The plié squat is a great variation of the traditional bodyweight squat, that involves a wide stance and feet pointing outwards. This stance opens up the hips during the squat, putting more emphasis on the inner thighs and adductors.
Although it shares similarities with the sumo squat, there are some differences, as we’ll discuss later on.
The movement (and name) take inspiration from the “plié” position in ballet.
But how do you actually do a plié squat properly… and why should you do one anyway?
This exercise guide outlines everything you need to know about plié squats, including muscles worked, benefits and how to adapt the movement for different workouts.
What is a Plié Squat?
A plié squat is a squat performed with an external hip rotation and the feet turned out, ideally close to a 90 degree angle. It is a popular movement in barre routines and takes inspiration from ballet.
Like any squat, it primarily targets the lower body… although the main different between plié squats and the traditional squat is that plié squats put more emphasis on the inner thighs and glutes, as well as hip mobility.
The terms “plié squats” and “sumo squats” are sometimes used interchangeably, but plié squats tend to have a wider stance, with the hips opened up as much as possible.
Plié squats are also commonly associated with a following calf raise too.
They also tend to be used in different types of workouts… plié squats are usually seen in more sculpt and barre workouts, whilst sumo squats are used more generally in any sort of lower body workout.
How to do a Plié Squat
To do plié squat:
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Point your feet outwards, between 45 and 90 degrees so your feet follow the same direction as your knees.
- Your knees should be slightly bent and your back should be straight.
- Place your hands on your hips or thighs and brace your core.
- Lower yourself into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or until it feels comfortable to go any further.
- Keep your back straight and hold for a few seconds.
- Repeat for repetitions.
Coach’s Tip – Your foot placement is one of the most important things in plié squats. Try and follow the natural direction your knee is pointing with your feet. This means the more you can open up your hips, the wider the stance will be, and the closer to 90 degrees your feet will be positioned. If hip mobility is limited your ability to open up your hips, don’t try and turn your feet out more to compensate. Instead, work on improving your hip mobility.
Plié squats primarily work the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Compared to normal squats, more emphasis is placed on the quads, particularly, the inner thighs (adductors).
Strengthening the Inner Thighs
Plié Squats Benefits
Lower Body Strength
Plié squats will require your quads, glutes and hamstrings to work in unison to lower and raise you in and out of a squatting position. This strengthens them and helps build muscle.
By having your feet turning out, it will naturally create imbalance compared to a regular squat. This will force your body to adjust to avoid falling over and help promote better balance.
One of the main muscle groups that will help create stability during the plié squat (and help you avoid falling over) are your core muscles. They will be engaged for the duration of the movement, helping develop a stronger core.
The plié squat requires a straight back and promote a good posture during the entirety of the movement.
Target the Inner Thighs
As the movement focuses on the lower body, plié squats are a great way to tone and sculpt the quads and inner thighs. This is why the exercise has become so popular in barre workouts.
Improve Hip Mobility
The wide stance will open up your hips and test your overall hip mobility. This is really beneficial for a lot of lower body movements and can help promote better mobility in all sorts of activities.
Plié Squat Variations
Plié Squats Calf Raises
The plie squat is often accompanied with calf raises, especially if you’re following a barre workout. The calf raises take the plié squat to the next level and require stronger calf muscles and better balance.
To do plié squat calf raises, once you have lowered yourself into the plie squat, you then need to push your heels off the ground so you are supporting all your body weight on the balls of your feet.
You want to maintain the correct plié squat form throughout.
Depending on how difficult you find the calf raise, you can decide how many repetitions to do.
You may want a workout to focus on the squat, or to focus more on the calf raises, it’s up to you.
By adding calf raises into your plié squats, it will really strengthen your calves and improve your balance.
Plié Squats with Dumbbells
If you’re looking for a variation or progression of the plié squat, then using dumbbells for added weight is a good place to start.
- Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Point your toes between 45 and 90 degrees and your thighs parallel to the floor. The more turned out your feet, the harder it will be.
- Your knees should be slightly bent but your back should be straight.
- Hold a dumbbell between your legs.
- Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into the squat position.
- Keep your back straight and hold for a few seconds.
- Return to standing position by pushing down on the floor.
Similarly, you could replace a dumbbell for a kettlebell to create a similar effect.
Are Plié Squats Effective?
Yes absolutely. Plié squats are a great exercise for not only strengthening and toning your glutes and legs, but also promoting better balance and posture.
Do Plié Squats Tone your Thighs?
Yes. Plié squats are ideal for anyone looking to tone their thighs (and glutes).
Plié Squats Vs Sumo Squats – What’s the Difference?
Plié squats and sumo squats are very similar and the names are often used interchangeably. Plié squats usually refer to a wider stance with the feet pointed further out, compared to sumo squats, that describe any sort of wide stance squat.
Both plié and sumo squats should have good knee/foot tracking, i.e., the foot positioning is really defined by how much you can open up your hips and externally rotation at the hip joint.
If you want to focus more on your adductors (inner thigh) and glutes, a wider stance squat, like the plié squat, is a great option.
To do this exercise properly, you’ll need pretty good mobility and external hip rotation. If you’re struggling to get into a wide enough stance, this suggests your hip mobility is limiting your movement patterns.