Knee Movement in Squat - Long Femur Lifters Knee Movement in Squat - Long Femur Lifters

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Thread: Knee Movement in Squat - Long Femur Lifters

  1. #1
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    Default Knee Movement in Squat - Long Femur Lifters

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    Hey Coach,

    I am a recreational lifter who has been reading/studying/lifting using the book and various materials from the forum, SS coaches, YouTube videos, etc. I first want to say thanks for continuing to produce tons of excellent content, especially this forum, as it has been a great deal of fun to study this science using your physics-based approach and years of anecdotal experience. Nobody can doubt that the best coaches in the field today can trace their success back to the proven, yet underrated practice of barbell lifting, of which this site is THE ONLY source I’ve seen in recent years actually stick to the basic movements and common-sense programming. I have read/owned SSBBT3, Practical Programming, and messed around consistently enough with the program to enjoy steady progress in a simple way. Complicated exercise routes and experimentation have failed consistently, but the heavy weight in compound lifts has generally always worked well for anything I wanted to do outside of the gym.

    Before I ask the question, I want to point out that I have been scanning these forums for a few years, watching and rewatching video in technique checks, watching heavy limit attempts in Powerlifting, and observing real people in practice with a specific anthropometric in the squat. There have been a few notable forum threads that discuss this issue, and the book mentions the more forward lean position that a long-femur, short-torso trainee will inevitably demonstrate when squatting. I believe the issue is more complicated than that for this type of lifter, due to what I observe in actual squatting, and I wanted to get your in-depth thoughts on it. I respect your advice and I have researched this one thoroughly; I just want to figure a few things out that I am trying to understand beyond the basic information from the books.

    Here it is: a short femur trainee sets his back angle and knee position simultaneously in the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the squat movement in a ‘balanced’ manner, e.g. no immediate knees forward, which causes a swinging effect, and no hip movement sans knees, which looks like what you described as a good morning exercise. For these lifters the stopping of the knee travel via KNEES OUT cueing forces the lifter to make the additional depth needed by ‘sitting back’ or hinging at the hips, extending the hamstrings slightly when the hip joint goes below parallel, and allowing that ‘bounce’ off of the hamstrings. These lifters will need a little more lean, but the stopping of the knees really fixes that and forces the hip the hinge if they are going to continue descending, otherwise they will just stop before hitting depth. When this lifter bends the knees in the bottom position, it relaxes the hamstring distally and causes the lifter to become vertical in the bottom, killing the hip drive. With the bar on the Delts, this is trying to ‘front squat’ a back squat, and it causes bar speed to crater as the posterior muscles leave the movement. This also explains why the front squat, with its more knees forward bottom position, is limited in these trainees, because an bent knee is relaxing the hamstrings, which are needed for the drive. Maybe front squats don’t fail because of a lack of musculature, but because the completion of the lift requires a more horizontal back angle, and the bar will fall of the front Delts. This is all discussed at length, and I completely agree with it.

    But, the long-femur/short-torso trainee is not going to be able to do this. When the long-femur trainee descends and stops the knee travel, thereby allowing the hinge to happen for the added depth, this trainee always gets stuck way high of parallel. This becomes a good morning type movement that works well for high-box squats but doesn’t actually drop below parallel. This trainee is required to have his knees further ahead of his toes, but I have watched this hundreds of times: the knees have to travel almost the entire descent, maybe stopping right before the bounce! The back angle gets set early, but if the long-femur trainee lets his knees set in the final position as early as the first trainee, this always results in a vertical back position, which creates that wonderful lumbar back injury that every long-femur trainee complains about when trying to go deeper. As far as I can tell, the back angle gets set early because a more horizontal back angle allows the spine to be set in its normal position and is balanced for this trainee, but the knees have to keep moving forward past the first 1/2 or the correct depth cannot be attained. This causes the hamstrings to slack unless the trainee stop the knee travel close to the bottom, which allows the same feel as the first trainee, the bounce off of the extended hamstrings. This would make the back squat almost like a front squat for these trainees because as they bend the knee, they are relaxing that hamstring, which kills the bounce. I have observed this in the best lifters, and no one can deny that this is what’s happening, due to the easy comparison between back squat numbers of this body-type vs front squat numbers in the other population.

    So does the long-femur lifter need that longer knee travel, which is often misdiagnosed as knee slide, in order to complete the squat of the model, e.g. the depth we want? Does this knee-movement relationship explain why these lifters in particular often have much weaker squat numbers despite not having laziness issues (determined by proportionally respectable deadlift numbers)? Does this also explain why these lifters enjoy the deadlift setup more, since the limited knee travel allows them to really utilize the hamstring optimally, instead of relying on more quadricep involvement off the floor? A more open joint angle is easier than a closed one, so it seems like a reasonable explanation for why these lifters can deadlift a house, but often squat like beginners.

    Thanks for taking the time to read or reply.

  2. #2
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    Lifters with longer femurs display a more forward knee and more shin angle at the bottom of the squat, as is observed in the book. This requires more forward knee travel earlier. What are you having trouble understanding?

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    I understand the final position, but the road it takes to get there is where the trouble seems to happen. The short torso lifter can afford an earlier set because he doesnt have to bend at his hip very much, a simple cue to stop the knees allows him to sit back. This is described as setting the knees early and then the hips moving up and down in the final descent/initial ascent of the squat. The Long femur lifter will do the same thing while staying balanced: stopping the knees early and sitting back, but this almost always ends up leaving the lifter well above parallel. Letting the knees travel forward to the final position initially always results in a descent with a vertical back - a guaranteed injury in my experience and others that Ive observed, not that Ive seen everyone whose ever lifted. Ive got to stop my knees at the same time Karl Schudt does in order to sit back with a more horizontal back angle, but this leaves me floating way above parallel. If I let the knees come forward until Im almost at the very bottom, then I can get a squat according the model, with the aforementioned shin and back angles.

    Im not understanding if the 1/3 to 1/2 of descent knee setting is correct for this type of lifter. In other words, is knee set time a function of femoral length (with respect to torso length).

    As of tonight, I have yet to see any lifter with substantially longer femurs execute a bellow parallel squat without letting the knees slide forward close to the bottom position. I mean, maybe someone could pull it off with a flexed lumbar, but Im assuming a correctly set back.

    Coach, does this happen as a result of the proportions and trying to stay balanced vs. a strength problem? I dont think a long-femured trainee can help lumbar flexion in a squat anywhere near parallel with a vertical back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CDG View Post
    I understand the final position, but the road it takes to get there is where the trouble seems to happen. The short torso lifter can afford an earlier set because he doesnt have to bend at his hip very much, a simple cue to stop the knees allows him to sit back. This is described as setting the knees early and then the hips moving up and down in the final descent/initial ascent of the squat. The Long femur lifter will do the same thing while staying balanced: stopping the knees early and sitting back, but this almost always ends up leaving the lifter well above parallel.
    I haven't noticed this happening. Video?

  5. #5
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    Sure.

    605 squat X 5 reps - YouTube

    Low bar squat with long femur and short trunk 112.5kg - YouTube

    Squatting and Femur Length - YouTube

    My Version of ATG--Long Femurs + 195 lb Edition - YouTube

    This is just a small sample, and I tried to include both respectable lifters and the novices who attempt the squat with these extreme proportions. One of these videos was a form check to this QA, to which you commented youre depth is embarrassing. This seems to be the norm - unless those knees are allowed to slide. I did find one case where a girl could make her knees stop according to the model - but she did this by hyperextending her low back, which essentially makes her a long torso lifter when shes not, if you think about where the COM is when you hinge the hip AND hyperextend the back at the same time, which proves my point. Norton seems to know what hes doing, when hes not injured, and all of those squats feature notable knee slide. There was an SS coach here that had long femur proportions, and I still see her pictures here on old articles (Sims maybe?), but I cant remember what SS video featured her squat. There are countless others on Instagram by various men and women who are built this way, but I dont know if I can share Instagram videos. Ive never done it before.

    This morning I tried doing an early knee set, and it ALWAYS jacks up the bar path. When I think about shifting the hips back (which sets my very horizontal back angle) and let my knees get out of the way, nearly all the way to the bottom, then boom - squat depth and bounce are both achieved.

    There are at least two other QA form checks that describe the exact same thing, or at least demonstrate it on video, but I dont have those links right now. Ill try and find them later, but they both involve the knee position for this anthropometry.

  6. #6
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    This sounds like a back angle issue and not a knee position issue. "Balance" is achieved by a combination of knee position and back angle. If the knees are moving through the movement, it tends to indicate that the back angle is either too vertical when it is set or is varying continuously, either closed or open, as the bottom is being approached.

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    First guy doesn't have long femurs.
    Second guy is merely squatting above parallel. He's fixable in 2 minutes.
    Third video is completely bullshit, unworthy of comment.
    Fourth shows 4 decent squats.

    I don't see your point. You need to come to a seminar.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    First guy doesn't have long femurs.
    Second guy is merely squatting above parallel. He's fixable in 2 minutes.
    Third video is completely bullshit, unworthy of comment.
    Fourth shows 4 decent squats.

    I don't see your point. You need to come to a seminar.
    Alright, I didn't really like the middle two anyway. Here is a picture of both Mr. Norton and this woman's bottom position. They both have a nearly 1-1 torso-to-femur ratio, as far as I can tell, which gives them a more horizontal back angle:
    Torso-to-Femur-Woman.jpgTorso-to-Femur-Norton.jpg

    Now I see that Layne is not as bent over, but he doesn't have any weight on his back, so the more vertical back makes sense given that the bar should be ahead of him slightly with an unloaded barbell in the squat model. Regardless, here's my point: Both of these people move their knees as they descend to the the bottom of the squat! If these are decent, then doesn't that mean the knees will move for these lifters in the bottom? I'm not arguing against the back angle, the feet width, the bar placement, etc, all of that is fine with me, but it seems like the knees move longer than the short-femur-to-long-torso people past the first 1/2 of the descent. These aren't weak or inexperienced lifters, and I have observed the same pattern in loaded movements. I notice it more maybe because I am built this way; I seriously doubt that in-depth coaching is needed for those blessed with great squatting proportions (maybe telling them not to go so low?)

    I would love to attend a seminar. Unfortunately a baby is on the way, so seminar funds is a no-go at the moment. I did buy all the other stuff though.

    This sounds like a back angle issue and not a knee position issue. "Balance" is achieved by a combination of knee position and back angle. If the knees are moving through the movement, it tends to indicate that the back angle is either too vertical when it is set or is varying continuously, either closed or open, as the bottom is being approached.
    The two are pretty much interchangeable outside of someone refusing to move one or the other. I don't have an issue with the closed back angle, I just observe that the knees seem to get pushed forward at the bottom. Maybe a very skinny person doesn't make that kind of contact, but almost everybody contacts the thigh, thereby pushing the shins forward a little at the bottom of the squat. But, if the back angle is set and the knees are set as early as expected, I don't see how someone will stay 'balanced.' The whole descent train slams on the brakes and leads to that weird good-morning movement.
    .

  9. #9
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    Neither of these people are horizontal enough at the bottom. This is because they haven't assumed a sufficiently horizontal back angle on the way down. It has nothing to do with anthropometry.

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    starting strength coach development program
    I perused the DVD, again, and notice a healthy sampling of short-femur, long-torso lifters. The same can be said of the demonstration videos. Do you know where I can find video of this lean over more technique with this type of lifter? It would be nice to see someone who DOESNT need the knees so I could adjust myself appropriately, and help others built similarly. Some people swear by deadlifting with low hips, but when they deadlift, those hips go up to the correct position because the pull cant happen otherwise. Likewise, the desire to stop the knees in the first 1/2 of descent is a modest aim, but it doesnt seem to stop record breaking squats from happening with no injuries for people of this body type. I know this regrading a horizontal back angle: If I try to go vertical, I jack up my back. Every long-femur trainee jacks up the back trying to be vertical because we round over to not fall backwards. Horizontal isnt the problem, which is why I want to see it done. Show me or explain to me how more horizontal wouldnt throw that lifter out of balance (leaning over is useful until it isnt) and why continuing to extend the hips back, which is what a more horizontal back angle does, would facilitate depth when it will in fact send the lifter into a deadlift position instead of allowing the hips to drop down below parallel. I dont mean to sound frustrated but I keep trying to explain this as best I can and these two-sentence posts just make it feel like Im being an irritation for asking about this. I deeply respect your work and all that you do, and the Asgard company, and I listen to all the podcasts, but Im not going to spend $945 to rehash stuff I do perfectly fine on a regular basis in the gym from the book I read and studied and practiced when Im just asking for somebody who is mechanically built poorly to trying squatting to depth without sliding the knees past the first 1/2 of descent.

    Thank you.

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