Opinion: Bend the Knee (In Your Squat)

Bending the knee seems to be a big problem lately.  Whether it’s to acknowledge the true ruler of Westeros or in basic exercises like the squat, it seems like many people in the North are refusing to do so. In the real world, there seems to be a psychological disconnect with bending the knee in the squat.

When you squat, allowing the ankle to dorsiflex and the knee to bend while tracking over the toes is completely natural. Yet, this is demonized all the time. Ill-informed coaches and trainers would have you believe that bending the knees too far forward is bad for you and causes undue pain and suffering. Apparently, it’s too much pressure on the knees, and the shear forces on the joints tears apart the cruciate ligaments.

These effects are grossly exaggerated, and none of them are true. Studies have actually found that as one squats deeper and knee flexion angle increases, shear forces are negated by compression forces of the knee. In fact, partial squats can be roughest on the knees when it comes to shear force. It is safe and effective to squat deep and bend the knee, as long as you have the mobility and stability to do so.

That’s the key here. If you have the ankle mobility to bend the knees over the toes without issues, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it to squat deep. Along these lines, the hips need to have the proper balance of internal and external rotation, and the spine must be stable enough to remain upright during deep squats as well.

It’s silly to say that you should never allow the knees to bend, just like it is to say that White Walkers and the Army of the Dead aren’t real. You’d only be robbing yourself of range of motion that you already have.

You should squat as deep as you can, period. The only real exception to this is if you’re doing a powerlifting meet, where it might be advantageous to try and squat with minimal knee bend.

Otherwise, just bend the knee the next time you squat, Jon Snow. Take note of how your body feels and allow the knee to track over the foot. If you feel restricted, load those positions with proper technique to increase your stability and comfort there. In due time, your mobility and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms will follow suit.

by Ross Curtis

 
1. Ciccone, T., Davis, K., Bagley, J., & Galpin, A. Deep Squats and Knee Health: A Scientific Review.