Training Tips

Are our knees supposed to cave in when we squat ?

October 30, 2013

A recent video has been making the rounds on the internet of a semi-famous chinese weightlifting coach, Coach Wu, and his students demonstrating the use of internal roation at the hips as the best way to squat. Here is the original video they posted:




Now, before I go off on some rant about how everything we have ever learned about external rotation is wrong, some background on internal rotation needs to be established.
It has long been known that internal rotation in the hips can increase power. The teachings of Gary Gray indicate this as pointed out to me by UK mobility expert James Jowsey. Link to his site here.
There is a difference between internal rotation with control and internal rotation without control (see "warning" below).

Also, some things need to be clear about the people teaching this technique:
Firstly, they are Olympic Weightlifting Coaches, meaning they are lifting specialists and their goal is to rack up gold medals, not make people off the street live pain free.
Weightlifting is not CrossFit. In weightlifting, all you are doing is working up to perform maximal weight on the Snatch and Clean and Jerk at a competition. There is no running, no wall balls, no thrusters.

So with all that being said, what can we take away from internal rotation?
I think the issue might be a situation of "biomechanically correct versus maximum power output". There will be very smart individuals that argue controlled knees (internal rotation) are the only correct way.

What we are looking at are two different techniques that are taught for two separate purposes. The educational style of CrossFit has always been open sourced: taking the best of everything and applying it correctly. We can use this same philosophy with our new technique. Since the controlled internal rotation technique has been used successfully in weightlifting, it is most likely a good skill for someone to master when working on his or her Olympic lifts. However, it is still too soon to throw external rotation under the bus yet, so continuing to practice your high rep exercises in an externally rotated position seems smart.

Hopefully the posting of these videos will lead to a large-scale discussion of movement experts on the pros and cons of both external rotation and internal rotation. For now, it is tough to determine which one might be better or worse without involvement of both parties.

Warning – An important concept to understand that I cannot stress enough is that the above videos demonstrate advanced lifters that have come close to perfecting their technique using a controlled internal rotation implemented on the initial drive up out of the bottom of a squat. Their knees are not caving in at any point and are not kissing in the middle. Having knees that uncontrollably internally rotate is a problem that needs to be fixed immediately. Being able to identify the differences is imperative to mastering and leveraging both techniques.



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