Generally speaking, toddlers have a lot to learn. But they may do one thing better than most adults! Squat to full range of motion (ROM)! Next time you have the chance to watch a toddler squat I want you to take note of their knee positioning. What you’ll find is that in order for them to settle into the bottom of the squat they keep their knees wide. Of course, there is more to squatting full ROM than just what the knees are doing, but it’s this topic I would like to write about.
Without stereotyping or being sexist, it’s time to get your “Man Legs” under you! What I’m referencing is the tendency that men have over women to keep their knees pressed out instead of in. This is significant when it comes to allowing our hips to help us more in the squat and to potentially avoid knee pain. Avoiding those knees collapsing inward will also help protect the integrity of your ACL’s and allows for the knees to work and not be overworked.
So how far should you press your knees out when squatting? I tend to tell patients and clients that they can have their knees as wide as they want while squatting as long as their feet can stay flat and/or neutral on the floor. How far you can press your knees out is also determined by what your hip mobility is and how much external rotation you have available. I’ve found that driving your knees out further than what is available can have the opposite effect of what we want; so, find the happy medium for you.
Assess how well you think you’re squatting like a toddler, and whether or not you’ve got your “Man Legs” under you! It just may help that squat!