Monday, March 17, 2014

Okay, Fine. Let's Talk Knees-Out (again...).

September of last year, I posted 30 Days of Squat (Day #18): Don't Push Your Knees Out?. I thought it was an interesting topic, but nothing earth-shattering. I still think I said about all that needs to be said in that short little post. Apparently, the topic became huge soon thereafter - fitness and S&C bloggers from all corners came out with pages and pages and hours and hours of endless writing, speaking, and diatribe on the topic... Honestly, I didn't even know what "valgus" was before all of this hubbub.
If you haven't been following all of this nonsense, please, let me save you a lot of time and exasperation and repeat something that Mark Rippetoe talked about to me on the phone about seven years ago and I've said numerous times on the blog: Cues are cues. They are NOT technique. They are prompts to move the trainee in the direction of proper technique. 
People seem to forget the difference between cues and technique. And there IS a difference.
The problem with confusing the two is that you end up with exercise tutorials that look like this:

What's wrong with that? Well, nothing I guess, but if what you really want is the foot, knee, and thigh all in alignment with slight external rotation to provide some spiral tension, then (imho) that can be demonstrated without exaggerating the "knees-out"/"toes forward" to an extreme.
I reviewed Kelly Starrett's Becoming a Supple Leopard. I liked it a lot. I think it has real genius within its pages. But, I think Kelly's gone overboard in his defense of the book. If he had simply said "It's a cue. Nothing more. Nothing less." and left it at that, it would have been less confusing to the average trainee. But, being simple and clear doesn't sell as well as complication and controversy, so what the hell do I know?

Here are the videos, posts, and articles that speak to the controversy. The only one I'd recommend spending any time with would be the article by Greg Everett:
The Knees-Out Discussion - Takano Athletics (blog post)
Community MWod Videos: The Knees-In Squat - Kelly Starrett (videos)
Offline, Episode 4: The "Knees-Out" Cue - Kelly Starrett, Lon Kilgore, Quinn Henoch, Jacob Tsypkin (video)


Niel K. Patel said...

I like the "cues are cues." I've seen valgus before during squatters' descending, but also have seen squatters do the knees out the knees in on the concentric.

The way it is now, I feel there's too much emphasis on knee abduction.

Boris said...

Thanks Niel. Imho, there is too much emphasis on the knees period - I think that if you cue too much knees-in/knees-out, you run the risk of twisting something in a bad way. I think the cue is valid, you just have to be careful w. it. It's a tool.

In my post, I meant to say that I had did not know what "varus" meant.