We believe the squat to be one of, if not the most important movement in which all athletes should become proficient. Learning a proper squat is crucial for athletes as it has applications in strength, mobility, stamina, injury prevention, and above all, sets a great foundation of strength and movement mechanics.
While a relatively simple movement, we see a number of faults when performed by our newer athletes. Today, we are looking at knee path relative to the toes. One of the most common issues we see with young or inexperienced athletes is an inability to track the knees over the toes during the entire range of motion of a full squat. Frequently, we see athletes experience “Valgus Knee Collapse” or the knees caving in on either the way up or down. More than just being inefficient, this position is a dangerous one, especially if it becomes habit. The knee joint is intended to operate as a simple hinge, and it can only do so if it is stacked directly over the ankle. Anything else puts undo stress on the connective tissue holding the joint together. While athletes can often get away with it, even under load, it allows for the development of a very serious muscular imbalance about the knee joint that can cause injury outside of the weight room.
Getting the knees to track the toes teaches the athlete to properly engage the hips and glutes, reinforcing the knee joint by eliminating a structural imbalance, helping to prevent non-contact ACL injuries and the like. It also puts the athlete in the most stable and most powerful position. This allows them to safely move more weight, and see better results.
Long story short: we want to get our athletes tracking their knees over their toes on every rep. Here are 4 tips/tricks/fixes to help you bullet-proof the squat!
- Fixing the Stance: Make sure the set-up position allows for proper mechanics.
- Glute/Hip Activation Drill. Teach your athletes to engage their hips and glutes with a quick resistance band warm-up protocol.
- Tactile Cue (Plate Drill). Give your athletes a physical target by asking them to drive the ankles/feet into the plates, reinforcing full-foot traction with the ground and glute engagement at depth, keeping the knees driving out over the toes.
- Low Dragon Pose. Improve ankle mobility to allow athletes to achieve greater depth with proper mechanics.