Coaching the Squat for Taller Athletes

When teaching young athletes to squat, coaches need to remember that squatting isn’t a “cookie cutter” exercise. Not everyone’s squatting form is going to look the same. This is especially true of taller athletes or athletes with long thighs (femurs). When training taller athletes, a coach must recognize the inherent biomechanical disadvantage that a taller athlete experiences when squatting compared to the efforts of shorter athletes. This must be accounted for.

When an athlete performs a squat, there is a great amount of torque about the knee and hip joints. When an athlete has a long thigh (femur), there is considerably more torque about the knee joint when compared to shorter athletes. To counteract that increased amount of torque, it has been said that the athlete should incline the trunk (or bend farther forward) in order to bring the center of gravity closer to the knee joint, thus reducing torque. However, to safely incline the trunk, an athlete must position the bar further down his back, which will put more stress upon the hip joints and hip extensors while lessening the stress on the knee joints. In theory, this may seem like a good idea. In practice, however, an athlete who doesn’t possess a strong enough back to lift the weight in such a manner may set himself up for injury. The stress applied to the back when the torso is more inclined is much greater than that which is applied to a straighter or more upright torso. So if this is the case with your athlete, what is the solution? In order to safely squat an athlete with long thighs, the coach must tell the athlete to spread out his feet. This will not actually shorten the length of the thigh but will help the athlete keep his center of gravity closer to the knee joint while performing a safe and effective squat. Being able to squat correctly will allow the athlete to increase the torque about the hip joint and less about the knee joint, thus shifting the stress to the glutes and hip extensors. If an athlete uses a wide stance when squatting, special attention must be paid to the feet as well as how the knees move during the exercise. As a result of a utilizing a wide squatting stance, an athlete will tend to place more weight on the medial side of his foot, which may cause the knees to move inward. Coaches need to be aware of this and must correct this error when it appears (by encouraging the athlete to keep his knees in line with his legs). Squatting with a wide stance will help provide a biomechanical advantage for taller athletes by reducing torque about the knee joints. The wider stance allows the athlete to obtain a lower squatting depth than a more traditional, narrower stance.


By: Cal Dietz and Tommy Miller