How often do you look at your feet? Maybe once when you put on your shoes, once when you take off your shoes, and once again when you had that near-hit with the doggie doo?
Now I want you to add one more look while you are exercising - specifically when you are doing squats or leg presses. Have you ever looked to see what position your feet are in and where your toes were pointed during these exercises?
Well, some people know exactly what direction their toes are pointing and purposefully turn them outwards or inwards to achieve different results. There are 3 main points to consider when opting to alter your foot/toe positionaway from parallel.
1. No difference in stress to knee with different toe positions as long as the knee stays aligned with the toes (tip of shoe).
2. A study in 2000 showed that turning the foot outward or inward had the no significant difference in activation of the individual quadricep muscles as compared to when the feet are parallel.
3. When we rotate the foot and toes outward we shorten and weaken the gluteus maximus and piriformis, which decreases performance. Also, this comprises the stabilizing mechanisms of the major lower back joint which in turn can lead to excessive forces and stress on the lower back.
Take Home Messages:
Keep your feet parallel and toes pointing straight ahead with your squats and leg presses. Rotating the foot does not target individual thigh muscles or isolate the glutes any better, but it does put you in jeopardy for lower back pain and poor performance.