Technical Mastery: What Do I Do With My Knees

Listen up Nerds and internet coaches, this one is for you. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Now, unless you’ve spent 10,000 hours teaching and doing a proper squat you probably haven’t come close to mastering the technique yet. Of course, to master a technique you have to know what you’re doing in the first place. Walk into any crossfit gym in the country and people will tell you that there are only 2 things you need to do with your knees: keep them out, and bend them to squat. Well, no offense to crossfit, but as a powerlifter I want you to know that there more knee movements than that.

These knee movements can work with high bar squatting but I’ve found it to be most beneficial in the low bar back squat. Before we look at the future of your squats, let’s look at the past. A few decades ago the rumor that squatting deep and pushing your knees over toes was damaging. Because of this, every coach worth his whistle has been teaching athletes to never let their knees go over their toes. I call phooey on that. Today’s squat tutorial will instruct you to move your knees all over the place. If you’re wondering why you should do this the answer is simple – leverage and muscle activation.

Speaking of muscle activation, the first step in any good squat is the Sit Back.

By keeping your back tight and pushing your butt back first you activate all of your posterior and eccentric muscles while also placing all of your weight on the midfoot and heel. As you lower down towards the ground you should try and keep a vertical shin, leaving your knee over the middle of your foot.

Once you reach the bottom of the squat you should be pretty bent over and your knee should now drift over the front of your foot. The further your knee goes over your toe, the more vertical your chest should become, thus setting you up for the ascent. Likewise, the quads will now be activated to assist in coming out of the hole. This knee over toe love relationship is good because it helps do two things: it can entice the stretch shortening cycle with a little bounce, and it will help push your butt back and establish Vertical Shins.

Driving from the bottom of the squat to above parallel is a very hip and hamstring heavy movement. This means that you need to set up as much posterior chain leverage as you can, and this happens with a vertical shin squat. A lot of people fail in the bottom of the squat because they are unable to emphasize their posterior chain with vertical shins. But we can't squat with vertical shins forever.

Once the squat is above parallel and approaching the top the quads need to be reactivated to take us home. To do so, the knees need to be driven forward over the toes. This emphasizes anterior chain loading for lockout.

And of course don’t forget to push your knees out the whole time. But that’s the kindergarten details, and we’re talking about being a real strong powerlifter here. Lifting more weights requires leverage and proper muscle activation. Don’t expect this technique to fix you up immediately. Remember it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, but it only takes 1 to try and apply it.

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.