Determining Optimal Squat or Deadlift Stance

This post is an excerpt from the October 2018 Q&A with Bill Hartman.

First: there are no rules. You have to determine what you want it to look like.

Here is “Cory’s question about heels-elevated squatting” that was referenced in the video. [link]

Sometimes a wider stance will allow someone to keep their heels down. But it does affect their guts and how they manage their center of gravity.

You might try starting people in a seated position and instruct them to stand up. They will tend to find the stance that allows for the most motion. If you deem it safe, you can keep it. “Potty squatting.”

They need to learn how to manage their center of gravity. They need to learn how to access their mobility. Sometimes you just need to shut up.

I don’t have a set way to choose a squat or deadlift stance. I just decide what I want to get out of this squat or deadlift, and then find a stance that will allow for that.

I would hope that the long-term goal is to be able to squat in several different ways instead of one “perfect” way. A front squat is different than a back squat. They require movement variability. This is generally healthier, though may not lead to maximum performance in a given context.

Conditioning Young Athletes

What did we talk about? Here’s a list of the questions from this Q&A:

  1. Conditioning Your In-Season Athletes
  2. Training the Physically Illiterate Child
  3. Flexibility for Young Athletes
  4. Training Volume in High Speed Sessions
  5. Getting Athletes Back in Shape
  6. Filtering Athletes by Conditioning Level – How you can use heart rate
  7. Building and Selling “Work Capacity” to Young Athletes (and Their Parents)
  8. Preparing Your Athlete for Their Sport – The role of the gym
  9. Weight Training for Sport – Dealing with pushback from parents

Progressing from Heels-Elevated Squats

This post is an excerpt from the October 2018 Q&A with Bill Hartman.

For normal range of motion in a squat, you have to have enough motion in the hip, knee, and ankle. Even if they have this, however, they still have to be able to maintain it while they oppose gravity. Sometimes giving them a load to hold in the front, an anterior load, will allow them to sit back in the bottom of the squat.

There are times when the shape of the subtalar joint in the ankle just doesn’t allow for enough dorsiflexion to squat. They may need to keep their heels elevated if a deep squat is required. Maybe they would get a lot out of weightlifting shoes.

If the squat can get pretty, but won’t stay pretty in all situations, there’s usually a problem with managing gravity. You need to teach them a new way to manage this gravity.

You could even do it this way:
1.) Four weeks with a plate squat
2.) Four weeks with a goblet squat
3.) Four weeks with a double kettlebell front squat
4.) Then you try the barbell

And sometimes it still won’t work.

Squatting with a Wide Body

This post is an excerpt from the October 2018 Q&A with Bill Hartman.

Context: this guy has a very wide infrasternal angle, he’s older, and this angle doesn’t change a whole lot with training. Will he have trouble with squatting just because of this shape?

More context: see the initial prompt for this question about heels-elevated squatting.

People with wide infrasternal angles are just “wide” people. They need to be able to expand the thorax anterior-to-posterior. He might have normal hip rotation in a table test, but with his width, standing up could drive the weight forward and then steal the motion away. These people would show limitations in their squat.

The prescription is the same as for progressing someone who seems to need heel elevation to squat: load them anteriorly first and teach them how to keep their weight backwards.

You might try a plate squat, goblet squat, or two kettlebell front squat to teach this.

Can Pregnancy Cause Restrictions in Hip Mobility?

This post is an excerpt from the October 2018 Q&A with Bill Hartman.

Question from Chris Hughen.

Context: She has one child. She doesn’t have pain. Her hips look super externally rotated. She recently has a miscarriage.

The miscarriage, depending on how far into the pregnancy it was, could be relevant. If she was pregnant for long enough, there could be an increase in flexibility just due to the hormones circulating in her bloodstream. This happens in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

What orientation would her pelvis be in? As the baby moves down and forward, the pelvis will at least become oriented forward (like an anterior tilt). The hip sockets, the acetabula, will face more backward and downward (retroversion). This depends on how big a person she is. The weight of the baby pulls the body forward. Typically, the mom will not follow,

Did she have a C-section? Sometimes, if the pelvis is too closed in the back, a C-section may be necessary because the canal that the baby passes through is too small.

With this retroverted pelvic position, external hip rotation becomes more comfortable. That would then make sense why she appears to gravitate towards that position.

These positions also change muscle activity. The anterior hip muscles are concentrically oriented (shortened). The posterior hip muscles are eccentrically oriented (lengthened). The tension in the hamstrings, then, could be limiting the squat. That is, they just can’t stretch any further. If you give her an exercise or drill that restores more balanced muscle activity, then that may be enough to restore her mobility. This person is likely, when tested, lacking hip internal rotation.

A word of caution on using the hip thrust for this client: if this position is indeed the one she’s stuck in — wide at the top of the pelvis, narrow at the bottom of the pelvis — the hip thrust could be reinforcing this position.

Do you have any suggestions for starting a hinge progression with her?

Start in quadruped. Put her in the rib cage and spinal positions that you want. Teach her to flex her hips as much as you want. Then you can try an unweighted hinge. Then maybe a more traditional deadlift pattern.

Hip Mobility in the Gym

What did we talk about? Here’s a list of the questions from this Q&A:

  1. Can Pregnancy Cause Restrictions in Hip Mobility?
  2. Progressing from Heels-Elevated Squats
  3. Squatting with a Wide Body
  4. Determining Optimal Squat or Deadlift Stance
  5. Testing Hip Mobility on the Gym Floor
  6. Bill Hartman’s Top X Number of Activities for Increasing Mobility
  7. High Hip Internal Rotation and Limited External Rotation — What’s going on?
  8. Positions are Important for Both Long- and Short-Duration Activities
  9. Using Fatigue to Teach the Squat
  10. Fixing a Right Hip Shift
  11. Notice the Details – How small changes can have big effects
  12. Using a Medicine Ball Slam to Teach the Deadlift
Your Relevance on the Internet

Your Relevance on the Internet

How do you make a name for yourself?

It’s HARD work. I was fortunate to come into the game at a unique time, prime for the picking.

But things are different now.

What would I do if I had to start over today? Here’s what I would do to make a name for myself.

If nothing else, hopefully the end lights a fire under your butt.

Read More

The Definitive Guide to Stretching

The Definitive Guide to Stretching

Table of Contents

Part 1 – An Overview & Effects on Performance
Follow Up – When is Performance Decrement Acceptable?
Part 2 – Neuromechanics of Stretching
Dynamic Mobility in Practice
Part 3 – Autonomics and Stretching
Low-hanging Fruit for Recovery
Part 4 – Muscular Adaptations

Part 1 – An Overview & Effects on Performance

Stretching has been a part of the rehab and performance world since the beginning, but various groups of rehab and performance specialists still disagree on whether it is good, bad, or ugly. In this video series we are going to get to the bottom of things and answer the follow questions:

  • What is physiology behind stretching? (I mean ALL OF THE PHYSIOLOGY)
  • Does stretching prevent injury?
  • How does stretching impact performance?
  • What effect does stretching have on the autonomic nervous system?
  • Does stretching have change motor systems?
  • Does stretching alter myofibers? What about connective tissue?

Read More

The Layers of Speed Training

The Layers of Speed Training

You’re familiar with the pyramid of training, right? What qualities are at the bottom, the foundation, of that pyramid? What are at the top?

Performance Pyramid

Do you notice what’s at the top?

Speed. That’s the last thing in the hierarchy.

That means your athletes need a ton of pre-requisite gains if they’re going to be able to demonstrate their speed.

I think it’s disheartening to say that. I think it demotivates coaches. It’s overwhelming.

Let me give you some rules instead. Some principles you can use to make fast athletes.

Read More

Developing Your Model for Movement Quality: How one of our interns learned what lifts were supposed to look like

Developing Your Model for Movement Quality

Note from Lance

Today’s post is brought to you by former IFAST intern Cory Hecht.

You could tell that when he started his internship, he was a little overwhelmed with all the “things” going on that the coaches were seeing. He wanted to be on that level. He wanted to see those things. That’s what made him a great intern.

Cory sent me an article he wrote to help sort out his thoughts, and I asked him (nicely, of course) if we could post it up on IFAST University because I think it’s so helpful for new coaches… and even those veteran coaches who want to see how one of those Ivy League nerds thinks about movement.

He walks you through how he organized his thoughts, how you can reconcile seemingly contradictory statements, and even the SPECIFIC things he means (check out his cheatsheet).



As a new coach entering the performance industry, you are bombarded with a ton of information that is often times difficult to make sense of.

  • How do I know this is correct?
  • I think this article conflicts with what someone else told me.
  • My mentor says X, but this coach says Y.

Read More

Translating Exercise Into Athletics

Translating Exercise Into Athletics

I managed to pin down Ty for a few minutes on his vacation to talk with me about how traditional gym exercises — lunges, squats, bench press, etc. — transfer into athletics. It was good to hang out and, as always, good to talk shop.

Part 1 – Discussion

Walk with us through a few common movement patterns, what we see, and how these things translate into our clients’ goal-seeking language.

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Books Are Great... If You Want to be Average: Reading Research Quickly and Effectively, Plus Landing Mechanics for Rehab

Books Are Great… If You Want To Be Average

Books, books, and more books. I — and the rest of the IFAST crew — have shelves on shelves full of books.

Heck, Bill even has an overflow storage locker for some of his.

While I love a good popular science book or textbook, if you want to stay on top of your game, and become better coach or clinician, you are going to have to read some research. Reading research can be slow at first, but in this video we will breakdown how to get through research papers as quickly and effectively as possible. We will go through finding the correct papers to read, how to work through those papers, and deciding if the findings of the paper are relevant or important.

Take a look at this paper about landing mechanics, and we will work through it together.

Other Helpful Video

If you need help with your biomechanics, check out my Biomechanics of Performance video series.

The Biomechanics of Performance

Research Articles

Link to the Discussed Article (free full text)

“Landing Kinematics and Kinetics at the Knee During Different Landing Tasks” by Heebner et al, 2017.

IFASTU Research Repository

What’s one research article that really made you think? Submit it to the research repository!

Click for the IFASTU Research Repository

Watch the Video