Squatting – Part II 2

I’ve read and watched the articles that I posted a week or so ago a few times and thought I would give you a quick compare and contrast post: Where both KStarr and Greg agree (part II), some questions I didn’t find the answer to in any of the videos and articles (part III) and, most importantly, how this information affects your training at MDSF (part IV).

This whole thing with feet-more-forward squatting was first started by KStarr in a video a few weeks before the video above was posted. I started checking out the toes-more-forward stance then so by the time Greg’s article came out I had probably about two weeks of practice with a toes-more-forward squat. The reason I started experimenting so quickly is two-fold. One, I am having some issues with my left knee and Ken (my PT) told me that I am lacking internal rotation on that hip. Two, valgus knee rotation is a pretty big issue at MDSF, and at most gyms, and will be even more so if we are helping the people that need our help the most.

While many have set up camps on which is better, toes-in or toes-out, I think both are correct in their assessment of the issues in their context. One thing that I have noticed being with Susan is that she “sees” many more dangerous situations than I do simply because she has spent over 20 years in Emergency Rooms. For instance, my step-father’s caretaker leaves his rice in the rice cooker all day and snacks on it throughout the day. Susan tells me that he can get really sick from a bacteria that grows in that situation. I don’t think he can get sick because it has never happened to me. Who’s right, both us (but Susan is probably a little more right :-)) given our context. KStarr sees injured people most of his day, Greg sees healthy weightlifters most of his day. They are both going to act on what and who they see on a day-to-day basis. Below are some points where I think both of these great coaches are saying the same thing:

  1. Both say that if you can’t get into a position that is part of regular range of motion (ROM), then you have some mobility issues that need to be dealt with. KStarr demonstrates some positions he thinks will give you “more options” near the end of the video. I can pretty much guarantee that Greg thinks an ass-to-grass squat with a straight back is normal ROM. It sounds like most of us have some work to do on our ROM regardless of toe position.
  2. Both are saying that if an athlete is planning to do ground-based sports (I would include other sports like cycling as well) that it would be a good idea to do more single-leg exercises (Greg doesn’t specifically say this in his article but in Robb Wolf Podcast 79.
  3. Both are saying that knee issues can and often are caused by issues with either the ankle and/or the hip, and more importantly, if the hips are strong in all planes and weaknesses like mobility and flexibility are addressed, the squat will be good and performance will be enhanced. I think Greg sums it up nicely here:

    More common is valgus knee movement during only the recovery from the bottom of the squat. If the leg position is correct on the way down, flexibility and stance can’t be the problem; in this case, the issue is related to strength and activation of the lateral hip musculature. The athlete is either weak here or for some reason is not properly engaging the muscles necessary to maintain proper positioning and movement. If the athlete is strong and properly engages, there is no need for a particularly high degree of focus on preventing valgus knees; no more focus on this is required than on extending the knees to stand from a squat if the movement is learned and practiced correctly and weaknesses are addressed.

  4. Finally, both KStarr and Greg use examples of elite athletes to prove their points. In my experience coaching, this creates more confusion than understanding of why one should train a certain way. Elite athletes are expert compensators and using them as examples when they are lifting near or at max is not really the best way to understand bio-mechanics. Correlation does not equal causation anyway…

See you tomorrow for part III for some points in both articles that weren’t documented enough for me or topics that I will be researching more.

Please post any other articles you think will add information to the discussion.

2 thoughts on “Squatting – Part II

  • YR

    Thanks for synthesizing all this info, Saul. Super helpful. A couple clarifications: valgus knee rotation, is that when the knees point in? Also, are lunges/jumping lunges single-leg exercises? What are good ones?

  • saulj Post author

    Yes, valgus knee is when the knee points in. I like to think about as the “the tibia is turned outward in relation to the femur” (Valgus deformity) because it helps me to remember what is going on to cause the knee to be pointed inward.

    Yes, the exercises that you mentioned are single-leg exercises. There are a number of great single leg exercises that are really great for runners or other ground-based athletes (if you do them correctly).

    Here is a great way to categorize them (in order of progression, i.e. start at the top first):

    1. Static Unsupported – 1-leg squats (Pistols), 1-leg SLDLs
    2. Static Supported – Bulgarian Split Squats
    3. Dynamic – Lunges, Step-ups

    From there, you can also divide single-leg movements into decelerative (forward lunging) and accelerative (slideboard work, reverse lunges). I’ve found that accelerative movements are most effective early progressions after lower extremity injuries (less stress on the knee joint).

    from: Eric Cressey

    Eric references Mike Boyle is this article, he seems to be the most vocal proponent of unilateral work. Here is a good article by Mike Boyle with a number of videos.

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