees outside with my feet locked into the ground. Jan 7 at 17:03
  • Knees don't rotate. Do you mean you're trying to point your knees outwards? Jan 7 at 23:08
  • Yep @DavidScarlett Jan 8 at 5:13

3 Answers 3


You're trying to force your legs into unnatural positions, and it shouldn't be surprising that it feels difficult and that your range of motion is limited.

The motion you have described, trying to point your knees out widen than the angle at which your toes are pointed, requires the shin bones to twist in the knee socket, something that they have very limited capacity to do, especially as the knee flexes.

Harder is not necessarily better. This just sounds like a terrible idea.


External rotation engages the hip extensors. Descending in the squat requires hip flexion, so engaging the hip extensors is one way to slow and control your descent.

  • Is engaging the hip extensors important in a normal squat? I've been able to squat two plates without any problems without focusing on this so far Jan 7 at 7:32
  • 1
    @trystwithfreedom It’s literally impossible not to use your hip extensors in a squat.
    – Thomas Markov
    Jan 7 at 12:17

When you point your knees out you change the relative lengths of the muscles, especially the glutes, away from their optimal working length, and inhibit some adductors (conscious abduction = antagonistic inhibition of adductors) that help the extension from flexed position.

That way, these muscles cannot help your movement as much as they would otherwise. Another negative factor are unnecessary shear forces in your joints, especially the knee, which contribute to cartilage degeneration. Thus, it's not what you would like to do with additional weights. It is dysfunctional and not good for your joints.

All in all, not a good idea.

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