August 21, 2021 8 min read

Two words: leg day. You might love it, you might hate it, but at the end of the day, it has to be done to get those gains.

Squats are a great way to improve your form and strengthen those lower body muscles, but it can be boring if you’re repetitively performing the same time of regular squat every time you hit lets. Well, forget about boredom once you try out narrow stance squats. 

By incorporating different variations of squats, not only are you challenging your muscles more but you are also playing a mind-game by stimulating your brain to try out a new type of movement. Remember: nothing ever grows in the comfort zone.

Narrow stance squats are a great way to target and isolate your lower body muscles including those glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and quadriceps. If you'd like to learn more about how to properly and safely perform a narrow stance squat and the numerous benefits it provides, then keep reading.

What Is a Narrow Stance Squat?

The famous narrow stance squat which you might also know as the close stance squat is a variation to a squat that is performed by placing your feet at shoulder-width apart with your feet, knees, and hips facing forward.It is great for enhancing your leg muscle definition as well as strengthening muscles.

Due to the fact that they are narrow stance squats, there is more room for individuals to increase their range of motion which is especially beneficial for those who are interested in bodybuilding, strength training, powerlifting, or all you committed gym addicts who want to continue building your muscles.

Young muscular male bodybuilder doing squats with a barbell on his shoulders

Narrow stance squats decrease the demand on your thighs to engage in the abduction and increase the demand on your ankles to move towards your feet so it is crucial you perform them in proper form to prevent injury.

Narrow Stance Squat vs. Wide Stance Squat

You might be wondering what different types of benefits a narrow stance squat provides in comparison to a wide stance squat. 

There is sometimes controversy as to whether narrow stance squats or wide stance squats are better for powerlifters or bodybuilders but each type of exercise provides its own unique benefits.

Wide stance squats, as the name says, are performed at a wider stance than a narrow stance squat and a regular squat. They are different from narrow stance squats but they are similar to regular squats but you place your feet twice hip-width apart in addition to having your toes pointing slightly outward to prevent stress on your knees. You then lower as you would in a normal squat making sure your knees do not go past your toes and keep weight distributed evenly.

Wide stance squats typically cause more glute activation in comparison to performing squats at a narrower stance that cause more inner quadriceps activation. Therefore, a combination of both types of exercises can lead to leg development maximization and overall strength maximization.

A study that was done in 2001 compared the benefits of varying stance widths and it found that individuals who performed wide stance squats were more knee-dominant in comparison to individuals who performed narrow stance squats.  This means that the generation of force is great at the knee joint.

What Muscles Does a Narrow Stance Squat Target?

Narrow stance squats have endless benefits and target numerous muscle groups including your adductor longus, your biceps femoris, your gluteus maximus and even your core muscles. 

The agonists (main muscles that drive the force and exercise) engaged in this particular movement are: 

  1. Quadriceps 
  2. Gluteus Maximus
  3. Adductor Magnus 

The synergistic muscles (muscles that reduce the excessive force that is required by primary muscles) that are engaged are:

  1. Hamstrings
  2. Abs
  3. Lower back muscles including your spinal erectors and multifidus 
  4. Latissmus dorsi
  5. Trapezius

As you can see, this exercise does not fail to target many muscles that are used in many daily tasks so not only are you working towards your gains goals but you're also improving your daily life.

Here are the benefits of doing narrow stance squats:

1. Improves Muscle Imbalances

In comparison to a wide stance squat, narrow stance squats limit one leg from taking over the movement and overall cause you to have better balance. Muscular imbalance can be caused by overuse of one particular group of muscles and over a long period of time, one side of a joint may become tight in comparison to the other side causing overall weakness.

To avoid this, you must make sure you are effectively activating both sides of your body during your workouts.

2. Great For Hypertrophy

Narrow stance squats allow you to perform the exercise at a lightweight in combination with a high number of reps which is a great combination to stimulate muscle growth in your calves, front of your shins, outer quadricep muscles, and glute muscles.  

Hypertrophy can be triggered by numerous types of exercises including strength training with resistance bands, traditional weight training exercises and exercises like narrow stance squats. Most hypertrophy program focuses on lower reps in combination with higher weights.

3. Can Improve Knee and Ankle Biomechanics 

Many people struggle with widening their range of motion, especially at the knee, but narrow stance squats provide room for a great range of motion that can prevent knee injury like wide stance squats.

Performing narrow stance squats are great for improving ankle mobility to prevent injuries in normal day-to-day tasks as simple as walking. Overall, the ankles, knees, and hips are all connected so by improving one, you are improving all of them.

4. A Great Warm-Up Exercise 

Narrow stance squats are a great option for those looking to activate and warm up their muscles prior to performing a heavier load of exercises. Numerous sets can be performed in order to stimulate those muscles and prepare them for exercise by activating the nervous system and giving it a heads up for what it is about to deal with.

Warming up is extremely important as it raises your body temperature as well as increases blood flow to your muscles which can reduce your risk of injury and reduce muscle soreness in the future.

How To Maximize The Benefits Of Narrow Stance Squats:

Like anything in life, you must incorporate variety in your life in order to reach your goals and obtain the benefits. Simply performing narrow stance squats once a week during leg day will not be enough.

You must come up with a strategic plan in order to reach your goals which includes a strong daily workout plan. If you're not sure where to start, check out the best five-day workout split for muscle strength.

Once you've mastered your weekly routine, it's time to focus on coming up with a realistic diet plan. You cannot expect muscle gains if you are not providing your body with the fuel it needs. Think about it this way: that is like expecting your car to drive you cross-country with no gas and no oil. It simply is not going to happen.

You need to make sure you are consuming enough carbohydrates prior to your workout to give you enough energy to maximize your workout.

A good example of a pre-workout meal or snack:

  1. Granola bar
  2. Piece of fruit (such as a banana)
  3. Rice cake

Once you're done with your workout, the ideal situation would be to get enough protein and carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores and provide enough protein to repair and regrow those damaged muscle proteins. Ideally, you want to try to get 0.14-0.23g of protein per pound of body weight as soon as possible after your workout.

A good example of a post-workout meal or snack:

  1. Grilled chicken with a side of roasted vegetables and rice. 
  2. Scrambled eggs with a side of avocado toast topped with extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, and sea salt
  3. Tuna salad on toasted whole wheat bread

Unfortunately, the reality is, we don't always have all the time to prepare a whole meal after a workout especially during our fast-paced lives. Lucky for you, we have a solution for that.

Two words: protein shakes.

Try our Whey Pro Shredded Stack.

This is great to fuel your muscles, stimulate your body's fat-burning abilities, reduce muscle soreness and keep your metabolism at an all-time high. This whey protein provides you with all the essential amino acids needed after a heavy leg-day

How Do You Perform a Narrow Stance Squat?

Prior to performing the exercise, it is crucial that you are in a safe environment with enough space to perform the exercise. Before adding any additional weight, make sure you are performing the exercise in proper form by constantly focusing on keeping a neutral spine and prevent placing extra strain on your knees in order to prevent injury. 

It is always recommended to start off with a lightweight until you get the hang of things then you can slowly increase the weight you are using.

  1. Stand upright and set the barbell on a rack that is in line with your height. 
  2. Step under the bar and place it on your shoulders and grab ahold of it with your arms to lift it off the rack. 
  3. You can start off in a normal squat position with your legs hip-width apart but then move them in closer and place your legs less than shoulder-width apart and slowly lower the bar.
  4. Inhale deeply and engage your core muscles while you slowly push the weight of your hips backward.Make sure you are focused on your knees as they should not go past your toes and your hamstrings should be resting close to your calves. 
  1. Get as deep as possible but as safely as possible in order to prevent compromising a neutral spine which can cause further injury.
  2. Engage your muscles and slowly push your weight through your heels as you come up while focusing on exhaling.

Repeat this movement for your desired number of reps and sets programmed towards your goals.

Important things to note:

  • Always lower from your hips, never from your lower back. Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of normal daily tasks but you don't want to purposefully be performing an exercise that contributes to lower back pain. 
  • Lower back injuries can keep you away from the gym for days or even weeks at a time which will put you behind at the gym as you will lose your strength and muscle definition. 
  • By focusing on proper form, you will increase your strength in your lower body muscles and you will decrease your chances of lower back injury.

Take Away

Narrow stance squats are a great regular squat variation to target muscle groups and correct muscle imbalances as long as they are performed in a safe manner. 

By implementing this exercise alongside other muscle-building exercises such as deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, sumo squats, banded good-mornings or lunges, you are widening your range of motion as well as strengthening your hip joints and thigh muscles.

One thing to note, however, is that if you are unable to keep a neutral spine while performing a narrow stance squat then you may want to stop performing the exercise completely and attempt another squat variation. Compromising your spine can lead to you rounding your lower back which is extremely dangerous and leaves room for hip, ankle, and knee injury.

At the end of the day, you do not want to perform an exercise in an attempt to strengthen your muscles that ends up causing you to take a break from the gym all-in-all. So what are you waiting for? Go try out this new movement at the gym!

If you would like to continue learning about increasing your hip mobility in order to increase the number of narrow squats you can perform, check out 7 Exercises and Stretches for Improving Hip Mobility.


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