T Nation

Knees Behind the Toes

I’ve been squatting for a year now and thought I was doing well (current pr is 330lbs for 1 rep). Recently I went to somebody who was teaching squat and he told me I was doing it all wrong. My depth was good (below parallel) and my back was good. But my knees passed over my toes when squatting. He mentioned this will cause serious damage to my knees over time and was thus not recommended. He taught me a proper form by doing box squats and placing the bench way back behind so I could nearly touch it.

Anyway this assured that I kept my knees in front of the toes. After a few sets I used proper form without the bench. I really had to strip down the weight (which is okay if it’s true what he’s telling me) and I felt a tightness in my hamstrings I haven’t felt before. The day after my hamstrings feel sore.

So how bad is it if the knees go over the toes (but the weight is still carried by the heel)? And is it a bad thing?

It sounds like he was teaching you the powerlifting-style squat. In a full Olympic squat, your knees have to go past your toes in order to get depth without tipping over backwards. It will hurt your knees if they are pushed too far out in front of your toes , but the exact amount differs between people.

Rather than focusing on knees not going past toes, I’d focus on keeping the weight on your heels. If you do this, your knees should travel forward the proper amount.

[quote]Cobblepot wrote:
I’ve been squatting for a year now and thought I was doing well (current pr is 330lbs for 1 rep). Recently I went to somebody who was teaching squat and he told me I was doing it all wrong. My depth was good (below parallel) and my back was good. But my knees passed over my toes when squatting. He mentioned this will cause serious damage to my knees over time and was thus not recommended. He taught me a proper form by doing box squats and placing the bench way back behind so I could nearly touch it.

Anyway this assured that I kept my knees in front of the toes. After a few sets I used proper form without the bench. I really had to strip down the weight (which is okay if it’s true what he’s telling me) and I felt a tightness in my hamstrings I haven’t felt before. The day after my hamstrings feel sore.

So how bad is it if the knees go over the toes (but the weight is still carried by the heel)? And is it a bad thing?[/quote]
Stop worrying about all of that and just keep squatting like you were as long as you are making progress. Your knees will be fine.

Knees don’t necessarily have to stay behind the toes, but sitting back more can be good. In short, this guy isn’t right all the time, but he might be right about you. I agree that a good litmus test is whether or not you are staying back on your heels. If you’re up on your toes, you definitely need to sit back more.

[quote]csulli wrote:
Stop worrying about all of that and just keep squatting like you were as long as you are making progress. Your knees will be fine.[/quote]
You think it’s impossible to squat wrong/in a way that will lead to injury?

Just post a video of your squat. It’s probably fine, but no way of knowing whether this random Joe knew what he was talking about without actually seeing your squat.

[quote]Silyak wrote:

[quote]csulli wrote:
Stop worrying about all of that and just keep squatting like you were as long as you are making progress. Your knees will be fine.[/quote]
You think it’s impossible to squat wrong/in a way that will lead to injury? [/quote]
No I don’t think that. Do you think that’s what I wrote?

Thanks for the replies guys. Will post a video of my current squat technique and the technique he taught me tommorow. Man I do feel sore all over, even my neck feels sprained…
Going to bed now 22.00 European time here, so I’ll shoot one tommorow.

The first thing you have to decide when squatting is “what are you trying to accomplish?” Way too many people try to dictate what someone’s squat form should look like before learning what the lifters goal is. Are you trying to powerlift? Hammer your quads? Olympic lift? Don’t take lifting advice from anyone who gives it without asking your goals first.

If ya wear a polo-shirt while squatting with your knees way over your toes it takes all the pressure off em. Tank-top, your hosed.

LB

As I see it, there’s two ways to squat in PL and the grey area inbetween. There’s what I call the American power squat and the Russian powersquat.

American Powersquat:
This is what you see advocated by Louie Simmons and Dave Tate and in the ‘So you think you can squat’ video series. This is where you put the bar as far back (not down) on your back as you can. You then sit way back and force your knees out hard with little to no forward knee travel. Also, a wide stance is used to decrease the ROM and utilize the hips and P-chain more. In a nutshell it’s a squat based on hip extension and hip abduction with little knee extension.

Pros
-there’s very little knee stress
-the bar travels the least distance to reach parallel
-you’re heavily emphasizing the most powerful muscles of your body, your hips, glutes, and hamstrings

Cons
-a lot of stress on the hips, and due to the back angle lots of stress on the low back
-for a lot of people squatting raw, there isn’t as much spring and rebound in the hole
-the low bar position can be hard on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders
-this type of squat doesn’t have quite as much carry over to other types of athletics like sprinting and jumping

Russian Powersquat
This is basically an Olympic weightlifting squat done to parallel instead of atg. There’s a lot of knee travel (but the weight stays on the heels/mid-foot). You sit much more down than back. The bar is held high on the traps to emphasize keeping the back upright and sitting down instead of back. The stance is shoulder width or narrower. In my experience you still push your knees out but not as hard as with the former squat. Your back will tend to be much more upright. Most that squat this way use weightlifting shoes or some shoe with a little to a lot of heel lift. I prefer a .75in heel lift myself and this is my preferred squat style.

Pros
-not as much back or hip stress due to the more upright position
-more rebound and ‘pop’ out of the hole
-easy on the shoulders, wrists, and elbows
-more carryover to other athletic activities

Cons
-the bar travels further
-extra stress on the knees

There’s nothing right or wrong about one style or the other it’s just a matter of what kind of gear you’re using and your preference. In IPF singleply and raw lifting you see more the Russian style squat because IPF and USAPL require greater depth and it can be easier with the Russian style squat and you don’t get the support in the bottom of the squat from heavy gear. In the heavier gear divisions the gear provides so much pop in the bottom of the squat that you see more of the American style squat.

And it doesn’t even have to either/or. You can blend the two together. You can have wide stance, high bar, back fairly upright squat for example. Or you could have low bar squat where you stay fairly upright, your stance is narrow, and your knees travel a bit.

If you get only one thing out of this post, it’s that there’s only a handful of essential rules about the squat and the rest is preference and up to you to figure out. Look at top lifters with a similar build and weightclass as you and see how they squat. Look at their openers or training videos because by the time they get to their final attempt the form can get ugly. Start by imitating what they do and then over time modify it according to what suits you.

[quote]csulli wrote:

[quote]Silyak wrote:

[quote]csulli wrote:
Stop worrying about all of that and just keep squatting like you were as long as you are making progress. Your knees will be fine.[/quote]
You think it’s impossible to squat wrong/in a way that will lead to injury? [/quote]
No I don’t think that. Do you think that’s what I wrote?[/quote]
No, it’s not exactly what you wrote. But your reply seems to imply that you think, without ever having seen the OP squat, that what he is doing can’t be wrong as long as he is making progress. Unless you don’t think he can possibly be doing it wrong or dangerously, I don’t understand how you’re so sure.

[quote]Silyak wrote:
No, it’s not exactly what you wrote. But your reply seems to imply that you think, without ever having seen the OP squat, that what he is doing can’t be wrong as long as he is making progress. Unless you don’t think he can possibly be doing it wrong or dangerously, I don’t understand how you’re so sure.[/quote]
Said his depth was good and his back was good. He is worrying about his knees passing over his toes, which is ridiculous. So I’m taking his word for it. Yeah I guess he could be lying to me and he’s only half squatting/doing a round back goodmorning lol. But I assume he’s telling the truth. Not sure what you’re so freaked out about.

[quote]Fletch1986 wrote:
As I see it, there’s two ways to squat in PL and the grey area inbetween. There’s what I call the American power squat and the Russian powersquat.
[/quote]

Good post. I too like the Russian style squat with weightlifting shoes.

Good description from Fletch there. Thanks.

Personally, I use both. I prefer the wide stance Louie Simmons type power squat in flat shoes as I can handle a little bit more weight. But I’ll use the Russian style squat (in olympic shoes for this one) just as often for ME variations when I am training. This works well, because while I have found that box squatting is very helpful for my squat, I think it’s important for raw lifters and those who haven’t mastered the squat (like myself) to get a good amount of practice squatting under maximal weights without a box. By having two box-less squat variations, I’m able to squat without a box more often while not repeating ME exercises too often.

Here’s the vid. The first three are as I do them, the second 3? are as he taught me. And maybe even a bit further back. As I go below parallel I do see my back starts to round a bit though.

And thanks everybody for the comment so far, I’ll be sure to put them to good use.

Looks a reasonably good squat to me… can’t see any major problems. The knees should be fine.

Your way you are breaking at the knees first. His way, you are breaking at the hips first (sitting back slightly). Both ways look fine to me. I suggest you will be able to handle more weight in the long run by breaking at the hips first. If you keep squatting your way and your knees do ever start to hurt, do the slight hip break he is teaching and see if that takes away or lessens the pain. You might be setting yourself up for knee pain but only time will tell. I know I cannot break at the knees first or they start hurting.