Some recommendations suggest keeping the shank as vertical as possible during the barbell squat, thus keeping the knees from moving past the toes. This study examined joint kinetics occurring when forward displacement of the knees is restricted vs. when such movement is not restricted. Seven weight-trained men (mean +/- SD; age = 27.9 +/- 5.2 years) were videotaped while performing 2 variations of parallel barbell squats (barbell load = body weight). Either the knees were permitted to move anteriorly past the toes (unrestricted) or a wooden barrier prevented the knees from moving anteriorly past the toes (restricted). Differences resulted between static knee and hip torques for both types of squat as well as when both squat variations were compared with each other (p < 0.05). For the unrestricted squat, knee torque (N.m; mean +/- SD) = 150.1 +/- 50.8 and hip torque = 28.2 +/- 65.0. For the restricted squat, knee torque = 117.3 +/- 34.2 and hip torque = 302.7 +/- 71.2. Restricted squats also produced more anterior lean of the trunk and shank and a greater internal angle at the knees and ankles. The squat technique used can affect the distribution of forces between the knees and hips and on the kinematic properties of the exercise.
Practical applications: Although restricting forward movement of the knees may minimize stress on the knees, it is likely that forces are inappropriately transferred to the hips and low-back region. Thus, appropriate joint loading during this exercise may require the knees to move slightly past the toes.