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For the longest time, one of the basic rules of exercise has been to keep our knees behind our toes during ground-based exercises. Apparently, allowing the knee to project past the toes while doing things like lunges, squats, and step-ups, creates too much stress, and is potentially harmful to the knee.
Actually, no. Several research studies have demonstrated that allowing the knee to project as much as 10 cm beyond the toes during ground based exercises imposes no more stress on the knee than keeping the knee aligned over the ankle. And those that insist on keeping the torso upright during these activities are really doing more of a disservice.
Further research has shown that by allowing the trunk to incline forward during ground based exercises, there is greater activation of the glutes and hamstrings. That provides for a more effective workout, and enhanced, not diminished, stabilization of the knee.
So, instead of focusing on where the knee is in space, the better strategy is to shift your weight onto the center of your lead foot, in the case of a lunge, and allow the trunk to tilt forward. Your knees will be fine, and your glutes will thank you.
For more information on knee alignment, read the full article here: The Truth on Fitness: Must the Knees Remain Behind the Toes.