T Nation

Knee position in the squats and deads

Hi T-Folk…Ive got a question.

My girlfriend is having a problem with her knee position in the squats and deads. Basically during the squat (which she does very deep … literally hamstrings touch the calves) she has a problem keeping the hips from shifting from side to side and the knees from turning in and “buckling” during the ascent (concentric). Regardless of the foot position we try, those knees drop during the ascent (the descent is fine).

However during both db and barbell deadlifts, her knees buckle in the same manner, but much worse. But this time the buckling in happens during the descent (eccentric).

This phenomenon is especially interesting as when she uses lighter weight (sometimes only 10-20lbs lighter) the form is better but the weight is far too easy for her. However as soon as the weight bumps up to that critical threshold, the knees drop again. Without the weight, there is no overload, with the weight, the form breaks down.

Does anyone know what’s going on here or what can be done to fix this problem? Any suggestions are much appreciated.

There’s a couple things that may be contributing to this (there may be others, these are just two that come to mind). First, make sure she’s using a stable platform to lift from – sturdy shoes that don’t allow wobble. Most cross trainers, and all running shoes, just have too much give to the soles and midsoles and allow the foot to roll to either side way too much. Try barefoot (which I do), or a wrestling shoe (which I do on the rare occassion that I lift in a mainstream club), or a specific lifting shoe. Second, what is usually happening is the hip adductor is firing to help lift the weight, and there’s not enough hip and knee stability to compensate. You’re on the right track with dropping the weight down. Work on the abductors, and start with a weight that will allow her to do the reps IN GOOD FORM, then SLOWLY increase the weight. ALWAYS check the form, and if it deteriorates, THE SET AND WORKOUT IS OVER. Squats and deads are nothing to fool with if form isn’t locked in.

is she squatting wide or narrow? if she is wide, its weak hips. get them stronger. also have her focus of trying to spread the floor with her feet. that will help her focus on keeping the knees out. get a flat soled shoe when you try to spread the floor. wrestling shoes will make your foot role too much. have her focus on keeping the knees out on the descent also.

if she squats narrow, probably weak hips too, but not sure.

brider gave some really good suggestions. Good lifting shoes are a must, as well as a gradual increase of weight (like 5lb increments). When someone’s new to squatting or deadlifting they have to have a good foundation of strength first. This requires that they get their form correct from the start. Crappy form later on when the weight gets heavier is asking for trouble, as you know. Have her point her feet out at about a 30-45 degree angle and see if that helps. Core strength (lots of ab/lower work), flexibility, and any muscular imbalances need to be worked on, too. 1-legged bodyweight squats may help her learn to stabilize herself better. Some thigh abduction exercises might be a good idea too (Ian King’s got a description of these in his leg series using a cable).

tyler michaels,the first action on the descent of a lunge or on ANY
squat should be the dropping of your butt or what is commonly known
as the SITTING BACK. She needs to teach herself to sit back into the move.
Check out Princess’ post on “knee pain,” where I posted similar comments.
Some good thoughts were entertained by the guys on this thread!
P.S. brider’s comment “Work on the abductors” was right on the money!
Take care, Joey Z. ::::----::::

This is pretty common for beginners. Oftentimes it starts with the feet. First I’d recommend you get her squatting without any weight at all…have her practice slow eccentrics and hold the bottom position and get her used to sitting back on her heels…She should be able to wiggle her toes at the bottom of the squat. Get her used to the mental idea of the squat:

  1. hips go back not down
  2. force the knees out
  3. sit back on the heels
    Its hard for a beginner to get all this info. correct in their head which is why it takes practice. Once the technique comes the muscular balance will tend to work itself out.

I forgot to mention that it’s CRITICAL to let
your BUTT DROP on deadlifts, too! ::::----::::

Great advice guys. I dont think it’s a shoes problem. We squat very deep with the legs close together and a slight outward tilt. And deads are the same way (with dumbells).

Clarification: She needs work on her ADDUCTORS (you know,
the group of muscles on her inner thigh!) The adductors play a major
role in Knee stabilization during the squat! ::::----::::

i suggest stretching exercises in the form of her putting her knees up by her ears for at least 20min, 5 times a day :slight_smile:

sounds like an ABductor weakness to me. Have her perform her squats with either a weight belt or an elastic workout cord tied around her mid to lower quads. Set the band or belt up so that it is tight around her legs when they are in about hip-width position. As she descends in the squat, have her press outwards against the band or belt. This will activate the abductors a lot more and teach her body to keep her knees tracking correctly. This has worked for a number of people I have worked with. Good luck.

Sumo deadlifts? to hell with the amt of weight, focus on form. Also, if there is a problem with drifting in whatever direction, it most likely is not a weakness in the muscle that causes that action. More than likely though, her total foundation strength is lacking. Sumo deads my frined, sumo deads. I used them to inspire the previously uninspirable.