Interrogative: What should fitness trainers teach relative to knee position during the Squat?
Evidence: The NSCA Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning, the NSCA Basics of Strength and Conditioning, the NSCA official Website, and the NSCA Position Paper: The Squat Exercise in Athletic Conditioning, all offer different instruction to trainers on teaching correct knee position in the squat. To wit;
Instruction 1 – Bend the knees to 90o flexion
Instruction 2 – The shins are as vertical as possible
Instruction 3 – Knees must be behind the balls of the feet
Instruction 4 – Knees going past the toes forward is acceptable
Analysis: For instructions 1 and 2 together, these descriptions, if the definition of a parallel squat is that the femur is parallel to the floor, mandate that the knee (femur:tibia) and the ankle (tibia:floor) angles must both be at 90o. This necessitates a torso lean forward that approaches 0o (parallel to the floor). This contradicts NSCA published back angle statements. Instruction 3, if the condition of a parallel femur is maintained, contradicts instruction 1 as knee travel forward will reduce the knee angle to less than 90o. Instruction 4 contradicts all other previous instructions.
Summary: NSCA publications referencing knee position during the squat are sufficiently incomplete, contradicting, and confounding to a point suggesting that any knee position may be acceptable.
Commentary: The self-proclaimed world authoritative materials promulgated by the NSCA are inconsistent in recommendation, incomplete in scientific support, lacking definition, inadequate in anatomical description, and impractical in application. The said publications and recommendations create an environment where education of professionals on knee position in the squat is inconsistent.
The authorship, editorial, or graphical issues present may ultimately have negative effects on individual fitness results and the safety of the public, as correct technique cannot be reliably determined from the published position statements, texts, and videos.
About the Author
Professor Lon Kilgore graduated from Lincoln University with a bachelor of science in biology and earned a Ph.D. in anatomy and physiology from Kansas State University. He has competed in weightlifting to the national level since 1972 and coached his first athletes to national-championship event medals in 1974. He has worked in the trenches, as a coach or scientific consultant, with athletes from rank novices to professionals and the Olympic elite, and as a collegiate strength coach. He has been a certifying instructor for USA Weightlifting for more than a decade and a frequent lecturer at events at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. His illustration, authorship, and co-authorship efforts include the best-selling books “Starting Strength” (first and second editions) and “Practical Programming for Strength Training” (first and second editions), recent releases “Anatomy Without a Scalpel” and “FIT,” magazine columns, textbook chapters, and numerous research journal publications. He is presently engaged in the most difficult task of his career: recreating the educational track to becoming a professional fitness practitioner. The second stage of this effort is the creation of a one-year university qualification in fitness practice at the University of the West of Scotland.