Do You Really Know How to Squat? (Part 2: Knees)


This post was written by the wonderfully sleep deprived father of 3… Max Shippee (It’s 10:43 pm: why are you still awake?!!!)

IMG_0859-286x300.jpg“I think my squat is pretty good!”

“Really? What are your knees doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re all over the place. Doesn’t that hurt?”

“I just thought I had bad knees.”

Hello, knees!

Building on last week’s “Weight in the Heel” post, we’re gonna move upstream from the foot, where your weight should be in your heels. Your knees are the next really important thing we need to talk about.

Your knees should “track” in line with your toes. Your knees like your toes. They get along. They invite each other to parties. And the knees really don’t like it when the toes and knees aren’t in line with each other. Seriously, they put really awkward messages on Twitter. Since there is no rotational joint in the knee, it’s much healthier for the knee to travel on the same plane as the toe. By the way, rotation of the leg comes from the hip; ask any ballerina.

Knees out, in line with the toes.

What this means for most of us, is that we have to focus on keeping the knees out for the duration of the squat. All the way down, all the way up. Now, I’m NOT saying that your knees should be so far out that you’re out on the outside “edge” of your foot. Instead of allowing the foot to roll excessively, picture yourself spreading the ground apart using your feet. As if you wanted to cause a rift in the Earth right underneath you. You should engage this “spreading” feeling throughout the movement, both on the way down AND on the way up. If you’re doing this correctly, it should sort of feel like you’re delaying the down portion of the movement, while feeling like you’re springing up from the bottom for the up part of the squat. You should also feel the back of your leg, in your hammies, and even your glutes, engaging more effectively. Also, depending on your flexibility, you may find getting to full depth challenging.

IMG_0858-291x300.jpgYour knees are also the guide to how deep your squat should be. We’ll talk about that as well as how to cue more flexibility in the next post. :)

Weight back, spread it out.

So, knees out, as if you’re spreading the ground apart. Combine this with keeping the weight in your heels and you’ve got a powerful base to build your strength foundation on.

*As a footnote, these guidelines should work for the vast majority of people. There will be a few who may still suffer from knee pain and other mobility issues. These pointers can’t always be considered a “fix all”, but I have found that these they do indeed “fix most.” If you’ve had knee surgery, or had a major knee injury, please be careful when squatting.

Here’s a little video I did on squatting.

CrossFit 1440 Squat Technique from CrossFit 1440 on Vimeo..

Check out Part 3 and really learn what your hips are supposed to do.

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