Female Anatomy, The Q-Angle, And Lifting

There are a few solid reasons why women shouldn’t always train just like guys. Anatomy is one of them. Here’s how your Q-angle could be affecting your lifts.

We all know that squat stance is highly individual. When you find the perfect stance that allows you to walk out, sink to depth and then drive out of the hole, life feels better. But is it just down to personal preference or flexibility? Nope. It starts with biomechanics. Ladies, listen up.

What’s The Q-Angle?

Your “Q-Angle” is the relative angle between your knee and your hip. It’s the angle where the quadriceps muscle actually meets the kneecap, compared to the line you’d draw to track where the ligament attaches kneecap to shin. Men typically have a q-angle of between 8 degrees and 15 degrees. Women’s q-angle can vary from 12 degrees to 19 degrees. This is because women (usually) have a broader pelvis and shorter femurs than men, and our femurs tend to twist inwards. But, depending on your training background and training age, it can also be down to muscle weakness and imbalances.

Our larger q-angle means greater values force on the knee during any activity, but especially during squats.


Find Your Q-Angle

To find your own q-angle, begin in a standing position. Find the anterior superior iliac spine – the pointiest part of your hip bone. Draw a line from here to the centre of the patella. Then draw another imaginary line from the tibial tuberosity (the bony point just below the kneecap) up through the centre of the kneecap. Between these two lines. The angle between these two lines is your q-angle.

Great, so you now know the q-angle and have one more bit of information about your anatomy and biomechanics. How does it affect your sport, and do you need to adapt your training, stance or lifting style?

The wider the q-angle, the more risk you are at for knee pain and ACL injuries, and the more force you could lose on the concentric phase of your squats (because your quads will pull the kneecap outwards). The good news is that there are some relatively simple fixes to avoid knee and ACL pain, and build a stronger squat regardless of your q-angle.

So, first up, do your knees a favor and squat below parallel. Squatting to depth means bringing more hamstring into the movement and taking some strain off the ACL and knees.

Do your due diligence when it comes to VMO work. The vastus medialis oblique is put under a lot of pressure helping to stabilize the knee. Program terminal knee extensions (using a band) and step ups into your workouts to strengthen the top half of the knee extension without a ton of excess load.

And focus some of your accessory work on offsetting the effects of a larger q-angle. Strengthen the vastus medialis, increase glute strength (particularly the external hip rotators), and work on core integrity to minimize the chances of knee pain as your lifting career progresses.

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