Head, Shoulders, Knees Over Toes

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Myth: The knees should never project ahead of the toes during any exercise.

In a study titled, “How many clueless aerobic instructors and personal trainers still follow this archaic nonsense,” done by The Journal of Stupidity, it was shown that a vast majority of fitness professionals still believe the above myth to be true. Matter of fact, the same study showed that many fitness professionals would rather see you club a baby seal (that’s just mean) than witness your knees project over your toes while under their supervision.

Needless to say, they’re wrong. Sarcasm aside, having the knees project over the toes is perfectly normal and occurs quite frequently in everyday life. Just ask anyone who participates in football, karate, dance, or mudwrestling. Heck, try walking up a flight of stairs without your knees going over your toes. Despite all of this, many fitness professionals still claim that the knees going over the toes during weight bearing exercise is dangerous. I’ll even go so far as to say that this guideline has assumed the stature of law in the aerobics world.

In past writings, both Eric Cressey and Alwyn Cosgrove have referenced one study which kinda debunks this whole myth.

Fry AC, Smith JC, Schilling BK. Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):629-33.

The above study examined joint kinetics during back squats under two conditions. The first condition placed a board in front of the participants’ shins, which restricted forward displacement of the knee. In the second condition, movement wasn’t restricted at all. They squatted normally and the knees were allowed to pass the toes (GASP).

The researchers found that restricting the forward excursion of the knees during the squat (not allowing the knees to go over toes) increased anterior lean of the trunk and promoted an increased “internal angle at the knees and ankles.”

The results showed a 22% decrease in knee torque and a 1070% increase in hip torque! That stress has to go somewhere. Keeping the knees behind the toes definitely reduces the forces on the knee, but those forces were transferred more than tenfold to the hips and lower back. Translation: that’s an ouchie.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Ken Bowman Body Coach

    That's what I've been saying. You'll kill your lower back if you don't allow your knees to go over your toes when squating. Unless you have a knee problem, forget about the knee over toe rule. Thanks Tony.

    May 9, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply to this comment

  • Heeman!

    I dont get it. Does anyone do squats like the guy in picture "B" ? LOL! Thats probably the worst squat ive seen. So if your knees project ahed of your toes you end up like the guy in picture B? Why do powerlifters always have their toes behind their knees? maybe because they get more power and could lift more weights? Powerlifters dont allow the knees to project ahed toes for several reasons. The posterior chain is also the "lacking" factor in most individuals, so why prefer a squat with knees over toes? And you mention everyday life, dance, karate, stepping up flight-stairs. So what? try do to every thing you do in everyday-life with 200kgs on your back. Because you do something i everyday-life doesnt meen its okey to do at the gym. BTW, i think the hips are a stronger muscle and could produce more force than the" knees-area" = ask a powerlifter.

    February 16, 2013 at 7:00 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Uuuuuuum, I'm not saying that someone should squat with their knees over the toes for optimal performance. Obviously, the hips should garner most of the weight and it's more advantageous to keep a more vertical shin angle. All I was saying in that post - which I admittedly wrote YEARS ago - is that it's moronic to tell anyone that it's dangerous of their knees go over their toes. Watch any OLY lifter squat, it's impossible to squat that deep without some forward translation of the knees. Read the entire post Heeman.....;o)

      February 18, 2013 at 8:33 am | Reply to this comment

      • Heeman!

        Ok, i quote louie simmons: why arent there any great "older" olympic lifters? Cause their knees are gone...or do every oly lifter retire at a low age? Idk, its just a quote. And i wouldnt say its moronic to tell anyone that knee past toes is dangerous, cause some times its moronic not to tell them. If someone had some kneeinjuries fexample box squats wont hurt, but knees past toes will in some cases. Tnx

        February 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          Well, i guess if Louie Simmons said it....it MUST be true. You really made me eat my words Heeman. Listen, I never try to corner myself into absolutes. Like I said, while I agree that having too much forward translation of the knees can be detrimental, it's pretty pig headed to say that it's dangerous for everyone. Whenever someone starts using the words always, never, and everyone, a red flag usually comes up and I my BS meter starts running into overdrive. As always, it depends.

          February 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ross William Drew

    I don't see the example as going over his toes. The knee isn't -as far as I'm concerned anyway- the outmost piece of skin of the knee joint, it's the centre of gravity of the knee joint. In the case above, just above his toes.

    May 2, 2014 at 8:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Joe O'Haire

    I heard Tracy Anderson was the head editor of that Journal

    March 3, 2015 at 9:23 pm | Reply to this comment

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