In all the above photos it is quite clear that it is not unnatural for the knees to travel over the toes. These days it is fashionable for many exercise coaches to insist that the knees remain over ankles, or at least behind the toes, which training would hardly help these athletes. I also posit that such insistance actually de-stabilises knees since the exerciser becomes so worried about keeping the knees behind the toes, that they have a sense of pulling back from the knees. The reason this is de-stabilising is due to the muscle on the inside of the knee called the Vastus Medialis – or footballer’s knee:
This is the muscle in red which lies on the inside of the knee. The primary function of this muscle is to fully straighten the leg. It also acts as part of the brakes when shooting forwards and it assists straighten the legs from the bottom of a deep squat – when the bottom is as close to the floor as possible. For most of us in every day activity, it is its braking action that matters most – and this happens when walking or running down hill, and it happens when running about. It is extremely common for at least one of the vastus mediali to be very weak and this is a major contributory factor to knee pain and injury. Why one is weaker is entirely individual dependant. So to strengthen the knees well means allowing yourself to drop into the knees without pain. Pulling away from the knees in an effort to maintain the knees over the ankles disallows the proper braking action to happen.
A very good exercise for knee strengthing is the one legged heel elevated knee bend, as avocated by strength coach Charles Poliquin. You only need watch the first bit to get the general idea.
This really utilises that vastus medialis as a brake and as a straightener. It is good to elevate the heel as high as possible.
However before doing this exercise, if you have knee problems you do need to see someone to help release out the tight muscles causing the problems. And even when this is done, I found I had to devise a few exercises to do before this exercise really works. One of my knees has been very painful for many years – and a great many well meaning knee rehab specialists have caused me even more pain. Contact me for further details of how to get your knees out of pain.