- Resolves knee discomfort
- Critical exercise especially for the elder
- Myth: “Knees in front of toes is dangerous”
I was on vacation out of the country a few months ago, staying in a small apartment with no gym. I needed a simple exercise routine that I could do on a small balcony with a tile floor. A modified burpee met my requirements: squat down, jump back, push up, cross body mountain climber (right knee to left elbow, left knee to right elbow), jump forward, stand up.
Resolves Knee Discomfort
At the same time, I was experiencing weakness and mild knee discomfort when I walked up/down the four flights of stairs to the apartment. I came across K Boges’ video The Old School Exercise for LIMITLESS Stamina in which he describes the benefits of the deep knee bend.
I’ve heard people say that when performing squats, the knees should not extend beyond the toes because it puts too much stress on the knees. Contrasted with a squat, in the deep knee bend the heel comes off the ground as the knees move well in front of the toes, concentrating the stress in the quads. Boges acknowledged that this also loads the connective tissue of the knees but asserted that there is no inherent risk to the knee because in performing the deep knee bend the motion of the legs (flexion and extension) is exactly what they are anatomically designed for. Connective tissue adapts to training stress as well as muscle. So, as long as the volume and intensity of the exercise are increased gradually, e.g. with a RPD (Rate of Perceived Discomfort) of 3 or less, the knees will adapt and grow stronger. Boges calls the deep knee bend a “game changer” exercise for conditioning/endurance (as opposed to max strength) that can “bullet-proof your knees”.
Since I wanted to resolve my knee discomfort, I immediately performed a test and did 10 deep knee bends. This lit my quads on fire! I was not expecting them to be so difficult because I was already doing squats regularly. However, the next day, I was able to do 20 deep knee bends before it was too uncomfortable to continue. Best of all, my knee discomfort was completely gone after only 2 days! From that point forward, I progressed rapidly. Two days later, I did 5 sets of 10. The next week, a set of 30 then 35. The following week, sets of 40 and 45. The week after that, sets of 50. Three months later (for my annual birthday fitness challenge), I did 10 sets of 20 for total of 200 deep knee bends.
Just a couple weeks ago, I was on the 27th floor of an office building and had to evacuate due to the elevators going out of service. As our group descended the stairs, more than one person had to stop after descending 10-15 flights of stairs specifically because of knee pain. If that had an actual emergency evacuation, their lack of knee function could have been life threatening to themselves and possibly others. That experience motivated me to record a video demonstrating deep knee bends and squats.
Critical exercise especially for the elder
As the number of elderly people in my life has increased, my belief in the imperative of building pain-free mobility and functional strength has grown even more resolute. It is not unusual for an elderly person to become unable to navigate stairs or find themselves on the ground and be unable to get back into a chair, not to mention stand up.
A chiropractor name Dr. Todd Sullivan published a video he called The Most Important Exercise For Seniors To Master. In this video, Sullivan presents progressions that build strength to enable performing a squat. The only quibble I have with his approach is that he suggests doing a hip/glut bridge as the first, entry-level exercise. This requires laying on one’s back on a firm, flat surface. Generally, that’s going to be the floor. The problem is that if an individual doesn’t have the strength to do a squat, they are unlikely to have the strength to get down on the floor safely and get back up (unassisted). So, I doubt whether a hip bridge is a realistic first exercise for someone who doesn’t have another (physically capable) person to help them. Otherwise, the progression he demonstrates makes a lot of sense.
Myth: “Knees in front of toes is dangerous”
The Epoch Times published an excellent article entitled, The Critical Importance of Deep Knee Bending. The article cites a couple published medical research papers which concluded:
- “Musculoskeletal fitness…was a significant predictor of mortality in 51–80-year-old subjects.” (“Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality“)
- “Provided that technique is learned accurately under expert supervision and with progressive training loads, the deep squat presents an effective training exercise for protection against injuries and strengthening of the lower extremity. Contrary to commonly voiced concern, deep squats do not contribute increased risk of injury to passive tissues.” (“Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load“)
The article also points out an imminently practical reason for having the ability to stand up from a squat. “Cindy Ward, a CrossFit Level 1 and American Council on Exercise (ACE)-certified personal trainer, reminds her clients constantly that if their goal is to stay out of the nursing home, then it’s important that they can get on and off the toilet without assistance.”