One of the most common mistakes you’ll witness in training is a lack of mobility to shove the knees out while performing a lift. I’d even go as far as saying, that to be a good (and healthy) athlete, getting the knees shoved out during a movement could be the difference of making the lift, or reconstructive surgery. Often times, this type of issue will be predominant in a beginning lifter, however it can happen to someone who takes too much weight on when they’re not prepared for it, too.
Shoving the knees out accomplishes a couple of things:
It creates external rotation in the hip, which allows a deeper squat due to the hip being allowed to “open” more. This allows more force to be generated from the hip, increasing the stability and strength of the joint.
It allows the foot to remain “unflattened”, increasing strength through the foot and ankle joint.
It doesn’t just stop at squatting, however. Shoving the knees out (into your elbows to increase hip torque and tightness) while deadlifting, box jumping, cleaning, snatching, and every other lift will do nothing but benefit you. Though, if you don’t have the ability of being able to shove the knees out, fret not. Through focused mobility and strength work, it will improve.
Too many times you will see new clients and lifters get set up for something like a box jump, and it will appear as though their knees are magnetically attracted to each other. The shearing effect of this is bad enough before the jump, but if they land in this same magnetic-kneecap position? Fuggetahboutit. Coaches/trainers need to be on top of their clients for this mistake that seems to go unnoticed on almost everything but the squat, and even sometimes ON the squat.
The same thing can be said for your dip on a jerk or push press, wallballs and thrusters (if you are in to that sort of thing), if you actively shove your knees out in nearly every movement will bring you nothing but good tidings of great joy.
Below are some tips to help improve hip external rotation, including some examples via YouTube:
Foam Rolling/SMR (IT Bands, Glutes, etc.)
Hip Opener stretches (Kelly Starrett demonstrates this particular one)
Plate Drags (side to side)
If you frequently find yourself having issues warming up and getting your glutes firing, I suggest adding these to your warm-up (hopefully you have a warm-up you like to do). If you don’t have a warm-up, and instead often just get to it, start here and build around these.