This is probably the edition I was most excited to write, this edition is concerning the well drawn out the myth that forward knee travel in the squat is an inherently bad thing. Before, I address this topic I want to address something it is important to recognize that powerlifting is one of the few sports in which body composition has a huge impact on setup.
I am perhaps the worse composition for powerlifting, being 6”6 and weighing 93kg at less than 10% bodyfat this is perhaps a non-ideal body composition for these movements. However, I feel as though I have been able to craft a style that works for me despite my size. Initially, when I began squatting I was entirely focused on adhering to the common thought prophecy from Olympic weightlifting which involves knee travel being as limited as possible and the movement being performed in a linear pattern with little forward lean and the weight being considerably balanced over the midfoot. As you can see, in the image below the squatter descends in a pretty upright motion hitting the bottom of the squat with the chest very much upright and the knees firmly behind the toes never crossing the shoes.
This was clearly very problematic for me as a lifter. In the image, the squatter is a very compact male and is thus able to complete the movement in a compact and efficient manner. However, for a 6”6 lanky male it is difficult to replicate this positioning without superhuman mobility. So for a long period of time, I struggled to progress with the squat, I was squatting in converse and trying to replicate the high bar Olympic squat seen above. Eventually, through extensive reading and listening, I was able to educate myself to understand the need to alter my squat positioning. I began to experiment with low bar squatting, eventually realizing that I needed to make the change to Olympic shoes to compensate for my poor mobility and long levers. The only drawback? Forward knee travel, in order for my large frame to fit into the hole of the squat my knees had to go somewhere, so forward and out was the only option for me to succeed in squatting. The athlete in the image below seems to have entirely different leverages, his high bar squat allows him to be relatively upright, this might not be the most efficient position for this athlete, but his knee travel allows him to perform the high bar squat to correct depth and with efficiency.
The only drawback? Forward knee travel, in order for my large frame to fit into the hole of the squat my knees had to go somewhere, so forward and out was the only option for me to succeed in squatting. The athlete in the image below seems to have entirely different leverages, his high bar squat allows him to be relatively upright, this might not be the most efficent position for this athelete, but his knee travel allows him to perform the high bar squat to full depth and with efficenty.
As you can see, in the above image, the athlete is using a lower bar position on the right, allowing him to engage more of his lower back and hamstrings. It is also forcing him to lean forward far more but his knees are not passing his toes as this is probably a more optimal style for this lifter. Another big thing to point out is the difference in leverages and the impact of that. Both images above are a safe and effective way to squat and it is key to recognize that knee travel or forward lean do not mean poor form, rather they indicate the importance of finding the most efficient way to perform the movement. These alterations, while not considered aspects of the attractive Olympic squat we find across cookie cutter fitness channels on youtube, have allowed me to add over 100 pounds to my squat in under a year allowing me to actually be mildly competitive in powerlifting.
My aim of this article was to share my experience, I think it is easy to listen to the guy in the gym who at 50 has an enviable physique and decent gym lifts. But, one must acknowledge the reality, he may well have been training for 30 years to reach that point, and realistically any technique works if you keep at it for long enough. I just want to share with you some of the things that have helped me to progress dramatically, I hope that they will allow you to keep and open mind and recognize that it is essential to keep absorbing knowledge in order to continue to progress at an optimal rate.
My aim in these posts is simply to dispel some myths that surround strength training, so I hope I was able to provide you with some value! So keep training hard and remember Strength has no Limit!