There is nothing inherently dangerous in having your feet turned-out when you squat, lunge, stand or walk. People grow up in different cultures and certain cultures will stand, walk, move and run with their feet in different positions. Most Americans will walk with their feet turned out, anywhere from 10-30 degrees. Some cultures walk with their toes turned slightly inward and others walk with their feet pointing directly forward. The safety issue you must be watchful for, is to makes sure your client’s knees track directly over their toes.
In any movement where the knees bend as your body squats downward, i.e. : Squat, Deadlift, Lunge, Hack Squat, Pistol Squat, Leg Press, etc., you must watch carefully that the knee remains over your toes. This is the easiest visual cue, that you’re client is not putting stress on their knee capsule.
Please remember all of your IFPA Safety Guidelines. If you are allowing your client to have their knees track inside their toes, you are violating the IFPA Safety Guideline: Do not twist your Tibia in relationship to your Femur. This violation puts tremendous stress on the tissues of the knee capsule. Rarely will you see anyone’s knees track outside their toes.
The primary cause of knees moving inside the toes, is that the individual has weak hamstrings in relationship to their quadriceps. The remedy for this form fault is to focus on strengthening the hamstrings. You should continue to strengthen the hamstrings to the point where the hamstrings have at least 80% of the strength of the quadriceps.
Watch your female clients closely. Female athletes suffer 10 times the amount of hamstring tears as male athletes due to the imbalance between their hamstrings and quadriceps.
The Program Design to correct this muscular imbalance is for the client to perform 3 Hamstring exercises/sets for every one quadriceps exercise performed. A sample Program Design to correct a Hamstring/Quadricep Imbalance may look like this:
(1) Stiff-Legged (knee held bent 5-10 degrees) Dumbbell Deadlifts
(2) Leg Curls on the Stability Ball
(4) Machine Leg Curls
Keep in mind, foot placement and leg position in quadriceps exercises influence the stress placed on different muscles in the Quadriceps Group. When your client’s feet are close together in a Squat, Deadlift or Leg Press, they slightly increase the “stretch” on the Vastus Lateralis. This stress will cause an increase in the demand on the muscle and therefore create and opportunity for increases in both size and strength on the Vastus Lateralis. The Vastus Lateralis is on the lateral or outside of the thigh. Developing the Vastus Lateralis increases the width of the thigh and develops the “sweep” bodybuilders admire.
Likewise, moving the feet wide apart, in the above exercises and allowing your client’s feet to turn outward, will increase the “stretch” on the Vastus Medialis. The Vastus Medialis is at the bottom, inside portion, of the front thigh and forms the “tear drop” shape, bodybuilders look to obtain.
In every exercise, regardless of foot position, always make sure knees remain directly over toes/feet. Always, always, always, remember your IFPA Safety Guidelines and incorporate them into every movement you do with each and every one of your clients’. As an IFPA Certified Personal Trainer, you must make sure every workout is safe and effective. To achieve this goal, continuously review your Personal Training Manual!
Dr. Jim Bell