THE FEMALE KNEE VS SQUATTING
YOUR DUMBEST JOINT: The Knee
When we talk about the knee, we are really talking about what your hip and ankle make your knee do. We just pick on your knee because we can easily see it move. Your poor knee is simply just stuck between the hip and ankle. If those joints are not co-operating with one another, then the poor knee will suffer.
Obviously, we know that the knee needs to be able to bend for us to successfully squat. And without a doubt, you have heard a coach yell,” KNEE’S OUT AND HIPS BACK!” when you are getting into your bottom position but, do you ever wonder why?
The simple and easy answer is ENERGY. It helps to think of muscle as a rubber band. To shoot a rubber band a further distance we know we need to stretch it out first. Muscles create force the same way. This “elastic band” effect happens when we shove our knees out and hips back get to the bottom of squat. The muscles of our glutes and thighs get stretched out to build up enough energy to make us stand back up.
POSTURE CHECK: STAND AGAINST A WALL WITH YOUR HEAD, TAIL BONE AND HEELS TOUCHING. IF YOU CAN TAKE YOUR HAND SLIDE IT BETWEEN THE SPACE BETWEEN YOUR LOW BACK AND THE WALL, THEN YOUR HIPS TILT TOO FAR FORWARD.
THE KNEE & THE FEMALES POSTURE: The knee is often a problem for the female powerlifter for a couple of reasons:
- THE BEAUTY OF BIRTH – The ability to bear children is often the blame for many knee related issues for females. To deliver, a female develops wider hips. When this occurs, it changes angle of the long bone in the leg. This increases the risk for many knee related injuries as the balance between all the muscles of the leg changes. In addition, the act of carrying a developing fetus for 10 months changes a female’s center of gravity. This leads to pelvis tilting too far forward. This is referred to as an excessive anterior pelvic tilt. When this occurs, the deep abdominals muscles get stretched and weakened. At the same time, the hip flexor and low back muscles become overactive and tight.
- QUAD DOMINANCE – Many females have a tendency to be able to use their quad muscles very well. In fact a very common frustration to hear is that they “take over” when the glutes should be working. The common answer is find a new glute activation exercise to do. In most cases this doesn’t solve the problem. Our glutes are the biggest and strongest muscles of our lower body. Too often they are not allowed to do their job because their quadriceps just steal the job they are supposed to do or the hamstrings try to help too much. What we need to understand is that our quads are intended to be our “braking” muscles when do things walking and running. In a perfectly aligned body, it is their job to slow our knee down and help us absorb impact. Essentially it is there job to stop us from falling forward. At the same, your hamstrings are a neighbor to the glutes. If a muscle isn’t working to its fullest capacity the closest neighboring muscles will often try to help. The combination of over active quads and hamstrings, make’s the glutes harder to use when we need them the most. We refer to this as glute amnesia.
HOW DOES THIS INFLUENCE YOUR SQUAT?
If your pelvis tilts too far forward and you become too quad dominant this makes it hard for you to descend into the bottom position of a squat and use your butt to get out of the hole. What ends up happening is that you will use your quads to extend your hips upward and your lower back to arch your chest up. THIS IS NOT GOOD. Often this this type of posture leads to back pains from over-arching in efforts to keep the chest up.
WHAT TO DO?
For most female power athletes, there generally THREE important things to do,
- Glute activation self-test. While lying on your back with your legs extended out front of you, try to contract your glutes without squeezing your quads. If you can’t do this, you are quad dominant and need to learn how to use your glutes.
- Shut off the quads. Think of foam rolling (lacrosse and tennis ball) and stretching as way of switching a muscle “off.” Use the following video as an example of how to do this.
3. Fire up the glutes. If you did the test and your pelvis tilts a bit too far forward, then your glutes are going to be a bit sleepy. Use the following video for examples of how to “wake” them up as part of your pre-squat workout drills.