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When I'm doing squats my knees go forward further than my toes. Also when I'm standing up I tend to move weight more towards my toes. I was told that this technique is wrong but it seems like I can't make squats without knees moving forward even without weight. Could it have something to do with flat feet?

  • @DaveLiepmann I do keep heels on the ground, it's just a feeling that I transfer a lot of weight to the toes while moving up and my knees are too forward in the lowest position – Herokiller Sep 2 '15 at 8:41
  • A useful cue for this (at least for me) is to focus on pushing your back into the bar on the way up. This will help keep the bar centered over your mid-foot which will help you with feeling balanced. – Alex L Sep 2 '15 at 12:40
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A lot of people have this problem, and it's usually caused by short tendons on the back of your ankle. I forget the name... Achilles?

Anyway, there are plently of things you can try in order to fix this, and yes, the weight is supposed to drive into the ground through your heels.

Method 1

One way, is to elevate your heels, by placing them on top of plates.

enter image description here

As you can see, this guy also has his knees really far forward, and is struggling to keep the weight centered on his heels. He even seems to drop the bar lower on his back to compensate.

Method 2 (my preference)

Front squat, OH YEAH!

enter image description here

I transitioned into this myself, not because I had issues with the back squat (regular), but because I wanted to try it out. It's amazing because one thing it does, is it forces thoracic extension (the "good" back arch), and because the weight is further forward, you intuitively lean back onto your heels to compensate.

I can't advocate this exercise enough, both for people who don't struggle with regular squats, but especially for those who do.

Additionally, make sure you pay attention to the placement of your feet. A lot of people try to squat with their feet shoulder width apart, and toes pointing forward. Instead, spread your feet a bit more, and point them slightly outward. This extends your center of balance, and allows you to sit your ass down between your legs.

If transitioning is hard, you can do box squats in the mean time. Basically, just place a bench behind you, and do squats by sitting down on this bench, and getting back up, all while using proper front squat form.

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    I think the "heels up" technique sort of re-enforces elevating the heels. I see a lot of conventional lifters in olympic shoes and I imagine the lack of flexibility is where it's coming from (in addition to a general love of spending money on fitness gear). – Eric Sep 2 '15 at 14:37
  • Then I think you missed the point of them, @EricKaufman. The point of elevating the heels during squats isn't to improve flexibility. That's something that happens elsewhere. The elevated heel squat is there to let you do back squats while you wait. – Alec Sep 2 '15 at 16:31
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    @Alec I know the point, but people have a funny way of sticking with what they've been doing. Even the guy in the bottom (obviously staged bogus) picture has running shoes on with a squishy heel and looks like he's on the balls of his feet. My point is simply that some people never take the training wheels off and lock in bad habits. – Eric Sep 2 '15 at 16:41
  • That's a good point, but that speaks to the fallacy of the person, not the advice itself. In order to provide a good answer, I need to assume that the recipient is going to proceed with a shred of common sense, otherwise why would I bother writing it? – Alec Sep 2 '15 at 16:48
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I transfer a lot of weight to the toes while moving up

My fix for this is to concentrate on pushing through my heels. If there are no physiological barriers then this should be enough.

One way I help concentrate on pushing through my heels is to pick up my big toes and keep them elevated for the entire set. I stand and squat normally, but my big toes stay off the ground (even if they're in my shoe).

my knees are too forward in the lowest position

This may or may not be a problem. If it is a problem, it could have many causes.

The fix I prefer most for this is the wall-facing squat: without a barbell, you face a smooth wall, then get your toes as close as possible to the wall and just squat. Try not to bang into the wall, but grazing it is OK. If you need to back up a few inches then do so. If you can't do it, stretch your hips and ankles for a few minutes and try again. Being able to do ten wall-facing squats with my toes touching the wall has made big improvements to my posture and depth while squatting with a barbell. The movement is great practice for proper posture across the back and legs, in addition to forcing you to do extra mobility work as it develops flexibility and gives you a mental model of how to make it work. Again, see the instructional YouTube video.

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When I'm doing squats my knees go forward further than my toes.

This is not necessarily an issue. It may be due to your individual leverages, how wide your squat stance is, and whether you you can hit appropriate depth that way.

Also when I'm standing up I tend to move weight more towards my toes.

This is the part that I would concern myself with. This symptom either means you are leaning too far forward or you are allowing your upper back to cave in. I'll come back to this in a moment.

I was told that this technique is wrong ....

Please consider the source anytime someone tells you what you are doing is wrong--and that includes me or anyone else on this site. Consider their proficiency, or whether they are an "armchair quarterback" (someone with no experience who are just repeating what others have said, but without the original context). Not all advice from professionals will apply to you specifically. Someone who squats with a squat suit is going to do things differently than someone who doesn't even use a belt. When reading articles, consider who the author and audience of the material are. It might not apply to you personally.

Back to the squat:

Here's a short checklist for you, and this really is the basic minimums for a squat:

  1. The crease of your hips go below the tops of your knees. This is considered depth. There's nothing magical about going beyond this, but this should be your goal.
  2. The bar stays over mid foot throughout the lift. This position provides the best balance and the strongest position to stand back up.

Everything else is simply things to help you get better at the exercise. There are many conflicting opinions as to wide vs. narrow stance, sitting back vs. just going down. I have my (very strong) opinions on the matter, but the bottom line is that you have to find out what works best for you.

My biggest objection to knee travel and "sitting back": By worrying about where your knees are, the usual way people compensate is sticking their butts back. That causes the lifter to have to lean forward farther than they normally would to compensate. The end result is that they can't hit depth and they make an already difficult lift even more difficult.

Not everyone is built the same, so not everyone should squat the same. The way my hips are built, I can't assume the super wide stance that a number of people advocate. I've found that having my feet roughly shoulder width apart works well for me. My knees do travel slightly forward of my toes, and I'm able to squat 450 lbs for multiple reps like that.

Paused Squats: I'm a huge fan of paused squats, particularly if you are still trying to feel your way through the squat.

  • Descend at a normal speed to the bottom position
  • Stay tight, but remain at the bottom for a couple seconds
  • Stand back up as quickly as you can

You can't stay at the bottom if the bar is too far forward, so you end up correcting yourself much more quickly than bouts of questions and video feedback can give you. It also helps you find the body positions where you personally are strongest. If you employ them, I recommend you stick with a weight that you know you won't be stuck at the bottom with, but still heavy enough to feel.

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