Skill Work: Knees Over Toes
……a missed opportunity
Don’t let your knees go past your toes when doing lunges! Have you heard this? I have been in the health and wellness world for awhile now and this is a myth that will surely outlive me. I could fill the page with reasons this movement is NOT bad for you, but instead I will just propose the following hypothesis:
Strengthening your knee joint complex in a position that promotes end range knee flexion (ie. Knees of over toes) is the best motion for maintaining and increasing lower extremity health. Translation: The “knees over toes” position is great for your entire lower body.
This is the position I am referring to.
This is another version. Note my poor ankle range of motion….my knee should be able to go further. I need to do this more often!
This position allows a full expression of your available range of motion of the ankle, knee and hip. By pushing into the end range of motion of these joint we expose the surrounding musculature to stress it seldom encounters. Long story short, we strengthen while we lengthen.
Warning, the following paragraph is boring and has some Latin words in it. If you just want to jump to the recommendations and videos, please feel free to skip it.
How does this help the knees, specifically? At the bottom position of the movement pictured above, I am strengthening and lengthening my glute medius. This keeps my hip centered above it’s respective knee, promoting proper patella (knee cap) movement. This position also strengthens and lengthens my vastus medialis, again promoting proper patellar tracking. This position also lengthens my gastrocnemius and soleus allowing more ankle range of motion. Increased ankle range of motion allows me to move evenly distribute weight across my ankle, knee and hip joints.
-If your knees are a weak area for you, spend 5 minutes a couple times a week practicing this motion. Practice means practice, not 500 reps.
-If you have any sort of nagging pain/injury in your lower extremity, you should definitely explore this motion for a few weeks to see if it helps. As I said earlier, this helps the hips and ankles as well.
If you currently get knee pain after exercise or perhaps just going up and down stairs, start with this motion:
As you get more confidence in your knees progress to this:
Go slow and stretch! As you do these, you will be strengthening your quad in a range it doesn’t get to see very often. The results will be a stronger quad, but also a tighter quad. A tighter quad can compress the patella into the femur at end range, so keep those legs limber!
A good quad stretch to compliment the knees over toes movement(please ignore the mood lighting):