T Nation

Posture for Squats and Oly Lifts


#1


Hi T NATION,

with no prior weight training experience, I started practicing weightlifting this year, and I did it from January to June. I quit for the summer because of two consecutive minor injuries (hip tendonitis in early June, due to squatting, and a sprained ankle mid July, because of hiking during the holidays).

Now I just got back to training, and I want to take it very slow and smart so that I can progress steadily and get the most out of my training time.

Now I have some postural issues that I want to address and some anatomical concerns, so to speak.

The fact is that I have a slight (I believe) case of knock-knees, or genu valgum.

(See image.)

Now while this picture is quite old, it is the one I have in which the condition can be seen most prominently.

I started wondering how my condition might be affecting my squatting (and thus, my Olympic lifts).

I always found that I could not go parallel (or below parallel), even with weightlifting shoes, if I kept my feet facing forward. By doing some stretching for the hams and the calves, and keeping my feet externally rotated at a 45° angle, I found that I could go parallel and somewhat below.
I found that acceptable, so I adopted that stance as my usual squat stance for several months.

Around June, I tried squatting with the heel of my feet around shoulder width, but rotating my feet much more externally (60-70° angle). I found that I could go much deeper this way, and I thought the stance was much more comfortable in general. However, I felt some inflammation around the sides of my hips after my workouts. I think it was tendon pain and not muscle pain since, in one instance, it persisted for almost two weeks of inactivity.

Now, I am trying to adjust my squat stance and my catch stance in the snatch and in the clean and jerk with two objectives in mind:
- maximum performance
- least long-term damage to joints, tendons and ligaments.

Is the knock-knee condition actually detrimental to squatting or is this a problem I alone am experimenting, which is unrelated to my condition?
Should I adjust my stance in relation to my condition or should I just squat and catch as any other athlete with straight legs would do?

I tried to look for further information on Google (knock knee squat, genu valgum squat, squatting with knock knee, knock knee weightlifting, etc...), but to no (or too little) avail.
So, I started trying to figure it out on my own.

From what I understand, knock knees are a result of the femur being internally rotated; because of this, an extreme external rotation of the foot should compensate for the internal rotation of the femur and thus put me on par with athletes with straight legs. However, I do not know if this stance is causing me to use different muscle groups or if it is in any way damaging to any of my tendons, ligaments or joints. Also, I do not know if this extremely wide stance (not in terms of distance between the heels of my feet, but in terms of external rotation of the feet, and thus of the femur) is going to make my performance better or worse. In the end, I want to adapt a stance that will help me lift the most weight (both in terms of squat and in terms of competition lifts).

I also tried experimenting with different feet angles during the pull; however, I did not notice any major differences, possibly because my femur is not below parallel while pulling. It might even be the case that I find myself more comfortable when I pull with my feet perfectly parallel, but I have no explanation for that.

On an unrelated note (or perhaps related?), I also believe I have a slight case of anterior pelvic tilt. I believe this is common with genu valgum, since I noticed by rotating my pelvis while looking at myself in the mirror that if I fight my anterior pelvic tilt by contracting or otherwise actively shortening my abdominal wall, as the pelvic tilt adjusts, the knees naturally rotate externally along with the femur.

Now, this seemed particularly bizarre to me because most books and resources about squatting advocate keeping an arched back, and usually show pictures or videos of people (often girls) who squat with an extremely exaggerate anterior pelvic tilt.
Is this actually the correct way to squat? Would squatting with a straighter and less arched back leave my knees more externally rotated, instead of bringing them to the inside? Would it be completely indifferent? Am I interpreting the arch-your-back cue in the wrong way?

To sum it up: is this actually a problem? Should people with genu valgum adjust their squatting stance? Also, should people with genu valgum adjust their pulling stance for weightlifting, or does the condition bear no effect during that kind of movement? Ultimately, what kind of stances should I be adopting for the different weightlifting movements, considering my condition?

Thanks for your attention; I know this post is very long and that it might be a little too technical, but I hope there's someone in these forums with sufficient knowledge of kinesiology and weightlifting to help me (and others who might be experiencing the same situation) out.


#2

First off, you have to understand that Genu valgum is not a "condition." It's not a disease or terrible dysfunction. Genu Valgum, along with an anterior pelvic tilt, are postural deficiencies. With a little time and effort, they can be corrected. By compensating with your stance, I'm afraid you will only create more of a problem by putting undo stress on tissues that aren't adapted to such stresses. I would love to give you all the advice in the world showing you how to correct these issues but without the proper evaluation, there are too many variables. I would suggest digging into this wonderful website and finding some of the many articles addressing similar topics. The most common things to look for with genu valgum, weak glute medius, super tight hip flexors, tight IT bands, weak hamstrings.