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Exercise Analysis #3: Plié Squats


With so many variations of the bodyweight squat exercise, we at the Cybex Research Institute (CRI) often get asked exactly which style is the ‘best.’ Almost always, the answer is dependent on the goal of the exercise.  One popular change to the traditional squat is called the plié (or sometimes sumo) squat, where the exerciser widens their stance width beyond the shoulders.  What exactly is the difference between this and a normal-stance squat?

Episode 3 of our exercise analysis series takes a look at the effects of stance width on the biomechanics of the squat exercise.  Our findings suggest that taking a wider stance does not have a significant effect on the demand to the glutes or the quads.  We do see a significant difference in the activity of another muscle group of the hip, the adductors.  These are the muscles of the inside of the thigh, responsible for bringing the leg closer to the middle of the body.  In addition, a wider stance will also put a greater demand on the external rotators at the hip, a muscle group located toward the side of the lower back.  If one intends to shift some emphasis toward either of these muscle groups, occasionally performing a wider-stance squat is likely beneficial.  However, if someone experiences pain or discomfort in the lower back, it might be advisable to reduce the stance width while performing the squat.

As we like to reiterate at the CRI, it is always important to prioritize the desired training outcome when prescribing exercise while also considering potential stresses that we may be imposing on ourselves or our clients.

Cory Hofmann, Research Project Manager
Cybex Research Institute

Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment. Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice, please consult a doctor.

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