Squatting is an essential movement that we do every day and that is why it is such a vital part of most workout programs. Over the years there has been a lot of debate about what proper squatting form looks like. For a very long time, the thought was that it was dangerous for you to squat with your knees going over your toes and that squatting deep (below 90 degrees) was also bad for your knees. If you are someone who exercises regularly, I can almost guarantee that you have been told some variation of “you will ruin your knees if you let your knees go over your toes.”
So, let’s break down what good squat form actually looks like. The key points of performance look like this:
1.) Feet shoulder width apart with toes 0-10 degrees out
2.) Neutral spine maintained throughout
3.) Weight balanced on MID FOOT
4.) Hips release down and back, and knees bend
5.) Hip drop below the level of the top of the knee
6.) Knees track in-line with toes
7.) Neutral head position with slight upward gaze
You will notice that nowhere in there does it say to keep your knees from tracking over your toes. If you follow the key points of performance, you will almost always end up with your knees going over your toes. Is this bad? The short answer is NO! It is perfectly normal and healthy for your knees to go over the toes during the squat. Let’s talk about why that is.
During the squat movement we are loading and strengthening multiple muscle groups some of the major ones are glutes, hamstrings, quads, and adductors. The goal with squatting is to not put too much demand on one of these muscle groups. If we completely avoid the knees going over your toes you will certainly decrease that amount of strain put on the quads and the knee joint itself. However, the strain has to go somewhere and what happens is that your hip and lower back are forced to pick up the slack. Continuously loading your hip and back can lead to overuse and overloading of those tissues.
If you are someone who has been scared to squat with your knees over your toes, know that it is perfectly safe and actually recommended to allow your knees to come over your toes. In order to have good squat form and avoid injury, your knees HAVE to go over your toes.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Andrew, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.