Q: I need more outer quad sweep. A guy at the gym told me to use a narrow stance on squats, but that feels a bit unnatural to me. Will that actually help build the outer quads?
A: We asked our colleague and research maven Jerry Brainum about developing outer quad sweep before. Here’s what he had to say…
A recent study involved measuring the activation of eight thigh muscles while squatting using three different stance widths. The subjects consisted of six experienced lifters, and they had electrodes attached to eight thigh muscles, including the hamstrings.
The squat stances involved a narrow, medium and wide stance. According to bodybuilding dogma, squatting with a narrow stance imparts focused stress to the outer thighs, producing a more pronounced ‘sweep’ of the outer thigh muscles. Doing squats with a wide stance switches the focus to the inner thighs, such as the adductor group and the showy sartorius muscle, a bandlike muscle that runs down the mid thigh.
As expected, the electrical activity of all muscles was highest with the greatest amount of weight lifted. The only difference found in which muscles were activated with varying squat stances was that doing squats with a wide stance increased the activity of the gluteus maximus, or glutes.
So that study shows that squatting with a narrow stance does not produce any extra activity in the outer thighs; however, using a slight toes-in position on leg extensions does produce more outer-quad activity, as shown in MRI studies. But for squats to give you more outer quad sweep, stick with the most comfortable stance for you—which for most is just slightly wider than shoulder-width.
NOTE: For a list of the best mass-boosting exercises for each muscle group, as well as other proven mass tactics, check out The Ultimate Mass Workout e-book.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
Ripped Muscle Now: Harvard Research
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