The Knees Over Toes Program
Ever heard of a knees over toes program? Isn’t it like a fitness sin or something? Let’s see why this fitness fad has become so prevalent recently and why it’s not as bad as we thought.
Years ago, I decided to go to the gym because I was sitting around all day and I felt bad about myself. Being inexperienced and broke at the same time, I asked my friend who had a basic level of familiarity with resistance training to take me with her to the gym and tell me what to do.
The first exercise she told me to do was a squat. She didn’t tell me much, but one thing she insisted on was to never let my knees travel over or go beyond my toes.
Being the noob that I was, I did everything wrong in my first sets of squats—but I never let my knees go over my toes!
I don’t know which of my mistakes got me there (not the knees over toes obviously!), but I got this nagging pain in my knees that stayed with me for at least 6 months.
We still hear this advice everywhere: It is forbidden to bring your knees over your toes when working out. However, while many people think it’s a lethal mistake, there has been rising evidence that not only it’s not wrong, but it can even be beneficial for knee pain and mobility.
Here, we’ll tell you all about this training style and will give you a knees over toes program to incorporate into your training routine.
Knees Over Toes: Is It Evil?
To determine whether bringing your toes over your knees is a bad thing or not requires that we take a look at our everyday lives. Many of our movements throughout the day include anterior movement of the toes. Take coming down the stairs as an example. This action is composed of 5 main phases. As you can see in the image, your knees travel past your toes at least in the b, d, e, and f steps.
This knee placement happens in other daily activities too. Every time you stand up from a seated position or kneel down to pick something up, you have to push your knees forward. If knees over toes is something we have to do on a daily basis, why would it be harmful for us?
Truth is, one of the main goals of exercising is to make everyday life easier for us. That’s why many exercises mimic daily movements. So, if knees over toes is one of them, why shouldn’t we ever incorporate a knees over toes program into our workout routine?
Knees Over Toes in Sports
Now that we know about the prevalence of the knees over toes positioning in our life, we should dig deeper to see how it works in sports. It’s better to take it with a grain of salt to make sure we’re not falling into the trap of unsubstantiated fads.
The “don’t let your knees over your toes” myth dates back to a 1961 study conducted by Dr. Karl Klein. He had years of experience studying knee health and he was about to discover some shocking results. In his study, Dr. Klein found that the knee flexion angle increased knee joint torque—which is the force applied to the knee by the quads—during squats. He concluded that the knee angle impacts the ligaments of the knee and that we should only squat to parallel to keep them safe.
There has been more research that supported Dr. Klein’s findings at the time. The knowledge of human physiology hadn’t developed much yet. So, people started believing this claim and it started to catch on.
Fast forward to the early 2010s when a guy named Ben Patrick started structuring the knees over toes concept. He was experiencing knee pain, which meant he had to kiss his athletic career goodbye. While doctors told him that he would never be able to have full mobility and range of motion in his knees, he decided to change his faith.
He started studying the knee mechanisms and founded the Athletic Truth Group (ATG). Known as the “Knees Over Toes Guy,” he has created exercises that focus on strengthening the knee and preventing it from injury. This movement along with countless other studies showed us that we were wrong before.
If the anterior movement of the knees past the toes is safe, why did we waste so much energy not to do it? Well, there’s a reason for that, and it’s the fact that this position puts more stress on the knees.
An article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research studied the amount of knee torque and hip torque in a group of people who did squats with either knees passing the toes or knee movement being restricted with a wooden barrier. The first group’s measurements were: knee torque= 150.1 ± 50.8 and hip torque = 28.2 ± 65.0. The second group’s results were: knee torque = 117.3 ± 34.2 and hip torque = 302.7 ± 71.2. As you can see, when you restrict the movement of your knees, the stress on them decreases.
If you look closer at the results of the study though, you’ll see that decreased pressure on the knees also means much, much more stress on the hips and lower back. So, it’s wise to split this stress between the hips and knees to be safe.
Additionally, your knees can learn to get stronger as you train them. You don’t want to cause injury by suddenly subjecting them to heavy loads. But with the right exercises, you can make them stronger and alleviate knee pain, especially if you have a knee problem such as knee osteoarthritis.
Top 5 Knees Over Toes Exercises
Here, we have compiled a list of the best exercises you can do for knee strength and rehabilitation. This knees over toes guy’s program will make the muscles around your knees stronger, which will help them to support you better in your daily and athletic activities.
#1 – Resisted Backwards Treadmill
The treadmill is most people’s go-to machine when it comes to doing cardio. If you want to lose weight, chances are you’ve taken some fat burners and hopped on the treadmill for minutes to shed that fat before (P.S.: Don’t take fat burners without working out. Read What Happens if You Take Fat Burners Without Working Out? for more info.) (Second P.S.: It’s not about the number on the scale. 5 pounds of fat vs. muscle weigh the same, but they look different.)
But that’s not all a treadmill can do for us. Walking backward on an incline treadmill strengthens the quadriceps muscles and our feet, which are essential contributors to knee strength and stability.
To do a resisted backward treadmill, put the treadmill on incline mode and start walking backward. Hold the handles to avoid falling. If you feel like walking on an incline is too hard for you, start with a flat treadmill and gradually increase the incline. Do it 3 times a week for 5 to 10 minutes to see results.
#2 – Backward Sled Pull
You are going to need a sled to do this exercise. The good news is that most gyms are equipped with one, but if yours doesn’t, you can still use anything without wheels that move smoothly and safely on the ground, can be loaded with weight, and attached to a rope.
There is a reason why the knees over toes guy calls this exercise “bulletproofing your knees.” It works your quads and improves blood flow to your knees. Plus, it incorporates the ideal leg position for strengthening the patellar tendon, which is a tissue that connects your kneecap to your shinbone. As you put your legs back, your knees go over your toes, strengthening your knees.
To do the backward sled pull, attach a harness to a sled and put it around your torso. Slowly step back, dragging the sled with you. Start with short, slow steps and gradually increase the length of your steps and your speed. Do this for 5 minutes three times a week.
#3 – Tibialis Raise
The tibialis raise is not technically an exercise where your knees travel past your toes, but it’s one of the main exercises in the knees over toes program. It helps strengthen the tibialis muscle, which is often underworked in normal training routines.
The tibialis is a muscle located at the front of your shins, on the outer side of the shin bone. It’s a major decelerator in our body. It helps us slow down when we’re walking or running. Without a strong tibialis, we would simply tumble while walking.
To do tibialis raises, put your back against a wall. Extend your legs in front of you. The further you put your legs, the harder the movement gets. Raise your toes while keeping your heels on the ground, hold for 2 seconds, and come back down. You should be able to do 25 reps of this movement, so put your legs at a distance that lets you complete your set.
#4 – ATG Split Squat
The ATG (Ass To Grass) split squat is a challenging exercise in the knees over toes program that increases knee mobility by allowing you to perform a very deep range of motion. This squat variation is not about building your butt, it’s about improving your knee health. If you’re interested in building your butt, read the following articles:
- Best Exercises to Build a Heart-Shaped Butt
- Best Exercises to Turn Your Square Butt into a Round Behind
Just like a split squat, you should stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and take a step back with one leg. In this variation, you should try to go as far back as you can. Sink into the position while keeping your torso upright. When you’re at the lowest position, your toes should be on the ground and your front leg’s knee should extend beyond your toes.
If performing the exercise on a flat surface is hard for you, you can start by putting your front leg on an elevated platform. But try to lower the height gradually as you master the movement. Do 5 sets of 5 reps per side.
To learn more about squats, read Why Do My Hips Hurt During Squats?
#5 – KOT Calf Raise
The KOT (Knees Over Toes) calf raise is a movement that is performed with your knees past your toes. However, the primary body part that’s moving here is not the knee. Rather, the knees work as a solid basis for your ankles to rely on. You’re basically working your ankles so that they can be able to support the same load that your knees can.
To perform a KOT calf raise, stand in front of a wall. Extend your hand and step back until your fingertips touch the wall. Slowly bend your knees and bring them over and beyond your toes. Only go as deep as you can. When performing this movement, your heels should slightly lift off the ground. Do 25 reps of this exercise regularly to see results.
Don’t Get Carried Away!
The knees over toes guy program has risen in popularity over the years. It seems like you see it everywhere you look. People are going crazy over it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But – and that’s a big but – too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Everything that you do should make you feel better, not miserable. So, anytime you’re doing these exercises and you feel pain or discomfort, just stop and run to a professional.
Speaking of professionals, Flex A.I. is a fitness and health app that gives you professional advice. It’s basically a fitness coach, but in your phone. Download the app for free to start the journey towards becoming a healthier, fitter you!