Exercise Library
Narrow-Stance Back Squat

AKA Narrow-stance squat, pulling-stance squat
The pulling-stance back squat is a relatively rare variation of the squat used occasionally for variety or to help strengthen a lifter’s pull in the snatch and clean.
Place the barbell behind your neck—retract your shoulder blades tightly and rest the bar in the meat of your upper traps. Place your feet in your pulling position or narrower. Set your back in a complete arch, take in a large breath, and lock it in, forcefully tightening all trunk musculature. Bend at the knees and hips simultaneously to move down as directly as possible into the bottom of the squat with an upright posture, maintaining tension on the legs throughout the movement and controlling the speed of the descent. Full depth is achieved when the knees are closed as much as possible without losing the arch in the back (if you cannot sit into a full depth squat, you need to work on mobility). Upon reaching the bottom position, immediately transition and stand as aggressively as possible, again with the knees and hips together to maintain your upright posture—try to lead the movement with your head and shoulders.
This lift is sometimes done with the knees directed nearly forward, although if being used specifically to strengthen the snatch or clean pull, they should be oriented exactly how they are in that lifter’s pull.
The pulling-stance back squat can be used to strengthen a lifter’s pull from the floor in the snatch and clean, or to emphasize quad strength.
The pulling-stance back squat would most often be used once weekly in addition to normal back squats and front squats. Generally sets of 3-5 reps are most effective at 70% of the lifter’s best back and higher.
The pulling-stance back squat can be performed as a pause squat, with prescribed tempos (usually slow eccentric movement), and as a 1¼ squat.

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Joshua Davis
May 29 2015
Hey Greg quick question, but it's a bit specific to physical therapy so I'd understand if you don't answer.

I had to take some time off as my patella was maltracking and gouging my knee, and the doctor explained a muscular imbalance of a weak VMO and a very strong vastus lateralis was the culprit. After 3 weeks of VMO strengthening and orthotics I'm back lifting again however I'm curious if this squat variant would hit the VMO a bit harder than a standard squat, especially for a broad hip lifter like myself.

Right now I'm sneaking off to the "machine room" to do leg extensions but if I could find an exercise that helped and kept me on the platform, I'd be happy.
Greg Everett
May 29 2015
Joshua -

It may, but I have seen different athletes respond in surprisingly different ways to certain squat variations. Best way I can think of to truly figure out what trains your VMO best is to experiment - do one exercise with relatively high reps (like 10) and a few sets and see how sore your VMOs are the next couple days. Repeat with other variations probably no more frequently than once/week and compare the results.
November 23 2016
Believe it or not this is my stance for squats and the bottom position of my cleans and snatches. If I widen my stance at all I tend to bend way forward at the waist and my squat depth is reduced significantly, in a snatch it lays my shoulders so far back I worry about injury. If I really try and force the bottom position in a wider stance my knees and ankles tend to roll in. I have worked very hard on mobility especially hams and adductor for the last 2 years and this seems to be where I am stuck. I am worried that without a wider stance my stability could be compromised, so far this hasn't been an issue. Any thoughts to help widen my stance while staying vertical would be greatly appreciated.
If the narrow stance works for you, there's no need to change it. It may actually be an anatomical issue with the pelvis/femurs, in which case no amount of mobility work is going to "fix" it. If you've seen no progress at all in 2 years of consistent stretching, I wouldn't expect any sudden dramatic change.

Greg Everett