Don’t Let Long Femurs Stop You from a Perfect Back Squat

There’s a HUGE issue in the strength training world with femur length.

I’m a former personal trainer who has long femurs — great for karate kicking, running down hills, sprinting, pedaling … but not the best tools for the perfect back squat.

HOWEVER, I actually have a pretty decent back squat.

My back squat is below parallel WITH A LUMBAR ARCH and a moderate forward lean — nothing that I’d call a “fold” or “doubled over.” And there is no “GMing” up the weight.

  • I use a wider than conventional stance, though not true sumo.
  • I make sure that my knees track over my slightly turned out feet (I keep them out only slightly because I don’t want built-up adductors).
  • I have good hip flexibility to really sink down and sit in the squat.

Many women have this challenge, though it isn’t necessarily a long femur, in and of itself, but rather, a torso that’s shorter than their femurs — or, shins that are shorter than their thighs.

A woman with seemingly proportionate femurs still faces the same issue in the back squat if she has a short torso. All the time, I see women with “no torso.”

There’s nothing outstanding about their femurs until you put them up against the torso.

Torso on the short side. Shutterstock/Vladimir Sukhachev

Though Smith machine and dumbbell squats are easier than the back squat, many women (and men too) struggle with these; they often don’t even hit parallel.

Or, with the dumbbell version, if they DO hit parallel, they are folded over. Their torsos are shorter, sometimes a lot shorter, than their femurs.

I might add that at one of the gyms I go to, there’s a man who squats 365 pounds–and he’s folded over at parallel because he has a short torso; he’s “all legs,” though he’s of average overall height.

He needs to widen his stance so that there isn’t so much pressure on his lower spine.

Shutterstock/Photology1971

So it isn’t just a long femur thing with the back squat; it’s a short torso thing. You’ll find the links below extremely helpful.

Why a wide stance makes squatting with long femurs easier

Why do elevated heels make it easier to squat with long femurs?

 Why young children can squat deep and stay so upright

Really now, if you had the proportions of a very young child, your nickname would be “melon head.”

Why the adult squat should never be compared to the toddler squat…


Compare the proportions in the photo above. The adult’s knees are shoved up right under her armpits.

The preschooler’s knees, though she’s ATG, are so far beneath her armpits that she can comfortably rest her elbows on them and place her face in her hands.

This is because in very young children, much of their height is between their hips and head, and this creates excellent leverage to stay upright.

Though the woman is also ATG, note that she’s more crouched than squatted, and would find it impossible to create a lumbar arch. However, it appears that the child could easily induce a lumbar arch.

Here we go again. Note that this toddler’s femur is no more than HALF the length of his torso!

Imagine if an adult had these proportions! I don’t know about you, but I’M seeing one stubby short femur that gets dwarfed by the long torso.

Read more about the apples to oranges comparison of adult squats to toddler squats.

And one more that you’ll find fascinating:

Why the Femur to Torso Ratio in Squatting Is NOT Nonsense

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.