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Knees pointing outwards is a common squat cue, but when I see videos of elite athletes squatting, I often notice them rottating their knees out on the descent, and then rotating them inwards when going up.

Other sources say that one should never rotate inwards because that is somehow harmful.

I am quite confused with all this information.

Could someone explain how knees should rotate during a squat? Would it differ when ti is front vs back? Thanks.

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  • Here's a pretty detailed description of knee rotation by Bret Contreras.. Short summary is knee rotation is usually a sign of weak quads, hamstrings, hips, or low ankle mobility. However, some people can benefit anatomically by shifting their knees inward which you would see in elite lifters lifting near maximal weight.
    – DeeV
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:57
  • You would also see form breakdown if it's caused by a weak function when lifting very heavy because something has to give eventually. Ideally your knees should stay solid when training, and when they start moving it's a sign that you're reaching your limit.
    – DeeV
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:00
  • lease explain what you mean by knee rotation. Are you talking about movement of the knees towards or away from each other? Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 0:25

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User u/BaneWraith answered essentially this same question here on r/PowerLifting:

Hi there, I am an expert.

My field of work is barbell rehab and I rehab IPF worlds level powerlifters.

It [knee valgus] isn't bad.

Why it's considered bad: popular belief in the field for a while was that knee valgus was caused by weak glutes which lead to overuse injuries of the knees.

Why it's not bad: not a single well done study has ever been able to reliably prove not only that knee valgus during a squat can cause knee pain, but not even that a single "insert form error here" can be proven to cause "insert injury here". I'm not joking. My masters research was specifically done to prove that there are better ways to move than others, and I was trying to find the best deadlifts, squat and bench form. The conclusion of my master's degree project was that not only could I not find a single shred of evidence to prove my point, but instead that there is essentially proof that form does not cause injury in and of itself.

Many research studies not only show that knee valgus is a natural movement for many people, but rather that for many people it is the most mechanically advantageous way for them to squat.

So no. Knee valgus during a squat isn't bad, and if you keep doing it, it's probably because your body feels stronger moving that way and you should not only respect it but maybe even encourage it. And FYI it's totally normal even if only one leg likes to do it and the other one doesn't. Lack of symmetry doesn't mean jack shit for injuries.

IF it isn't your strong position and you never valgus, it could then potentially cause you injury under heavy load, not because valgus is dangerous, but because you've never trained that way and are not adapted to lift that way.

You didn't find any research proving it causes pain because there isn't any.

And you are absolutely right: trust that the body is smart enough to find it's most efficient way to move.

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  • Greg Lehman and Adam Meakins are generally two figures in the social medias that share science supporting the paradigm shift away from "harmful posture" towards "adequate loading and progression thereof". Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 10:58

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