I love working in the fitness industry.  I enjoy being in a gym setting, watching people work on improving their health and fitness level.  I find it encouraging that people who are overweight try to burn those calories, that people who are weak try to improve strength, and that people generally are looking to better themselves.  That being said, it is important to have a good understanding of right from wrong.  In short, that’s the purpose of this blog, but today’s post is dedicated to something that I see often and needs to be addressed.

Basically it’s the concept of using your joints the way they were intended.  As human beings, we have movements in all planes of motion.  We are capable of moving forwards, backwards, side to side, and even rotationally.  But if you aren’t careful to limit extraneous movements, they can hinder your performance and potentially cause damage.  Concerning the lower body, I see this in two primary areas; the knee and the ankle.

Without turning this into a full-blown instructional article of the squat and split stance exercises, I want to clarify a few problems that often encounter.  When you are squatting, your knees and hips flex as you lower your body and extend as you push the weight up.  The knees (which should always be kept behind the toe line; but that’s for another post) shouldn’t sway from side to side.  As you squat, your knees should be facing forward and when you come out of the squat, your knees shouldn’t buckle.  This is important for the stability and integrity of the knee joint, including all attached muscles and ligaments.  Allow the knee to buckle and then applying force is a risky behavior.  This is also seen in the lunge.  Be sure that your back knee is lowered straight towards the floor and your front knee is in line with your hips.  This problem arises because of weak gluteal muscles, namely the gluteus medius.  When you strengthen this muscle, from abduction drills and lateral squats, you will stabilize the knee in other, more resisted movements.

The other problem that commonly arises is external rotation of the hip, causing the toe line to face outward.  Once again, as humans we are designed in alignment from front to back.  Variations to this are caused by muscular tightness.  In the case of the ankles, it can come from the hip or the outside of the thigh.  The hip flexors are commonly tight and can lead to improper alignment.  This is corrected by performing your lifts with a split stance (feet staggered front to back) and ensuring that toes are facing forward.  This problem can also be created by the outside of your thigh.  A muscle called the tensor fascia latae is commonly tight, pulling your foot away from the midline of your body.  Be sure to stretch this area.

These are just a few of the many problems that arise from improper form, muscular imbalances, and a lack of exercise.  Be sure to correct these issues or they will continue to dampen your fitness improvements.