If you have been doing CrossFit, you have heard to push your knees out when you squat. It is one of the first things you learn and something that you are reminded of constantly. Athletes are often taught what to do without being educated on why they are doing it. Here is a quick guide to understanding the practice of keeping your knees out.

  • Knees out is a cue to exaggeration. It is used to prevent faults; not a mechanical depiction of how to perform a squat.
  • It is used to accomplish the stacking of the knees over the toes when squatting. If the knees are in line with the toes then the “knees out” cue has worked.
  • Essentially knees out is used to prevent you from squatting with your knees in (aka. Valgus Knee)
  • The goal of knees out is to maintain torque and stability in the hip and stability in the back. Torque is the ability for your hip to externally rotate.
  • Proper torque at the hip occurs when your toe angle is about 10 degrees from toes straight ahead. Greater toe angle is an aid used to achieve the same knees out positioning, while masking the lack of ankle/hip mobility.
  • When squatting think “outwardly screw feet into the ground”. This leads to natural external rotation of the hip while keeping the knees out.

In More Depth:

The problem with Knees IN:
-Stresses the quads, knees, hip adductors.
-Force is applied to the knee and medial aspect of the knees.
-Less use of lateral hamstrings. Can lead to patella femoral knee pain, ACL tears, IT band syndrome.
Why do knees cave in?
 Weak hips: overactive hip adductors
Tight Ankles (pronation): inadequate dorsiflexion, tight gastroc, soleus, A.T. This causes knee pronation – forward movement. Will lead to rounded spine, rise up onto balls of feet, and valgus knee.

  • Perform ankle dorsiflexion mobility drills and Gastroc/Soleus stretching. Perform body weight or goblet squats. Perform headband squats, Glute bridge bands. Hip abductor/external rotation exercises. (Monster Walks, Sumo Walks – not too great because they train hips in an upright position.)
  • Impaired quadricep function: lack of vastus medialis oblquus strength
Impaired hamstring function: inadequate medial hamstring strength

Why Toes Point Out:

  • Lack of ankle mobility
  • Greater emphasis on adductors, inner thigh, medial hamstring, medial quadricep
  • Neglect outer of portion of hamstring
  • Missing internal rotation of the femur in flexion

Why Knees out?

  • Creates hamstring and glute abductor advantage
  • Worked on lateral hip rotator and abductor strength to keep needs out

If it is fine on a box squat but full squats lead to knees in it is probably due to dorsiflexion deficits or if feet heavily pronate. Test for dorsiflexion by getting a lunge position with a dowel inside the front knee, lean forward (7-35°) is normal. Artificial hip mobility test to check if it’s due to weak hips. If proper foot supination, Dorsiflexion, need tracking, a realistic torso angle, then its adequate hip mobility


  • Collapsed knee can predict injury in sport. Knees In – knees, quads, and adductors get stressed. Can be due to lack of ankle mobility. Knees in leads to ACL issue. Knees out creates hamstring, glutes, and abductor advantage.Vertical Shin cue (if knees go forward you shock the patella. Cues to prevent faults or preventing potential problems versus
  • Vertical Shin cue (if knees go forward you shock the patella. Cues to prevent faults or preventing potential problems versus mechanical description of how you should perform a movement.

What about Stance?

  • Wider Stance:
    • May lead to chest forward, lack of ankle mobility
    • Requires hip mobility
  • Close feet:
    • Indicate better ankle mobility which allows knees to come forward more and allows chest to stay tall.
    • Requires ankle mobility
      • Stance in general tells us: upright torso, tight hips, ankle mobility

Related Articles: High Bar vs Low Bar Back Squat


Further Research:

Why Do People’s Knees Cave Inward When They Squat?


Knee Valgus (Valgus Collapse), Glute Medius Strengthening, Band Hip Abduction Exercises, and Ankle Dorsiflexion Drills


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