I want to start lifting but I'm having trouble with ankle mobility. During normal squats, my heels come off the floor and I want to fall backwards. I tried lifting with weights under my heels but I still overcompensate with leaning forward. Thus, using more quads than glute. However, when I widen my stance and turn my feet out, I am able to achieve a much deeper squat.
Is it ok to replace normal squats with sumo for the time being until I get more ankle flexibility? Will it still target the same muscle groups? Should I be careful with my knees coming in? I need overall advice. Can't afford a trainer. Thanks so much!
I personally am a very big proponent of adjusting your stance in order to achieve a greater range of motion. Not only does ankle mobility play a role in the problem that you have, but also, the structure of your skeleton may actually impede the ability to efficiently move throughout the entire range of motion during a "normal" olympic style squat.
Firstly, you should adjust your technique based on how well you are able to perform the movement throughout the full range of motion. If that means that you need to widen your stance and point your toes out, then that is a pretty easy fix for the problem you are having. It then also makes sense to try to increase your technique for this specific movement. You're other choice is to spend a significant amount of time and energy working on ankle mobility and hope that fixes your problem while not squating. In my opinion, it would make more sense to work on ankle mobility while widening your stance in order to squat correctly through a full range of motion, and then when the time comes after you've been squatting for quite some time and your ankle mobility has increased, work on your "normal" squat. There's no sense in not squatting, because you're forced to widen your stance.
There have been some comments here on bar placement. It does hold true that bar placement will effect the width of your stance. If the bar is higher on your back, you should likely have your stance narrower. If the bar is lower on the back, the feet should be wider. This is due to the need to have the bar movement in line with the body's center of gravity. If the bar is high on the back with a wide stance, unless you have crazy hip mobility, it is likely that the bar will drift forward over the your bodies center of gravity, which will likely cause your hips to shoot up first, and place more strain on your lower back. The same holds true for the opposite. If the bar is lower, you will need to have a wider stance, and bend more at the hip in order to keep the bar in line with the center of gravity. If the stance is too narrow, the bar will likely drift behind the center of gravity and will through you off balance.http://www.scienceforfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/6a0128769a61e7970c0168e9a8292d970c-pi.jpg
As for the muscle groups they target, a wider stance will place more stress on the abductors. However, I wouldn't worry about not hitting either your quads or hamstrings sufficiently. If you train often enough and through a full range of motion, with correct technique, You should adequately work the thigh muscles. It does seem that a wider stance may place more emphasis on your hamstrings but not to the effect that your hamstrings will get huge while your quads wont. Due to the biomechanics of the body, both the quads and hamstrings will be worked. Hope this helps.