KNEES OVER TOES - Jump Higher, Run Faster
I’m sure many of us have heard one of the biggest myths in physical training, the myth that has likely been the cause of several injuries, for both athletes and those who are simply passionate about their physical health; that myth being that the knees should not travel forward past the toes during a squat. The many convoluted reasons as to why your knees going past your toes is “not allowed” range from “simply bad form” to “severe injury may occur”, but this myth is almost entirely based off an old and misinterpreted study that is over 30 years old.
Over the years, this poorly interpreted study’s findings were passed down and slowly took a life of its own, as most myths often do. Likewise, as most myths do, this one was disproven.
A study conducted in 2003 found that by limiting forward knee travel, it simply shifted the stress from the knees to the hips/lower back. Therefore, while squatting with restricted forward knee movement showed a 22% decrease in knee torque, there was a 1070% increase in hip torque! This is a LOT more work for the hip and lower back musculature to perform and is a potentially more dangerous squatting method for the lower back.
Therefore, while it is true that anterior knee stress increases as the knees come forward during a squat, it is important to know that the amount of stress from the knees going slightly beyond the toes is still WELL within the limits of what the knee can handle.
Furthermore, in order to reach full depth in the squat, the knees almost always must move forward past the toes. Olympic weightlifters are a great example of this, as they need to train at full depth for their sport, and so often squat with their knees past their toes, and with remarkably high loads!
Now that we have that covered, we can dive into how knees-over-toes exercises can increase vertical jump height as well as running speed.
Not only will knee focused exercises help prevent injury, consistent training over a long period of time will strengthen the tendons needed to provide the elasticity and power you need to jump higher and run faster.
What people also tend to forget is that each type of squat is MEANT to have differing amounts of forward knee travel, due to the varying demands placed on the joints of the lower limb due to the different bar positions. In order of most to least expected forward knee travel in different versions of the squat
Exercise is a non-invasive and healthful way to help with minor knee pain due to overuse, arthritis, or other causes.
Knee strengthening exercises are an effective way to help prevent injury and keep the legs strong. Stretching can also help keep the muscles flexible, which can prevent or alleviate pain.
People who have health conditions should speak with a doctor before beginning any exercise program.