We used to be told to never squat or lunge with our knees over our toes. This is because of the increased pressure on our patella, that an outdated study once told us. The increased pressure can cause pain or discomfort. However, performing knees over toes exercises is actually very beneficial.
Understanding Knees Over Toes vs. Knees Parallel
Think of your body as a link of chains with forces being passed from one chain to another. From your feet to your knees, to your hips and them your back and the remainder of your limbs. When squatting with your knees parallel to your toes, you may be decreasing the amount of pressure to the knee. However, this creates more forces through the hips and back. You are creating a bigger problem by thinking you are fixing another. By squatting with your knees over toes you are more evenly distributing the forces.
Why should you focus on knees over toes?
By not performing knees over toes you lessening the load your knees undergo. This is can be a good thing when you just suffered from a knee injury. You will weaken the knee by not loading forces on the knee, the muscles, joints, and ligaments. Just like any other muscle or joint in your body you need to exercise them otherwise they will atrophy and you will put yourself at risk for injury.
The increased force with knees over toes can be used in rehabilitation when you are trying to build up strength. When you stuffer from an injury you typically lose strength in the surrounding muscles because of disuse. In the knee this can be from an ACL injury, patella tendon repair, or an injury of similar nature. Using the fact that knees over toes increases the force on the knee you can apply this to rehab. For example, step down with one foot elevated and stepping down with the other. The further back you step down the less your knees will go over your toes. As you get strong you can move your foot up till you are stepping down in front of your injured leg maximally bending your knee over your toes. This strengthens your knees and prevents you from injuring it again.
Outside of rehabilitation, you should be squatting, lunging, and performing movements safety with knees over toes. This strengthens your knee so you do not get injured and can prevent knee pain. This will also take that pressure you are feeling on your lower back hips when you are squatting.
Dr. Claire strengthening her knees!
Dr. Claire adding knees over toes into her everyday workout. Note her elevated ankle, resistance band, and weight at her chest.