By Jay Pesi
For as long as we can remember, we have heard trainers and coaches emphasize, “Don’t let your knees go past your toes” when squatting.
But is this actually the best way to squat? Well the answer is not as easy as yes or no. The reality is that both are acceptable: Yes, for some, and no for others.
We are all very similar in so many ways, yet also very different. We vary in height, weight and flexibility—and all of these components play a role in how we squat properly.
Matt Stevens, physical therapist at Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio) says, "I'm generally OK with my athletes if their knee passes over their toes as long as we have one key thing: Their foot is fully engaged with the ground.”
What Stevens means by this is, imagine that your foot is a tripod with a point of contact on your heel, the ball of your foot, and under your pinky toe. The three points of contact create a solid base that allows you to evenly distribute your weight across your foot. A stable foot increases the stability of your knees and reduces the stress on the joint.
In 2003, the University of Memphis research confirmed that knee stress increases by 28 percent when the knees were allowed to move past the toes. So why would we allow for our knees to travel past the toes, knowing this information? Well, because the same research found that hip stress increased nearly 1,000 percent when forward knee movement was restricted.
As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the FIU Wellness and Recreation Center (WRC), I’m constantly coaching patrons and clientele through these matters. Some tips that I recommend to help ensure that my clients are squatting safely include:
Avoid pushing your knees forward.
The first step in squatting is pushing the hips back and then down allowing the knees to naturally bend.
Keep your knees aligned with your feet.
It is important to keep your knees aligned with your second toes. Imagine pushing your knees out as you squat down to maintain this alignment.
Always ensure the tripod position.
Keep your feet planted and push through your heels, ball of feet and under of pinky toe.
For more information on how to perfect your squatting form, please check out PantherFit TV on the WRC fitness youtube channel.
Jay Pesi is a certified personal trainer specializing in strength training and functional training. He is currently a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the FIU Wellness and Recreation Center at MMC.