Knees-Out Squatting- “ It’s All in The Hips”
By: Jordan Shallow
There has been somewhat of a resurgence lately on this debate of “knees-out” squatting, should you do it? Is it beneficial? Are there better methods?
Now I’m not here to tell you to squat “knees-out” or not. There is a compendium of top lifters who are adopting what I like to call a “knees-in” or “knee neutral” squat.
I am however going to show you how properly execute a “knees-out squat” if you so prefer.
For those of you who don’t know, “knees-out” is simply a verbal cue of the squat. Usually when prompted when initiating the ascent out of the “hole”, or bottom of the squat .The lifter is cued by a coach, or an acute onlooker to drive their knees outward in order to avoid a medial collapse of the knee. So for the lifter to fit the criteria of the cue (which at this point is usually being shouted at the highest possible decibel) the lifter frantically pushes their knees outward. Upon completion of the squat, both the lifter and the coach pat themselves on the back and call it a day…
But lets back up for a second, and dissect this cue in a little more detail. The knee joint is a synovial hinge joint that moves solely through the sagittal plane of motion . Which means it’s responsible primarily for flexion and extension. Neither of which dictate motion of the knee laterally.
So the cue of “knees out” is actually an expression of movement from the hips, using the knees only as a reference point. The hips, unlike the knees, have a freedom of movement through varying degrees of all planes of movement. Herein lies the problem of cueing “knees out” squatting …
Knees out can happen two ways…
Amidst the grunting, sweating and yelling that’s undoubtedly going on when a lifter is getting cued in a “knees-out” squat, both the lifter and the “coach” are looking to the knees to fulfill the criteria. But this lateral drive of the knees can be an expression of either ABDUCTION of the hip OR as EXTERNAL ROTATION of the hip. And to tell the difference between the two hip motions we must look further than the knees at the feet to see which motion the lifter is initiating.
What does hip abduction looks like at the foot?
Hip abduction at the foot just looks strange; there is no two ways about it. It most certainly satisfies the cue of knees out but at the foot it looks like the lifter is attempting to give him/herself bilateral inversion ankle sprains.
It’s so awkward looking that one would be left questioning why would anyone ever squat like that? Myself included, even shooting for this article I decided to go easy on the weight in order to spare myself any inevitable injury of squatting “knees-out” with an abducted hip, yet people squat like this on a weekly basis in gyms the world over.
What does hip external rotation look like at the foot?
Assuming the lifter has an appropriate stance width in the squat, external rotation of the hip should create a corkscrew like motion in the foot. Often described as “spreading the floor with your feet”. This motion has many advantages, not only does it adequately recruit the glutes in order to spare any added stress on the lumbar spine but it also keeps the center of gravity over the forefoot which is optimal when squatting.
If you choose to abide to the knee’s out squatting cue it’s my opinion that EXTERNAL ROTATION of the hip reigns supreme as far as injury prevention and performance.
And as acute onlookers, spotters, friends, and coaches alike should diligent in identifying and correct lifters attempting to squat “knees-out “with an abducted hip, and ensuring that external rotation of the hip is present.