Should The Knee Ever Go Past The Ankle Or Toes In Warrior?

November 1, 2017

Transcript below of: Should the knee ever go beyond the ankle in warrior 2?

Hey everybody! It’s David Keil and I’m doing this month’s question of the month. This month’s question touches on understanding what happens when you take the knee past the ankle in poses such as warrior. And of course, if you want to submit your own question of the month, go to: yoganatomy.com/myquestion

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The Question:

So this month’s question comes from Fiona, who’s a dear friend of mine actually, but it’s a good question. “I’ve always been taught that the bent knee should never go beyond the toes, e.g. in warrior 2, but I don’t really know why. Is this absolutely vital for knee health, and if so, why?”
And then she has in parentheses: “especially when I come across articles like this: http://trustmephysiotherapy.com/myth-knees-never-past-your-toes/” We also wrote an article: Should the Knee Go in Front of the Ankle in Yoga?
So, Fiona wants to know, what’s my view?

The Answer:

Well, by the way, thanks for sending me that link, because, thankfully it’s somebody who linked to research that was done on this very topic. This is something that comes up a lot in yoga classes. I’ve been asked this question many times before about knees as I tell people often to take their knee past their ankle. My position on it has always been there is nothing inherently wrong with your knee moving past your ankle joint. Really far forward is going to add more stress and strain to the knee joint itself, but it’s not like we’re loading loads of weight onto our back while doing it, which would of course increase the forces going into the knee.

Medial knee movement is more concerning

The bigger issue, and the thing I think we need to be more careful about when we’re doing yoga poses where the knee is moving forward onto the ankle or beyond, is when the knee starts to sneak inward, which is the direction that it usually goes. As it sneaks inwards, then you have forces moving in different directions through the knee joint. That is more likely to increase the possibility of injury. But even that, by itself, doesn’t necessarily cause injury. The repetitiveness of that can lead to more trouble.

So, if you’re dealing with a total beginner, better to err on the side of caution, which is to keep the knee over the ankle joint. As you advance more and your quadriceps get stronger, you should have no problem if your knee sneaks past your ankle.

More from the research

So I just want to mention a couple of things that were brought up in the research that was quoted in this article that you linked to. So, while squatting with a restricted forward knee movement showed a 22% decrease in knee torque, there was a 1070% increase in hip torque. This is a lot more work for the hip and low back musculature to perform and is a potentially more dangerous squatting method for the lower back. So of course if you’re taking the force, or torque, or pressure out of the knee joint, it’s going somewhere. Where’s it going? If it’s going into the hip, that’s probably not a huge problem because the hip muscles are really strong and can handle it, but getting into the low back is maybe a little bit more tenuous.

So, in summary, if your knee goes past your ankle a little bit, it shouldn’t be a problem. That’s normal, natural movement. We should be able to sustain that without any trouble. If it’s tilting in, that’s more problematic. And remember, if the pressure’s coming out of the knee, it’s going into somewhere else, which you can also use to your advantage.

Alright, I hope that clarifies things for you Fiona. If you’ve got a question of the month, go ahead to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and I’ll answer it for you.

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Additional references

Fry AC., Smith JC, Schilling, BK. Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):629-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14636100

Rudavsky A, Cook, J. (2014) Physiotherapy management of patellar tendinopathy (jumper’s knee). Journal of Physiotherapy 60: 122–129] http://www.journalofphysiotherapy.com/article/S1836-9553(14)00091-5/fulltext

Schoenfeld BJ. Squatting kinematics and kinetics and their application to exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Dec;24(12):3497-506. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20182386

Swinton PA., Lloyd R., Keogh JW., Agouris I., Stewart AD.
A biomechanical comparison of the traditional squat, powerlifting squat, and box squat. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jul;26(7):1805-16.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22505136