The Truth on Fitness: Do I Have to Keep My Knee Behind My Toe?

Exercise Analysis

For the longest time, one of the basic rules of exercise has been to keep our knees behind our toes during ground-based exercises.  Apparently, allowing the knee to project past the toes while doing things like lunges, squats, and step-ups, creates too much stress, and is potentially harmful to the knee.

But is this true?

Actually, no.  Several research studies have demonstrated that allowing the knee to project as much as 10 cm beyond the toes during ground based exercises imposes no more stress on the knee than keeping the knee aligned over the ankle.  And those that insist on keeping the torso upright during these activities are really doing more of a disservice.

Exercise AnalysisFurther research has shown that by allowing the trunk to incline forward during ground based exercises, there is greater activation of the glutes and hamstrings.  That provides for a more effective workout, and enhanced, not diminished, stabilization of the knee.

So, instead of focusing on where the knee is in space, the better strategy is to shift your weight onto the center of your lead foot, in the case of a lunge, and allow the trunk to tilt forward.  Your knees will be fine, and your glutes will thank you.

For more information on knee alignment, read the full article here: The Truth on Fitness: Must the Knees Remain Behind the Toes.

Paul M. Juris, Ed.D.
Executive Director, CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science 

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Dr. Juris earned his Doctorate in Motor Learning from Columbia University in 1993, followed by a variety of positions in higher education, rehabilitative medicine, professional sports, and fitness. Paul Juris, Ed.D. was named Executive Director of the CYBEX Institute for Exercise Science in January of 2007

Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment.  Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice please consult a doctor. 

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