Hip-toe connection Hip-toe connection

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Thread: Hip-toe connection

  1. #1
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    I've been using your methods for some time and am a long-time lurker on this forum.

    Kelly Starrett is revisiting the subject of the toes forward squat stance that was discussed previously here.
    He's more coherent in his latest video since most of it revolves around a demonstration.

    To sum:
    He wants toes at degrees 5-12 with knees out.
    His demo girl assumes the position above (unweighted) with with her knees pushed outside the edge of her feet and he attempts to pull her knees in and fails.
    Then he has her rotate her feet out 30 degrees (note that her feet are outside her knees in this position as well) and this time he is able to pull her knees in.
    [He does not show a person using a foot and knee position as you recommend (~30 degrees of toes out, with the knee held in alignment over the foot).]
    His bottom line is that the hip is more stable when the toes are pointed in and that it is easier to keep the knees out.

    I'm not convinced, but my concern is the position in general and its trade offs and not that claim per se.

    How does toe position affect hip position? It can't do so directly, so it would have to involve a change in the position of the femur or tibia.
    If one used a narrow stance with toes forward in a natural position (so knees will follow toes when squatting), this changes the use of muscles around the hip as you discuss in your book. Moments from hip to knee are affected as the stance widens, ability to hit depth changes due to hip anatomy. But the video emphasizes knees out/external rotation in spite of the direction of the toes and not stance width itself.

    If the knees/femur are out with the toes pointed more forward than the direction of the femur (as shown in the demo), then offset for this would occur at the knee and/or the ankle. Twisting at the knee joint - femur and tibia not lined up - would lengthen the distance between attachments on the lateral side and shorten the distance of those on the medial side, to "tighten" and affect use of muscles at both the hip and knee (but note that the effect would be the reverse for muscles
    attaching at the inside). Additional tension from might also come from leaning into the connective tissue at the knee itself as well as the IT band. Relying on connective tissue instead of muscle and twisting the knee are things you particularly recommend against in your book.

    The other option would be for the knee condyles to stay in line, with the ankle serving as pivot. This seems less risky as far as knee health goes, but forces would still not be directed evenly across that joint. The extra moments created by pushing the tibia out from the ankle would be another thing to overcome when moving up from the bottom. So there would be different stresses on the ankle. But if this latter case occurred, it seems that the tightening effect at the hip would be lost across the outside since the femur would be out and changes in the lengths of muscles attaching across the knee would not be different.

    My take is that the positioning he recommends will either add a bunch of risk at the knee due to twisting to get the additional tightness or won't add anything at all. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Mark Rippetoe; 03-24-2012 at 09:49 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Here's what he says at the start if the video, talking to Diane left out:

    "Now, one of the problems is that we express external rotation torque by screwing the feet in. In the language of strength and conditioning, knees out allows you to create more torque. ...Now, typically when we've turned an athlete's feet out, what we've done is we've un-impinged the hip mechanically, but we've lost the mechanical advantage of being in stable position. So, we've solved one problem, have more room, but before Diane ended up in the same position."

    Let's assume Kelly is addressing our method -- he may not be. I normally do not understand his explanations. He seems to want the feet forward with the knees out, a position which places the distal femur out in abduction/external rotation and the distal tibia internally rotated. Either the knee joint or the ankle joint must be placed in a non-anatomically normal position for this to occur, and all the mobility in the world cannot alter this fact.

    First, torque is produced by muscles generating force, not the joints across which it is transmitted. Second, our job is to squat the weight up, out of the bottom, not to keep a guy from pulling your knees together with his hands. This test is terribly subjective in both his and her responses to the situation. Neither of them know how hard the other is actually pushing/pulling, and both of them know what they want to happen. And yes, neither position she assumes in the video is the one we coach.

    Since Kelly advocates the same basic femoral angle that we do, and since the toes-in position therefore affects the structures below the knee, he must be of the opinion that an internally rotated tibia is beneficial to the knees-out position. If the tibia is internally rotated, this would potentially tighten up the IT band and the vastus lateralis, producing some lateral tightness that would not otherwise be there, to repeat your point. This explains an increase in the knees-out capacity at the bottom. But at what cost? If the tibial and femoral condyles are not lined up symmetrically, the stress across the joint is not symmetrical. Our method is primarily designed for novices that don't need their knees injured -- even though Malanichev uses the same stance to squat 1038, and all of the heavy squatters I am familiar with line their thighs up with their stance.

    The bottom is not the only position in which the knee operates. The entire range of motion in the squat certainly affects the knee and its long-term integrity. This misalignment effect only operates at the bottom, but what about the effect of an internally-rotated tibia on an externally rotated femur through the rest of the ROM?

    And more to your point, if the knees are outside the ankles, you have created a moment arm between knee and foot that is the horizontal distance between the knee and foot. I've never seen anyone squat deep and heavy like this. I know Westside advocates this, but they compete in the APF -- where depth is not really judged the same way we do, and their videos do not show people actually squatting with toes in and femurs out. Watch them. Kelly says she squats 330, and I'd like to see 330 squatted this way, with knees outside the feet and toes in/femurs out. I'll bet she lines up her thighs and feet, like everybody else does under a heavy weight. I'd like to see any video that demonstrates a toes in/knees out position at 1RM load for an advanced lifter.

    My take is that knees don't like to be treated this way, and that at heavy weight you won't find many people with an intentional misalignment. Because it's hard on the knees. And because you can squat more weight when the knees operate in an non-pathological manner, more "torque" at the bottom or not.

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    Before we start another epic thread, I would like to alert everyone that this is being hashed out into tiny, tiny pieces in the "Training" forum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    Since Kelly advocates the same basic femoral angle that we do, and since the toes-in position therefore affects the structures below the knee, he must be of the opinion that an internally rotated tibia is beneficial to the knees-out position. If the tibia is internally rotated, this would potentially tighten up the IT band and the vastus lateralis, producing some lateral tightness that would not otherwise be there, to repeat your point. This explains an increase in the knees-out capacity at the bottom. But at what cost?
    This is what I was theorizing about, Rip. And wondering: The IT band is a hella strong piece of gristle, but is it actually wise to put that kind of tension on it in that manner? Seems like a bad idea to me, but then, my understanding of exercise anatomy and physiology aren't as deep or broad as yours and Starrett's, and maybe it's not a degree of "overtightening" that would cause concern for a structure that strong.

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    I'm less worried about the ITB than I am the rest of the joint capsule ligament and the menisci.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    I'm less worried about the ITB than I am the rest of the joint capsule ligament and the menisci.
    Concern about the joint capsule ligament and the menisci seems to me to go without saying when I look at the position Starrett advocates. I wish he would actually address these concerns, since this is the problem that most intelligent people seem to have with the form he advocates.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    Here's what he says at the start if the video, talking to Diane left out:

    "Now, one of the problems is that we express external rotation torque by screwing the feet in. In the language of strength and conditioning, knees out allows you to create more torque. ...Now, typically when we've turned an athlete's feet out, what we've done is we've un-impinged the hip mechanically, but we've lost the mechanical advantage of being in stable position. So, we've solved one problem, have more room, but before Diane ended up in the same position."

    Let's assume Kelly is addressing our method -- he may not be. I normally do not understand his explanations. He seems to want the feet forward with the knees out, a position which places the distal femur out in abduction/external rotation and the distal tibia internally rotated. Either the knee joint or the ankle joint must be placed in a non-anatomically normal position for this to occur, and all the mobility in the world cannot alter this fact.

    First, torque is produced by muscles generating force, not the joints across which it is transmitted. Second, our job is to squat the weight up, out of the bottom, not to keep a guy from pulling your knees together with his hands. This test is terribly subjective in both his and her responses to the situation. Neither of them know how hard the other is actually pushing/pulling, and both of them know what they want to happen. And yes, neither position she assumes in the video is the one we coach.

    Since Kelly advocates the same basic femoral angle that we do, and since the toes-in position therefore affects the structures below the knee, he must be of the opinion that an internally rotated tibia is beneficial to the knees-out position. If the tibia is internally rotated, this would potentially tighten up the IT band and the vastus lateralis, producing some lateral tightness that would not otherwise be there, to repeat your point. This explains an increase in the knees-out capacity at the bottom. But at what cost? If the tibial and femoral condyles are not lined up symmetrically, the stress across the joint is not symmetrical. Our method is primarily designed for novices that don't need their knees injured -- even though Malanichev uses the same stance to squat 1038, and all of the heavy squatters I am familiar with line their thighs up with their stance.

    The bottom is not the only position in which the knee operates. The entire range of motion in the squat certainly affects the knee and its long-term integrity. This misalignment effect only operates at the bottom, but what about the effect of an internally-rotated tibia on an externally rotated femur through the rest of the ROM?

    And more to your point, if the knees are outside the ankles, you have created a moment arm between knee and foot that is the horizontal distance between the knee and foot. I've never seen anyone squat deep and heavy like this. I know Westside advocates this, but they compete in the APF -- where depth is not really judged the same way we do, and their videos do not show people actually squatting with toes in and femurs out. Watch them. Kelly says she squats 330, and I'd like to see 330 squatted this way, with knees outside the feet and toes in/femurs out. I'll bet she lines up her thighs and feet, like everybody else does under a heavy weight. I'd like to see any video that demonstrates a toes in/knees out position at 1RM load for an advanced lifter.

    My take is that knees don't like to be treated this way, and that at heavy weight you won't find many people with an intentional misalignment. Because it's hard on the knees. And because you can squat more weight when the knees operate in an non-pathological manner, more "torque" at the bottom or not.
    Aside from vastus lateralis, glute max (due to its attachment to the IT band) and biceps femoris (due to its attachment to the fibula) would both be under more stretch with the relatively internally rotated tibia. As such, you could make a case that this increase in stretch on two of the prime movers in the squat might better store elastic energy during the descent, resulting in a potentially stronger rebound. I think this is what he means by "more torque at the hip." Or, if it's not, I'm not sure what else it could refer to.

    Kelly's other point seems to relate to the foot itself, the idea being that a foot that maintains its normal (longitudinal) arch is a more stable point of contact with the ground, and that this increase in stability may benefit the rest of the kinetic chain. It's more or less a variation of the argument of why you suport weightlifting shoes, in a sense - if your point of contact with the ground is more stable, you are more stable, and if you are more stable, you are better able to develop force.

    For the record, I don't really see a fault in the reasoning of either of the above, but I've never seen Kelly address the potential strain to the knee/ankle (probably more the knee, due to its hinge nature) that would seem to result due to the inherent asymmetry you describe above. Since Kelly seems to be advocating a relatively narrow range (5-10 degrees or thereabouts), the risk would seem proportionate to how asymmetrically things lined up in respect to how wide of a stance you took. E.g. with a close-ish stance in something like a high bar squat, I doubt 10 degree foot flair would matter, and you see Broz's guys use a fairly straight ahead stance. But 10 degrees of foot flair with a sumo stance squat might be problematic for the reasons most people are worried about.

  8. #8
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    Interestingly enough, a very strong lifter at the gym I train at - 330ish olympic total as a 94- was squatting a few months ago. I've seen him squat 220kg for an easy triple before as well. I noticed that on this particular day he was seemingly squatting with nearly straight toes- I was checking out his new shoes between my sets. Anyway, imagine my surprise when he dumps 180kg and collapses in pain, clutching the posterior aspect of his knee. One of our other lifters is a PT and performed a few diagnostic tests, torn medial meniscus which was later confirmed by mri.

    Also of note, I could visibly see the lifter trying to turn his toes out during his cent, but the combination of new shoes (sticky) and him lifting on one of the beginner platforms (which have some sand/ rugged material underneath the sealing coat for the oak) did not allow him to do so. Just some anecdotal experience here.

    FWIW, I think KSTAR is a good dude and means well. However, a lot of his information makes no god damn sense. this is coming from someone who has dissected enough bodies and joints to do it blindly.

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    This new video reminds me only of those balance bracelet demonstrations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JordanF View Post
    FWIW, I think KSTAR is a good dude and means well.
    Kelly is a good guy, and he does mean well. I consider him a friend. He is just not a good explainer.

    How about this: those of you that have been training for a year figure this out for yourselves. Warm up both stances, and then load up 90% of your 1RM, and do a couple of reps my way, feet in line with thighs at about 30 degrees of toe angle. Then do it his way, however you want to interpret that. Or do his way first if you want to. See which one works best and hurts the least. Be careful. Video it to make sure you actually kept your toes pointing forward, and to see what actually happens to your knees.
    Last edited by Mark Rippetoe; 03-25-2012 at 03:59 PM.

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