In the modern world, with the ability to achieve so much via a computer without ever moving from your desk, your posture whilst sitting is more important than ever. You might perform all the movements of your everyday life perfectly, with correct form and ample exercise, but if half your day is spent sat in an incorrect position, your knees will suffer (amongst other areas of the body). Maintaining this single principle whilst sitting is an essential point in preventing knee pain:
Keep your knees outside your feet
As a rule, avoid leaving the knees inside your big toe: keep your knees above or slightly outside your feet. This basic principle is prevalent throughout all our training advice at kneestrength.com, and is just as important whilst sitting still. It’s easy to maintain when you are sitting with the feet reasonably close together, but the wider apart your feet are, the higher the likelihood of the knees being placed narrower than the feet. Be aware of it, deal with it. Don’t let your knees rest inside your feet.
Why you should avoid placing your knees inside your feet
Persistently positioning the knees inside the toes can cause serious muscle imbalances, causing conditions such as patella maltracking and the consequent knee pain and problems. If you sit incorrectly for an extended period of time, such as when working in an office, you increase your chances of moving incorrectly. By sitting with the knee inside the foot, the relative lengths of the leg muscles adapt to favour this narrow knee position for all movements. When you come to move, the body is used to this position and will follow it as the path of least resistance.
This incorrect movement has a chain effect of harmful compensations and muscle imbalances. When you stand, for example, your knees are likely to cave inwards relative to the feet, putting an uneven load on the quadriceps. In this position the outer quads (vastus lateralis) contract harder than the inner quads (vastus medialis) in order to rectify the inward-caving knee. A sure recipe for patella maltracking (as demonstrated in our diagram).
An inward-caving knee may also lead to the lower leg pointing inside the toes when standing up, walking, running or whatever else you choose to do with your legs. This causes the toe to turn out during all movements, standing and sitting, which restricts proper dorsi flexion (the acute angle between the foot and shin). The knock-on effect, simply, is that your calves tighten and the arch of the foot collapses inside your out-turned toes with every stride – not a good thing!
Sitting on the floor
This principle rings true wherever you sit, in a chair, on the floor, even lounging on a bed. Particularly common now with the rise of smaller laptops and tablets, there’s a temptation to put your knees together to support mobile devices. Don’t.
When using such a device, it may not seem naturally comfortable to position the feet together and knees out, but you must be aware of the problems incorrect sitting will cause. You can make the knees position more comfortable with a cushion or platform for your device, and the more you practice it the more natural it will seem.
Whether you sit at your computer for ten hours a day, or just spend two hours sat in front of the TV, be sure to keep aware of this single important principle. Even when you’re not moving, you must be vigilant about correct posture: always keep your knees outside your feet. From that starting point, everything else can fall into place.