What’s my femur got to do with it?
I am really passionate about ensuring coaching and cuing for movements and lifts allow for
variation in a person’s unique anatomy. So often patient’s end up in my office because they have been cued into an injury from a well-intending coach, trainer, or group fitness instructor. I am committed to making sure others are informed and empowered to alter the “textbook” mechanics to fit their body or their client’s body.
Femur length has SO MUCH to do with your ability to move load while squatting! Long femurs relative to your torso make squatting harder. Your form will look “bad”.
How do you know if you or a client have long femurs? You’ll likely know it when you see it if
you are looking. Check out this inspiring long femured lifter:
Layne Norton is another accomplished lifter who is in the lengthy femur tribe.
Greg Nuckols is another.
You’ll also be able to recognize this person in the gym as they can probably deadlift a house, but struggle to squat their body weight.
As a coach/trainer, you’ll likely find your client struggling with pitching forward in a squat,
coming on their toes, struggling to maintain an upright chest.
For those of you who are blind, or perhaps for my data junkies, normal femur length (measured from greater trochanter to femoral condyle) is about 23-27% (average of 24.5%) of your total height. Torso length (greater trochanter to glenohumeral joint) was 28.8% of height.
I’m in the long femur tribe. Squatting was something I used to be so frustrated with-gains were hard, it hurt my hips, and my squat looks ugly when it feels good and isn’t causing me pain. I went years with people telling me to try and narrow my stance, get my chest up, etc.
Here is the thing - biomechanically, I physically cannot! Well why not, Amy? Just mobilize those hips and ankles and do these stability exercises, etc! NO. A greater relative femur length leads to greater forward lean, end of story. You will not mobilize or stabilize your way out of it. Feeling it in my quads instead of my glutes and erectors is HARD. If it is squat day, and I see someone with a long torso and short femurs- I really have to fight the urge to hate them, because they likely can squat the gym if needed, and probably with perfect form.
I love this video. Here Tom Purvis uses an excellent biomechanical model to demonstrate how differences in tibia and femur length relate to squatting.
You must keep the center of mass over your mid-foot for an effective squat, and to do that effectively, you can see that someone’s degree of forward lean will be highly correlated with femur length.
NOW - just because someone forward leans in a squat doesn’t mean long femurs are the culprit. Correlation is not causation. So, next, let’s look at what correlates with upright squatting posture versus forward leaning squatting posture.
Factors Leading To An Upright Squat Stance:
-Greater heel elevation (lifting shoes) or ankle dorsiflexion
-Wider Stance/Toes Out
-Shorter relative femur length and longer relative torso length
-Greater relative quad strength
Factors Leading To A Forward Lean Squat Stance:
-Flat heel elevation (Chuck Taylors) or limited dorsiflexion
-Narrower Stance/Toes Forward
-Longer relative femur length and shorter relative torso length
-Greater relative glute strength.
So, what is the take away?
If you are coaching people how to squat in ANY capacity, please do so responsibly. Take a step back when the “usual” cues aren’t working. To make squatting better for the long femured - consider lifters (ONLY if you are doing high bar - go flat with low bar), work on ankle dorsiflexion and hip external rotation, externally rotate/widen stance, and strengthen quads through other exercises.
Until next time friends,