Whether it's squats or lunges, athletes are told ad nauseam never to let their knees go over their toes as they assume this puts undue stress on the joints. But as Ben Patrick, founder of Athletic Truth Group, found, that very pressure strengthens the knees and increases power for protection and longevity. Training that emphasizes this range of motion saved Patrick from surgery and addiction to painkillers, and he's since taken to Instagram to share his vast knowledge.
"Knee-over-toe was a widely misunderstood topic, and my commitment to making it safe and easy has led to arguably the most knee success stories of all time," says Patrick, whose staunch supporters include the likes of Henry Cavill and Sam Heughan counting.
"Understanding knee-over-toe training saved me from painkiller addiction and surgery," he adds. "These exercises allow your body to handle pressure at your own level, increasing the power to protect as well as nutrient delivery so your knees last longer."
Here's your plan for years of pain-free knees.
Knee Over Toe Exercises: The 10 Commandments of Healthy Joints
These 10 exercises can be scaled to any skill level. Do each at least once a week, and add in body-part-specific or full-body routines for a balanced routine — and pain-free knees.
1. Pulling the slide backwards
Load a medium to heavy resistance sled. Attach the torso straps and pull taut with straight arms. Walk backward, “reach” the lead foot backwards, plant the ball of your foot, then drive through to propel each step forward. Start slowly and then gradually increase the speed until you are pushing yourself to the max. 1x 10 min.
2. Pushing the carriage forward
As you sled forward, your knees are brought even further over your toes, giving more strength to your feet and lower legs. Place hands on high bars, hips slightly bent forward. Keeping your back straight and your core tight, drive through the balls of your feet and push the sled in small, slow steps at first – then gradually increase your speed. 1 x 5 mins
3. Poliquin stepup
Place a wedge on a step or weight plate 4 to 6 inches off the floor. Beginner, start with support, holding bar; Intermediate, walk unsupported with bodyweight; Advanced, holding dumbbells. Place right foot on wedge while left leg is hanging off platform, foot flexed (shown). Bend your right knee to lower your left leg, tap your heel on the floor, then drive up to begin. 3 to 6 sets x 15 to 25 reps per side
4. ATG split squat
Place your left foot on the wedge on the weight plate and step your right foot far back into the exaggerated split squat position, heel lifted. Keep your chest up and your back straight as you bend your left knee to lower yourself into a deep split squat. The goal: Step back from the hamstring to touch the calf for full range of motion (see image). Switch sides for each sentence. 4 to 8 sets x 6 to 8 reps per side
5. Dumbbell VMO Squat
Stand slightly wider than hips with feet on wedges or plates to lift heels. Lower slowly, knees generating outward force into a deep squat, hamstrings touching calves (shown). Stop below, then climb. You'll feel this on your inner thighs and VMO (teardrop quad muscle). Add weight to progress. 3 to 6 sets x 15 to 20 reps
6. Shin raises
The first line of defense against knee pain is the anterior tibialis. It runs below the knee and acts as a brake for the lower body. Sit on a flat bench with ankles over the edge in a tib bar (or in a tibia dorsi calf machine). Hold onto the sides of the bench and bend your feet toward the ceiling to raise, then point your toes back to begin (see image). 3 to 4 sets x 15 to 20 reps
7. rdic Leg Curl
Start on your knees with a pad underneath and have someone hold your ankles to the ground (or anchor them to fixed gear). Tuck your chin and pelvis in and keep a straight line from head to knees while engaging your core, glutes and hamstrings, then slowly lower to the floor like a lever—try not to break the form . Use your hands to catch yourself when your hamstrings can't hold up (see image). Engage glutes and hamstrings (and push off the floor) to return. 3 to 4 sets x 5 to 10 reps
8. Hip flexor raise
Attach a lightweight dumbbell to a ratchet-based shoe attachment, then attach it to your right foot while your left is on a weight plate. Bend your right foot, then bring your knee up until it's parallel with your hips (shown). Use hands to maintain balance (opposite arm swings, like a sprinter), then slowly lower yourself to begin. 3 to 4 sets of 20 reps per side
9. Hindfoot Increased Hip Flexor Stretch
Place a pad parallel to a flat bench. Standing in front of the pad, bend your left knee and place your foot on the bench. (You can also do this at home on the couch.) Lower your knee for padding, then contract your quads and glutes to apply strength in the static position. Apply at the end of leg days. 1 x 1 min per side
10. Oblique Pigeon Pose
Set a bench at a 45 degree incline. Place your left foot on the bottom of the "seat" of the bench where it pivots, with your shin and knee resting on the "back" of the bench. Hold on as you step your right foot back, then join your hands and lean into the bench until you feel a stretch through your glutes, hips, and IT band. Keep knee against bench and foot bent. 1 x 1 min per side
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