YOU be the Judge Part 3: Squat Stance, by Dr. Lon Kilgore

We are proud to present another guest post by Dr. Lon Kilgore. This is Part Three; check out Parts One and Two.

Is this a proper, full squat? NSCA says so:

Is this a proper squat to “parallel?” NSCA says so:

Interrogative: What should professional fitness trainers teach their trainees about stance when preparing to squat?

EvidenceThe NSCA Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning, The NSCA Essentials of Personal Training, the NSCA Basics of Strength and Conditioning, the NSCA official Website, and the NSCA Position Paper: The Squat Exercise in Athletic Conditioning, all offer different instruction to trainers on what stance to teach to their trainees. To wit;

Instruction 1 – Shoulder width stance correct

Instruction 2 – Shoulder width or wider stance correct

Instruction 3 – Narrow, medium, or wide stance correct

Instruction 4 – Point the toes out slightly

Instruction 5 – The feet should be neutral (pointed forward parallel) or point out as far as 30o

Instruction 6 – The angle of the foot stance makes no difference

Analysis: For instruction 1, this description does not refer to what portion of the foot is placed relative to what shoulder structure to create this stance reliably. Instruction 2 suffers from the same incomplete description but differs from instruction 1 in that wider than shoulder width stances are proposed as correct. Instruction 3, similarly bereft of anatomical description to communicate the orientations presented, states that narrow, medium, and wide are all acceptable stances. Instruction 4 requires the toes to be pointed away from the sagittal plane. Instruction 5 contradicts instruction 4 as it states that 0o is correct as are angles up to 30o from the sagittal. Instruction 6 implies that any angle of the foot relative to the sagittal plane is correct and does not affect the exercise.

The NSCA says her thighs are "parallel" to the ground:

The NSCA says her thighs are “parallel” to the ground on page 36 here:

Summary: NSCA publications referencing foot position and stance during the squat are sufficiently incomplete, contradicting, and confounding to a point suggesting that any stance during the squat may be acceptable.

Commentary: The self-proclaimed world authoritative materials promulgated by the NSCA are inconsistent in recommendation, incomplete in scientific support, lacking definition, inadequate in anatomical description, and impractical in application. The said publications and recommendations create an environment where education of professionals on foot position and stance in the squat is inconsistent.

The authorship, editorial, or graphical issues present may ultimately have negative effects on individual fitness results and the safety of the public, as correct technique cannot be reliably determined from the published position statements, texts, and videos.

Dr. William Kraemer, editor-in-chief of the NSCA's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Dr. William Kraemer, editor-in-chief of the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

About the Author
Professor Lon Kilgore graduated from Lincoln University with a bachelor of science in biology and earned a Ph.D. in anatomy and physiology from Kansas State University. He has competed in weightlifting to the national level since 1972 and coached his first athletes to national-championship event medals in 1974. He has worked in the trenches, as a coach or scientific consultant, with athletes from rank novices to professionals and the Olympic elite, and as a collegiate strength coach. He has been a certifying instructor for USA Weightlifting for more than a decade and a frequent lecturer at events at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. His illustration, authorship, and co-authorship efforts include the best-selling books “Starting Strength” (first and second editions) and “Practical Programming for Strength Training” (first and second editions), recent releases “Anatomy Without a Scalpel” and “FIT,” magazine columns, textbook chapters, and numerous research journal publications. He is presently engaged in the most difficult task of his career: recreating the educational track to becoming a professional fitness
practitioner. The second stage of this effort is the creation of a one-year university qualification in fitness practice at the University of the West of Scotland.


  1. The NSCA is a joke. 10th Group is right down the street at Ft. Carson. I bet they didn’t ask one of those pipe-hitters their recommendation for SFAS prep. And what is a burpee without the push-up? A squat thrust. Yeesh.

  2. scottjaystl

    Hey guys – I’m loving the new series here. As a heads up, I followed the link on the picture of the girl where you state, “nsca says her thighs are parallel to the ground.” Well, if you read that section on squat jumps, it says lower down in a “half-squat.”

    So, you could probably find a better picture because you’ll inevitably have someone attacking you for being incorrect on that claim.

    Keep it up!

    • Russ Greene

      You are correct, Scott. That is my mistake, not Lon’s – I selected the photos.

      I’m going to fix it now. Thank you for paying close attention.

  3. Russ Greene

    Actually, you and I both were right. On page 15 they use this picture to illustrate the “half squat” position, and on page 36 they use the same picture to illustrate “a body weight squat with thighs parallel to the ground.”

    I edited the caption of the photo to make it clear that I was referring to page 36’s usage. Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: YOU be the Judge Part 4: Knee Position and Orientation, by Dr. Lon Kilgore | THE RUSSELLS

  5. Pingback: YOU be the Judge Part 5: Head and Neck Position, by Dr. Lon Kilgore | THE RUSSELLS

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