We all know the cue of “drive your knees out” when squatting but have you ever had someone observe your squat or watched yourself on camera when squatting? If you haven’t you’d be surprised to find out that your knees are probably tracking incorrectly. When coaching the squat to our athletes and clients for the first time I notice two things that happen. The first thing is the knees just do not drive out at all leading to improper tracking and you get something that looks like this…
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As you can see from the video the knees never track with the middle of the feet and you are left with a continuous valgus collapse. This is due to a number of reasons (poor glute strength, lack of body awareness, tight adductors) but mostly because people grow out of the habit of squatting correctly because they simply stop doing it over the years. Yes, it is true that if you don’t use it you lose it. We all at one time possessed the ability to squat correctly we just don’t do any up keep and then quickly forget how to do it.
Anyways, after seeing this I'll tell the person for the next set that as they lower they need to actively drive their knees out or “towards the wall”. This is when I notice the second thing that typically goes wrong during a squat which you can observe from the video below.
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This time you’ll see that yes the knees actively drive out but they drive out way to much at the beginning, they will shoot in as they get close to the bottom, then will shoot in once they switch to the concentric portion. Cue face in palm…
So what do you do now? When it comes to this I will simply ask the person what they feel is going on with their lower body throughout the movement. Undoubtedly they will say it feels weird or it feels like they are actively driving their knees out. I’ll go on to tell them what is actually going on and/or film them to show them. Most of the time I don’t need to film because I will explain what I want to see happen on the next set. I'll say, “On the next one I don’t want you to drive your knees out until you feel you are half way down. Once you feel you’re about half way I want you to really overcompensate by driving your knees out about twice as hard as you feel you need to”. What I’ll get out of this is exactly what I was looking for which is the knees tracking with the “middle” toe of the foot throughout the whole movement as you can see in the video below.
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It’s amazing how well this has worked but also a little crazy. It takes someone literally trying to overcompensate twice as much from what they think “feels right” in order to get them to squat correctly. I’ll ask the person how that felt and they will always say “really weird!” My immediate response is well that’s actually exactly what it should look like and eventually the more you do it the more it will start to feel right.
I encourage you to have someone look at your squat who knows what they are doing or have someone record you so you can make sure you are squatting correctly. If your knees aren’t tracking correctly you probably won’t get much stronger and you will also be setting yourself up for injuries later on.
Hope this helps!