“Not only are squats not bad for the knees, every legitimate research study on this subject has shown that squats improve knee stability and therefore help reduce the risk of injuries.” – Charles Poliquin
What is external rotation?
External rotation is the turning away or outward from the midline of the body. In this case it would be turning your leg/knee away from your body.
How do I externally rotate?
This movement is able to happen because the leg connects with the hip joint which is a ball in socket joint (a joint in which a ball moves within a socket to allow rotary motion in every direction within certain limits. “Definition Of BALL-AND-SOCKET JOINT”). An often heard cue for external rotation is knees out. I’m sure you may have heard this cue before. To a seasoned lifter who understands the concept it works perfectly, but to others it may not. I remember using it with one of my early on clients who was completely new to squatting. I told him knees out and he took it literal. He squatted down feet narrow and knees out, I couldn’t help but to share a laugh with him at how he looked. He did everything right according to what I said, that cue just didn’t resonate with him quite yet. I then went to another cue which clicked with him. I told him to imagine as if his feet were screws and his legs the screwdriver. I told him to screw those feet into the floor without moving your feet sideways or having them slide out. Doing this ensure that your knees stay in line with your toes as you twist out. He now knew how to externally rotate.
Why should I externally rotate?
Have you ever seen the bone of a leg in anatomy class or on your favorite criminal investigation show? There are many marks and bumps along the surface. If we do not externally rotate these marks and bumps may get caught or rub up on the contracted muscles limiting our range of motion in the movement or causing pain. Going back to the hip joint being a ball in socket joint we are able to move the femur around to receive a greater ROM in the movement. As you should know by now by my past articles, the more we can distribute weight throughout the body the lighter that load on our back feels and also helps us lift the most amount of weight possible. By screwing our feet into the floor we are also activating the entire lateral side of our leg muscles allowing for more muscle recruitment and stability throughout the squat. You also want to squeeze and activate your glutes prior to externally rotating. This is also how we should go about un-racking the barbell, by externally rotating not just standing up. Try it yourself place your hand along the outside of your leg and screw your feet into the floor. Feel all the muscles turn on? This is a key component to a big squat.
- Think of your feet as screws and your legs the driver. Use them to screw your feet in the floor for more stability and muscle recruitment.
- Externally rotate on the way DOWN and on the way UP of the squat.
- This will also ensure the knees don’t cave in towards each other which can lead to serious injury.
- Turn on the muscles needed for your squat. Activate your glutes and thighs from the moment you un-rack the bar.
Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1