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Have you ever asked?…..WHY DO WE CUE “KNEES OUT”?

Written By: Mario Ashley, MBA

From my experience, the most common error I see in the Squat, or any movement derived from the squat, is a by-product of a collapsing (valgus) knee. The answer isn’t to get stronger knees. There is no such thing. Knees are made of bones NOT muscles. The confusion I see is that a collapsed knee is not a CAUSE but an EFFECT of something else going wrong.


From my observation with over 1,000 individuals in training (not an exaggeration) is that the knee collapses because of weak glutes AND/OR a lack of awareness of the role and purpose of why pushing the “knees out” is a coaches visual cue that the glutes are actually engaged and assisting in the squat.

Only with the bands, or tactile feedback from a coach pressing your knees inward, and you forcefully pushing them out, can you actually feel your glutes engage (or “fire” as the new personal trainers like to call it). The glutes are a powerful muscle responsible for hip extension which is necessary for lifting anything impressive. There’s no other way to feel your glutes engage when you in the bottom of the Squat otherwise. Honestly, I don’t ever really feel my glutes engage when I squat but I know they are because my knees are pushed out over the foot. So instead we coach “knees out” as a visual cue to help athletes engage the glutes where they otherwise wouldn’t know if they were doing so or not.

The other reason we coach “knees out” is to allow the knee “to track over the toes” (if not over the pinky toe). Basic anatomy shows that the primary function of the knee is to fully open and close. When the knee tracks over the foot, we allow the knee to function as it was created to do. When we allow it to collapse inward, on purpose or by accident, not only do we allow it to bend (that’s a good thing), we allow it to twist (the fancy term is called “torsion”). Under load, that’s a big NO-NO and is the number one cause of MCL injuries, ACL injuries, and lateral ankle sprains in ALL field sports.

So next time coach yells push your knees out. Say thanks, coach. I appreciate you trying to keep me off crutches! 😁

Athlete Spotlight: Dennis L.

Hometown: Cuyahoga Falls , Ohio


Age: 66


Profession: Owner of Leipold Tire Co. ( semi -retired )

What did you do for fitness before CrossFit? Did you play any sports growing up? I started running in 1995 . I have completed 10 Half Marathons with a P.R. of 1:58

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? My wife and I are snowbirds in Naples February thru the first of May. She found very strong online reviews on CrossFit Naples in 2018. We visited the gym and were impressed by Mario’s energy and enthusiasm. The option of training in The Masters Class sealed the deal!

What was your first workout and how did it go? How did you feel after? The first workout was a mix of kettlebell swings , body weight training, and stretching. I realized that I was not in shape.

Favorite CF Movements: Cardio and Weights

Least Favorite Movements: Squats ! (My left knee  cartilage is nearly gone )

Favorite Cheat Meal: Publix Chocolate Ice Cream

Favorite Healthy Meal : Salmon with broccoli

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?  I am a committed Follower of Christ .

What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting CF (before/after)?   Better fitness , weight loss and closing in on my ideal BMI .

What sort of unexpected changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like CrossFit?   In addition to training and learning many new routines in Masters Class , I am receiving personal training from Mario. He has taught me POSE Running style which has revolutionized my running skills , proper Squats and Step-up forms to minimize knee pain and strengthen my lower body.

Any advice for people just getting started or new to CrossFit? CrossFit requires commitment. The hardest part is battling excuses to stay home . The best part is the feeling after finishing each session !

What are your hobbies, interests and/or talents outside of CrossFit? Our home is one mile from The Cuyahoga  Valley National Park , I regularly run the most incredibly beautiful trails you could imagine. I refer to the Park as “ My Church “  where I get the rush of running , breathing ,smelling and seeing all of God’s creation !