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Squat Myth – Knees Stay Behind Toes

A common myth has percolated around the fitness industry for a while now; physios, trainers etc, telling clients to keep their knees behind the toes while squatting. The thought process behind this being it puts more pressure on the knee joint, and increases the chance of injury.

For the most part this is untrue. The knee can handle a lot of load, and as a rule of thumb, squats and lunges with knees past toes aren’t going to put the healthy knee at risk. For those with anterior (front of the knee) pain, or if flexing (bending) the knee exacerbates pain, increasing joint pressure is not the best idea. If this is you, limiting the amount of flexion during squats should be done in a pain free range of motion: think half squats or box squats.

Allowing the knees to travel forward, particularly during front and back squat changes the forces and biomechanics, and significantly reduces the amount of stress on the hips and low back. Furthermore, to reach full range in a squat, your knees have to travel forward. Look at any Olympic weightlifter (who has good form) and you’ll see knees in front of toes, hips well below the knee line, and a neutral spine.

The knees over toes cue actually refers to keeping the knees in a straight line, not going knock-kneed or bow-legged. These positions WILL put you at risk of injury, and something to be avoided.
Hopefully this has cleared up any confusion surrounding this myth, and as always don’t hesitate to have a chat with your trainer or physio.