Narrow Stance Squat Benefits
Narrow stance squat benefits range from strength, muscle development, and even fixing your form for normal back squats. They're not the easiest or most comfortable to do, but can be great when executed and programmed correctly.
This squat accessory exercise is used primarily by powerlifters, weightlifters, and bodybuilders. However, anyone can benefit from the narrow stance squat without actually being committed to any sports.
You will learn what you need to know about this specific movement, and how to implement narrow squats into your training program.
What is a Narrow Stance Squat?
Just as the name implies, you will be executing a squat while your feet are closer in than normal back squats. The amount can vary depending on what your normal squat stance is.
For example, for my body's mechanics I squat close to shoulder width stance normally, so narrow for me would be where my heels are almost touching.
Others that perform squats with a wider stance will benefit from their narrow position being around shoulder width or slightly in more. Either option works, but the main thing is knowing what your normal stance is prior to executing a narrow stance squat.
Names commonly used with narrow stance squats are close stance and cannonball squats. At the end of the day, it's basically your feet are closer than usual - no matter what you call them.
Top Narrow Stance Squat Benefits
Improves your overall squat form
Increases strength out of the bottom position
Minimizes stress on the hips
Increase upper leg muscular growth
Better core strength and stability
Improves Overall Squat Form
Many people have bad squat form because they rush into lifting heavier loads. This could be for competition purposes, or simply because they care too much about what others think.
Doing this for comp purposes is silly because you'll most likely get injured early in your lifting career. As for the latter reason, you will always have somebody stronger than you. Invest time in improving your lifts and not caring how much others do.
The narrow stance squat improves your overall form because you learn to use your quads more and not rely heavily on the posterior chain (back, hamstrings, etc).
Those doing "good morning" squats do-so because they are used to leaning too far forward and relying on the back opposed to splitting the movement with the quads.
You don't want to perform good morning squats because then your knees will never be used to taking on the loads while protected by the quadriceps muscle. Knee caving also can derive from weak knees not used to being loaded on.
Simply put, do narrow stance squats to practice loading your quads and placing your knees in a deeper range of motion (full ROM). This is accomplished by having to execute them in a more upright position with a narrow base.
Increase Strength Out of the Bottom Position
The bottom position is also referred to as the "hole", which is when you are at the bottom of the squat before ascending back to the starting position.
The most common sticking point with squats is at the bottom. Many get stuck down there because the anterior (front) leg muscles are weak.
Narrow stance squats are designed to create more range of motion (ROM), and you should be striving to drop to just below parallel - or even deeper. This will allow your body to fight against coming out of an uncomfortable depth by using your quads.
Essentially, being able to come out of a deeper squat than normal will stimulate your body to progressively handle more load with normal back squats.
Minimizes Stress on the Hips
Some use their hips more than others for normal squats, but regardless your hip joints are under more stress and can use a break sometimes while still getting the movement in.
The narrow stance for squats offer this relief by simply just not having a wider stance. Hip shifting is also common, which is when you favor one side more than the other.
Taking the stress off your hips helps you still improve your squats while fixing the issues causing the shifting, which can prevent possible future injuries during your program.
Increase Upper Leg Muscular Growth
Okay, let's solidify what has been noted. The narrow stance squat primarily targets the quadriceps muscle.
The quads have been shown to be activated the most from deeper squats, and the reason for this is because they are used to drive you out of the hole all the way back up until your glutes start to help during the hip extension at lockout.
Remember how I said a narrow base increases ROM? Well with more ROM means a longer usage for your quads to undertake.
However, I don't like to just say this squat accessory exercise is just for your quads as many do. Your core benefits a lot as well.
Better Core Strength and Stability
Your core does everything for your movements whether it's a squat or the seated cable row. These muscles contract to twist and bend your trunk, protect your spine, and allow energy distribution throughout the body.
Although important, people often neglect this area assuming it's only for that "six pack" look. Without a strong core with stability your lifts are going to suffer as the load increases.
Narrow stance squats focus a lot on the core because of the upright position as you descend into the squat. Core muscles included are your abdominal muscles, obliques, and spinal erectors.
Having a narrow base means that it's critical to tighten your core muscles further.
You will basically collapse, fall over, or round your back under the load leading to potential injuries.
How to Perform a Narrow Stance Squat
I see the full benefits from a narrow stance squat deriving from the high bar position. This will ensure you stay upright as much as possible throughout the movement.
You can low bar for sport specific purposes (powerlifting), but I personally see people still heavily lean for their posterior chain to still assist too much.
Step 1 - Set the rack height you normally would for squats. (low bar lifters may need to move up 1-2 holes for high bar position)
Step 2 - Grasp the bar as narrow as possible to where your elbows are under the bar during execution. (Grip will vary due to mobility, but just don't hold wide)
Step 3 - Get under the bar to where it's centered across your upper traps. Squeeze the bar and pull down prior to lifting off.
Step 4 - Take your steps back and get into general hip-width foot stance. Once stable, begin to shift one foot in to your narrow stance.
Step 5 - Pulling down on the bar, take a breath into your "stomach" for bracing. You initiate your squat by breaking at the hips and knees simultaneously.
Step 6 - Descend down until your hip crease passes your knees, until at full depth, or as far down as your mobility allows. (Don't force depth if it causes your neutral spine position to break)
Step 7 - Once at the bottom position, you drive through the floor whole footed causing your quads to fire up.
Step 8 - Lockout at top by extending your hips to ensure glutes support some of the load further. (Don't do a hip thrust at the top. Naturally bring hips back to starting position and squeeze)
Above were the steps for a standard narrow stance squat using the back rack position. However, you can also hold a dumbbell or kettlebell for goblet squats. This is a good alternative squat accessory exercise without having to use a barbell.
Then you can have the barbell in the front rack position, which is when the barbell is across your shoulders. Front squats place further emphasis on staying upright, thus leading to better quad and core use.
On another note, those lacking ankle mobility may notice their heels come off the floor once they're in the hole. If this happens to you a pair of weightlifting shoe may be desired. These shoes have raised heels from 0.75 inches to 2 inches depending on the brand.
An alternative to purchasing expensive new shoes for just squats would be using small weight plates underneath your shoes.
Who Should Perform Narrow Stance Squats?
This squat variation isn't for new lifters, or those with poor joint mobility in the knees and ankles. Some clients within special classes will benefit from them depending on current level of fitness.
You will benefit the most from narrow stance squats if:
You're looking to increase leg hypertrophy
Seeking to improve your core strength and stability
Needing to reduce the use of your hips and surrounding muscles
Further improve ankle and joint mobility
Simply seeking to do a new squat variation
Programming Narrow Stance Squats
The narrow stance squat can be used for both volume or strength purposes depending on your needs and part of training program.
Training blocks are normally 4-5 weeks before switching exercises out, so keep this in mind when adding new exercises. The reason for this is to see actual results from what you program, and allows you to progressively change the training volume-load.
Below are 3 example program days incorporating narrow stance squats into powerlifting, weightlifting, and general muscle building.
Narrow Stance Squat for Powerlifting Program:
(Percents based off 1 rep max (RM) for back squats)
A1 2 Second Pause Back Squat 2x2 85%
B1 Narrow Stance Back Squat 3x5 72.5%
C1 Bulgarian Split Squat 4x10 (per leg)
D1 Single Leg Step Up 3x10 (per leg)
Narrow Stance Squat for Weightlifting Program:
(Percents based off clean and jerk 1RM and back squat 1RM)
A1 Clean & Jerk x1 68%, 72.5%, 78%, 82.5%, 80%
B1 Clean Pull 3x3 88%
C1 Narrow Stance Back Squat 3x7 65%
D1 Barbell Good Mornings 4x8
Narrow Stance Squat for General Muscle Building:
(Percents based off 1RM back squat)
A1 Back Squat 4x8-10 60%
B1 Barbell RDL 4x10-12 58% (deadlift max)
C1 DB Goblet Narrow Stance Squat 4x12
D1 Seated Leg Curls 3x15
After week one the percent and/or sets and repetitions will change. The point is to progressively add stress to the body, but in small increments with the end result being stronger with all movements.
If you have any questions on the program or narrow stance squats please feel free to use the contact form below, or shoot me a DM on Instagram. Same applies if you would like to move forward with a detailed training program specific to your goals.
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