Should The Knees Pass The Toes When Squatting?

For those who’ve read my article 14 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore Full Squat Benefits!, here are four more reasons to consider.

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The vastus medialis obliquus (VMO), a prime stabilizer of the knee, has three innervation points and serves to protect the knee in the bottom position. In fact, performing full squats will strengthen this aspect of the quadriceps (Poliquin).
Now, how far down should one be able to squat? Well, if we look at our ancestors who did just about everything in a full squat position (i.e., cook, harvest, gather, etc.), we should be to squat far enough to place our palms on the ground (Chek).

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If you let your knees travel past your toes during squats, knee torque increases by about 28 percent. However, if you don’t let your knees travel past your toes, the torque on your hips increases well over 1000 percent (Fry et al., 2003). The question is this: Would you rather increase knee stress slightly with a full squat, or would you rather increase hip and back stress significantly by keeping your knees back (not allowing them to pass your toes) and leaning forward, essentially performing only a half squat? By the way, just a reminder that your spine protects your nervous system (it encases the spinal cord and nerve roots). Probably best to let those knees travel.

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In a review by Hartmann et al. (2013) titled “Analysis of the Load on the Knee Joint and Vertebral Column with Changes in Squatting Depth and Weight Load,” deep squats were found to protect against injuries, not cause them!

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And one last point: If your knees should not travel beyond your toes, how do you go up or down stairs? Ever thought about it?

In sport and everyday life for that matter, it’s common for the knees to travel past the toes. Refer to my Medical Intelligence television segment for even more “injury-proof” ammunition. And if you only care about looks not function, I’ll end this discussion with a famous line from Mr. Legs himself, Tom Platz: “Half squats equals half legs!”

To your success,

John Paul Catanzaro

Posted May 11, 2016

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