How to Customize Your Squat Stance to Your Anatomy

If you feel like you’re limited by your squat, feeling like you can’t go down low enough, not getting enough strength, or having pain in your knees, low back, ankles, or hips, this blog post is for you.

My name is Dr. Antonio with Live Loud Chiropractic and Coaching in Lafayette, Colorado. Today, we’re going to be talking about why everyone should have a different squat stance. Not everyone has the same body type, so not everyone should be squatting the same way. But yet in our fitness classes, we’re all taught to squat hip-width apart, with our toes facing straight. But that doesn’t help if your anatomy doesn’t line up with that stance.


Understanding the Anatomy of the Hips

To start, here’s a brief anatomy lesson that will help you understand why you should be considering the different squat stance, and a couple of different things that you that you can do to determine what your perfect perfect squat stance is. Picture your spine. Underneath the spine, we have our pelvis. The pelvis and the spine attach in back at the sacrum. Now the important part to notice is that this is a unit—the pelvis moves as a unit. The place where we see more movement is in the ball and socket joint itself. The ball and socket joint is a nice, big, greasy joint, that should move a lot. It can pivot, twist, and go through all sorts of ranges of motion. We also have to consider what is attatched to this joint. The femur attaches to the tibia through the knee joint, and then down into the foot. Because of that, the position of the foot will change the articulation of the hip joint. And the space that the feet are apart from each other, depending on the activity or the movement, will also determine how much the joint is moving.

But let’s zoom in even further. We have two sides of the joint: the ball, and the socket. The socket is shaped differently for different people. For some individuals, it is kind of down and to the side. For other individuals, it might be down and slightly forward. Or, it might be slightly angled higher, and out and up. The shape of the joint determines how the head of the femur actually fits in there. The femur can also have retro or introversion, meaning the the positioning of the actual head could be slightly forward or slightly back. That then will also determine how the rest of the leg is oriented in relationship to the pelvis, based on what that orientation is. So right off the bat, we’re talking about two basic variations that will determine a much different stance and position among different individuals.

The actual depth of the socket might also be different. Meaning, how deep is the acetabular rim in comparison to others? For some people, they have a very shallow rim, which means the range of motion they can express is a lot higher. For other people, they might have a deep rim, which means they’re not going to be able to express as much hip range of motion, because that will start running into bone on bone.

How Do the Ball and Socket Hip Joints Move Together?

First, hip flexion. If you’re just standing, the hip flexes up when you walk, it swings back behind you, it can also internally/externally rotate a little bit. And then there’s any combination of that abduction, like bringing your leg out to the side. Now when we go into a squat, that expresses a really deep amount of hip flexion. As you go through various ranges of motion based on how the socket is shaped, it’s going to change the position of the femur. So if any kind of coach gives everyone the same coaching on squat form, you’re probably going to be running into some issues.

What kind of issues?

  1. Bone rubbing up against bone. If you’re not in the proper orientation, you’re going to start rubbing that joint in a way the joint was not set up for. Oftentimes, I get individuals complaining of a pinch, deep in their hip, with that deep flexion of the deep part of the squat. That’s because that bone is rubbing up on either the acetabulum or the labrum.
  2. Your body is going to run out of space. You’re going to tilt your pelvis upward, which is that classic butt wink or dumping of the low back. When you do that, the pelvis rotates upward. You’ve now changed the position of the acetabulum to scoop out to give you more hip range of motion. By doing the butt wink, I tilt the pelvis underneath, and then can actually get a lot more hip flexion. So is the butt wink bad? That it depends on the context. If you’re under a lot of load, we don’t want to be dumping that lower back or tucking the pelvis very much. But if you go to the bathroom in the woods, or if you’re sitting on the floor playing with your kids, or eating a meal, it is completely fine to be in that position. But under load, when trying to maintain this neutral lumbar spine, I start tucking the pelvis, the lower back starts to flex, and I will be under compression because I have weight on me, and I’m moving the spine.

Those are the two scenarios that we do not want, that tends to lead to to a potential injury. Now, many will argue that is not true, or we don’t know that to be 100% true. But the fact is, no one wants to flex their back when lifting. And it doesn’t take a lot to get injured. If I’m under load, and I’m buckling just a little bit, I’m going to see, since the pelvis moves as a unit, that motion coming from lower back. It’s not going to be the pelvis. So when people usually complain about lower back pain after squatting, many people say it’s an SI joint because they’re pointing close to the SI. But the L-4 and L-5 are right there as well. And again, since the pelvis is moving as a unit, you’re not going to typically see just SI joint disfunction, it’s typically going to be a lumbar derangement, or some sort of lumbar issue.

Doing a Hip Scour to Improve Your Squat Form and Flexibility

Here’s how to assess your anatomical makeup to figure out where you should be squatting. This is something you can do on your own, laying on your back by simply scouring your hip. We want to figure out where the hip socket is the deepest. So when you bring the knee up in this the narrow midline area, you’re going to run into that bone on bone position that we talked about. If you keep that hip in that front, in that sagittal plane, you might run out of space. But if you allow the knee to dive out, follow where the hip wants to go, you’re going to see a much wider opening. That’s what’s going to get into a deeper squat position. If you’re being coached to go deeper and your stance is narrow, it’s probably not going to happen and you’re going to run into a lot of issues.

How to Squat With Proper Form

When you’re squatting, there are two main rules: don’t let your feet move, and try to maintain a long, neutral spine throughout the movement. By expressing more hip range of motion, you’re going to reduce the amount of lumbar or low back movement. You’ll want to try two different squat positions to determine the most ideal position for you.

Play with the position of your feet and the angle of your toes. If you’re in a narrow stance, hip width and toes straight, as you lower you might feel a block. Even if your force yourself to go lower, your hips might block you from doing so. It might force you to dump into your lower back which is not what we want.

Now try a wider stance. If you struggled with the narrow stance, hopefully you’ll see now that you can easily go lower without compromising the low back, and by expressing more hip range of motion. When you find the right position, your your body in your mind should go, “Oh, that was easy.” You shouldn’t need to force yourself into the depth, you should be able to just line up everything so that you can drop in and use each range of motion from each joint as needed.

Simply changing your setup makes a world of difference, especially for those who are dealing with the pain and tension in front of their hips.


Be sure to refer back to the hip scour as something you can do on your own. If you’re unsure how to do it, we can do it in a simple video assessment. Just from watching you do a couple repetitions, I’ll be able to guide you in the right direction. So if you’re interested in that, please reach out to us. If you know someone who’s struggling with the squat send them this video. If it’s a coach, this might be a little bit tougher, but please share this with them because it makes such a world of difference. It improves not only the strength that you express, but also the potential to reduce injuries and deal with pain.

Thanks for reading! I hope this blog brought you extreme amounts of value for your health and fitness. Be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel so that you can keep up with all the videos that are coming through. Be sure to check out the rest of our website, podcast episodes and other forms of content that I know will be super valuable for you.

Until next time, guys, Live LOUD!