Dr. Strangesquat or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace the knees over toes squat
It’s okay to let your knees go past your toes when you squat. It feels good to get this off my chest. I’m not saying that you have to do it all the time or that it is always a good thing to do. All I’m saying is that if you have ever been told that your knees should never go past your toes when you squat then you have been given some bad advice. I was guilty of it myself. Early in my PT career I told patients learning to squat again that they shouldn’t let their knees go past their toes. This was something that I picked up in PT school when taught by well-meaning professors how to coach patients on specific movements. At the time I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve seen people let their knees go past their toes during a squat before and not get hurt.” I kept this to myself for fear of being made to look dumb by a smarter professor in front of my classmates. I wish I had the courage to ask the “dumb” question back then but I’m glad that I’ve finally figured it out for myself. (Thanks to Ben Patrick aka @kneesovertoesguy on Instagram for talking the talk and walking the walk).
Every time someone walks down stairs their knee is going over their toes in a limited range of motion. I would say that’s a pretty important movement to train and get comfortable with or else you’ll find out the hard way that your body doesn’t like surprises. Going down stairs is just one example of many “knees over toes” situations: squatting down to pick something off the floor, getting down on the ground to play with your kids, pushing a heavy object in front of you, etc. All of these things require being comfortable with your knee going past your toes.
“The obstacle is the way”
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius
If you are afraid to go down stairs because it hurts or you’re weak then you know exactly what you need to work on. You might not know how to do it but you have identified the problem. Gradually exposing your tissues to this problem will ensure you get more comfortable with it and your tissues actually get stronger as long as you choose the correct dose of tissue load. It’s also important to allow tissues to recover from loading between sessions. This is the basis for Wolff’s law which essentially states that tissues under stress will respond to that stress by getting stronger. Initially, it applied only to bones but has since been expanded to other connective tissues including ligaments and tendons. I’m not saying that everyone and their grandmother needs to be able to do sissy squats all the time. Just know that if you are avoiding a motion or activity that you need to do, sooner or later you’ll find out why that is a bad idea.