What is Knee Valgus?
Do you find that when you descend down in your squats, your knees cave straight inwards?
This is referred to as Knee Valgus, it is a very common thing coaches deal with on a daily basis in the gym. Is it bad? Well yes, apart from causing your squat to be very inefficient, it can also lead to knee/hip pain, tears and squats that make your eyes cry!
Knee Valgus occurs when the hip is in a flexed position (say bottom of the squat) and the force applied forces hip adduction and internally rotates the hip forcing the knees to collapse in on themselves. Not as common to see this happen in hinge movements, say like a deadlift as opposed to movement that places eccentric load on the hip extensors i.e. a squat.
So why does Knee Valgus occur?
Many believe it is just a matter of weak glutes/weak unsupported hips and over active adductors and that simply strengthening the glutes will solve the issues. But after many years of coaching and working with a different range of athletes and clients I do believe it is hard to pin point just one aspect and a look at the bigger overall picture needs to be taken into play.
1 – Efficiency of technique, if you have read my blogs before you know I am very much always talking about efficiency of technique. Honestly this governs all. Most of the time a lot of knee valgus is taken away just by tweaking and teaching correct movement patterns.
Teaching correct movement patterns allows for efficient movement giving the body the ability to access and recruit the specific muscles needed to perform, like the glutes in a squat.
2 – Weak VMO. The vastus medialis obliquus (tear drop muscle on the quad) if it isn’t strong enough to help provide stability to the knee will cause dramatic change to the way the knee tracks, forcing it inwards. Hence why there is a big correlation between the VMO and proper glute function. Getting them to work together can be hard but should be made a priority if dealing with knee valgus. A good way to support this is by prioritising single leg exercises.
3 – Overactive Hip Adductors causes instability of the femur and leads to internal rotation of the hip. Overactive Hip Adductors are usually coupled with weak glutes making it difficult for the hips to externally rotate. Stretching and foam rolling can help with the releasing overactive adductors.
4 – A weak core can also cause the adductors to take over and not effectively work. I look as the adductors as a second core. If things switch off in your core through poor bracing or simple lack of strength. Adductors fight to keep the hips stable and 9/10 you will see the knees cave in. Core work should be a priority to every strength athlete and individuals programming.
5 – Weak Glutes. Obviously, the main supporter of the hips are the glutes. Weak glutes will restrict the hips from proper external rotation as it won’t pull the femur out resulting in, you guessed it, knees caving in. Isolated glute work is usually the last thing I address when fixing knee valgus after making sure I have ticked off everything above first.