The Long Femur and Squat Mechanics

The squat is one of the best exercises to improve performance, period. Athletes incorporate the squat into their workout regimen because it increases strength and power of the entire lower extremity and significantly activates the core muscles. Unfortunately, performing the squat improperly can lead to significant injury.
Without getting into too much detail, there are 4 main reasons why a person may not be able to squat with good technique.
  1. Poor ankle mobility, primarily dorsiflexion
  2. Poor hip mobility, primarily hip flexion and external rotation
  3. Muscle weakness/muscle imbalance of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex
  4. Long femur (a high femur to torso length ratio or high femur to short tibia ratio)
 Three of the above can be fixed with corrective exercise. This might shock you but there is no corrective exercise program that will lengthen the torso and shorten your femur (yes, that is sarcasm). Unless you are skilled at removing portions of the femur with a chainsaw you’re not going to fix #4.
Squatting with a long femur can lead to low back injury. In the image here you can see that the individual with the long femur has an increased forward lean. The excessive lean increases load at the low back.
I love the video here. If you move to the 3:40 mark the video shows an individual squatting with long femurs squatting.

It drives me bonkers when a provider (athletic trainer, personal trainer, therapist, etc.,) attempts to correct a client’s squat mechanics by forcing changes in items 1, 2, or 3 when the real problem is the unfixable number 4. Before you waste a client’s running them through a corrective exercise program make sure it is something that can be fixed.
If you have a long femur to short torso ratio you do have options!
  1. Widen the stance
  2. Externally rotate the legs
  3. Raise the heels
 If you continue watching the video (around the 5:30 mark) you will notice how the individual’s squat mechanics are improved by making subtle changes in body positioning.

All of these options change the lever arms and evenly distribute the weight between the low back, knees, and feet. Thus, one joint is not excessively loaded more than the others. You can try adjusting one of the above items or mix and match any three of the above.

4 thoughts on “The Long Femur and Squat Mechanics

    1. Chantel

      There’s no standard size for a long femur, but it would be substantially longer than from below your knee to the floor. I always thought I was so weak, why I could not squat properly this entire time using the standard method. I took a look in the mirror while squatting and see that my lower legs are definitely a lot shorter and my femurs are soo long! I could not do regular dead lifts either as it was so hard for me to sit back and keep my feet so close. I can do sumo squats and Sumo deadlifts with a lot more range of motion and feel a lot more confident rather than struggling using the conventional method. It bothered me a lot that i could not do the regular ones and was trying to work toward it, but I’m not going to do that anymore. It has nothing to do with my strength but more the structure. Thank you for this post

  1. David Blane

    I am looking work on my running form / gait to further improve performance. I have long femurs. This means the position of knee, hip and trunk will differ from most readily available “classic” running gait analysis. I have carried out an extensive web search but come up blank for running (have read all the weightlifting and cycling information – which I knew already re squatting and saddle position etc). Can anyone advise on how to find data so I can make scientific running adjustments. Alternatively which track or road running athlete has long femurs so I can study their style. Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *