So, why do athletes end up toeing out (point their toes out) excessively in the bottom of the squat? The major answers are usually poor ankle mobility (dorsiflexion) and poor hip flexion range of motion. While I tend to agree with this. There is another common reason for this. Drumroll…
Poor tibial internal rotation range of motion!
Well, we probably didn’t need a drumroll to announce this but it is important none the less. In honesty tibial rotation is a huge player from a patellar tracking perspective and probably plays a bigger role in rehab and performance programming then it currently gets. When athletes are unable to keep the knee tracking over the toe in the bottom of a squat and the foot turns out while the knee does not follow then tibial rotation can definitely be to blame.
Large amounts of tibial internal rotation can be seen in the olympic weightlifter and power monkey coach Chad Vaughn:
Notice how Chad’s right knee is actually pointing to the outside of his foot. In order for Chad to get so deep in the squat he has quite a bit of hip external rotation and horizontal abduction. To counter this motion and get his toes pointed more or less ahead he has to internally rotate his tibia. If Chad had limited tibial internal rotation then he’d be toeing out much more. Now, Chad has a unique lifting style but you can see from the picture how tibial rotation is important, so we should probably be assessing it for athletes who perform deep squatting regularly.
Here’s how I recommend assessing tibial internal rotation:
After you’ve assessed tibial rotation deficits you’ll need to address it. If you were in my clinic there are a few good specific manual techniques I’d try, but since you aren’t in the clinic right now I’ll show you a few of my favorite exercises. This first one is purely for creating flexibility:
This second video is for improving motor control following the mobilization:
Lastly, this video shows you how to practically implement tibial internal rotation into a squat:
So give this a shot and you’ll surely be lifting exactly like olympian Chad Vaughn. Well, not quite but you’ll certainly be on your way.
Want some more mobility and assessment tips to help yourself and your athletes lift like Chad Vaughn? Keep on the lookout on May 16th when Dr. Dave Tilley, myself and the rest of the power monkey fitness crew will be releasing a digital product “Monkey Method: Movement Essentials. Sign up below if you want to be part of a special discount offer once it’s released:
Assessing Hip Mobility For Squatting – Individual Differences And Training Considerations
4 Reasons Why You Can’t Perform Kipping Pull-ups and Muscle-ups
The Best Manual Techniques to Improve Overhead Mobility
How to Mobilize, Warm-up and Perfect Snatch Technique
Are General Orthopedic Screens A Missing Tool in Your Toolbox?
Why Do Stiff Ankles Cause “Knee In” or “Toe Out” During the Squat?
How To Assess Thoracic Spine Mobility
Not All About Fitness – Video Podcast with Dr. Dave Tilley