Two Squats Don’t Always Look Alike

Do you ever wonder how two lifters can have significantly different form on their lifts, and yet both are correct per the model? This has to do with lifter anthropometry. Anthropometry is the study of the measurement of the human body. With regards to barbell training, a lifter’s size and form make up their anthropometry, specifically the lengths of their body segments, and the ratios between them.

At Starting Strength we have models for the lifts that are based on anatomy, physics, and biomechanics, and they apply to everyone regardless of lifter anthropometry. For example, in the squat the lifter must lean over, drive the hips back, and keep the knees set over the toes while the bar tracks vertically over the middle of the foot. But we don’t specify the exact back angle or the exact position of the knees relative to the toes, because those details will vary for each lifter.

Squat Form for Different Body Types

A lifter with a very long thigh segment like Starting Strength Coach Niki Sims will have to push her hips WAY back and yet still have her knees in front of her toes. Her shins will be inclined forward quite a bit. And with her hips pushed back she’ll need to lean over more to keep the bar tracking right over the middle of the foot.

Conversely, a lifter like Starting Strength Coach Karl Schudt with a comparatively short thigh segment can only push his hips back a little bit before his weight starts to shift to his heels. His knees will come to rest more directly over his toes, and sometimes even slightly behind the toes, depending on the ratio between the length of the lifter’s thigh and the lower leg. Because the hips are only pushed back slightly, the back angle remains very upright to keep the bar centered over the middle of the foot – leaning over more will put the bar in front of the mid-foot, creating an unnecessary moment force that must be countered by the lifter.

So even though Niki’s and Karl’s squats look very different as compared to what we typically view as a “perfect” squat, both are still 100% correct with respect to the model.

They simply look different due to their anthropometry.

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