Learning the Six Absolutes

By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 2002
The BFS Six Absolutes

1. Use an Athletic or Jump Stance
2. Be Tall
3. Spread the Chest
4. Toes Aligned
5. Knees Aligned (Knees over toes)
6. Eyes On Target

President’s Note: In past issues, I introduced the Six Absolutes, which illustrated how coaching techniques in the weight room can be easy and amazingly effective in teaching and learning perfect technique. All coaches and athletes should use the Six Absolutes when coaching or spotting. You can also use these Six Absolutes when coaching any sport.

As with the other Absolutes, Knees Aligned applies to all areas of athletics, not just the weight room. Use this Absolute all the time, even during practice for any sport. Knees Aligned relates closely to these other Absolutes: Athletic or Jump Stance and Toes Aligned.

When I do a BFS Clinic, one of the very first things I do is teach the Six Absolutes. I bring down six athletes from the bleachers and have them line up two yards apart, facing the audience.
Next, I give the command “Hit,” which means to pop to an Athletic Stance and get into an athletic ready position. I look at their stance, knees and toes, and grade their position on a scale of one to ten. I also ask coaches and athletes sitting in the bleachers to get into a great athletic position.
Knees that are in perfect (10) alignment will be straight from every position. Photo 1 shows an athlete in a perfect sitting position with his knees directly over his toes. In my clinics, I take a ruler and place the top end at the middle of an athlete’s knee. The bottom of the ruler should be at the middle of the athlete’s toes. If the ruler is inside or outside, the position is incorrect.
Sometimes beginning athletes squat with their knees too far forward, with the heels off the ground as shown in Photo 2. This puts too much pressure on the patella area, besides being absolutely ineffective. If the knees are past the tips of the toes, they are too far forward. To help correct this, use the partner system and practice squatting with the hips back and with the knees vertically as straight as possible as shown in Photo 3. Another great way to learn how to balance is to try a front squat with very light weight, as shown in Photo 4. This will help an athlete practice the art of stabilizing his or her body correctly.

Squatting with knees out (Photo 5) will put unwanted pressure on the lateral collateral ligaments. The knees-out problem is easy to correct: simply widen the athlete’s stance until the knees are aligned directly over the toes.

The most common serious knee alignment problem occurs when the knees angle in. Many beginning athletes face this challenge, and it is somewhat more common among women athletes. The knees-in problem (Photo 6 &7) puts unwanted pressure on the medial collateral ligaments.
The knees-in problem is more difficult to correct than knees-out. The first step is to yell “knees” to athletes while they are squatting or doing some other lift. This is a signal to force the knees out over the toes. This signal may or may not work the first time. If not, the second correction technique is to lightly tap the inside of the athlete’s knee (Photo 6). This kinesthetic approach gives the athlete an actual feel for the problem. The cure usually happens after only a few light taps. If the problem persists, then videotape the athlete so that he or she can see the problem. This combination of coaching guidelines will almost always do the trick.
Remember, you can use this same coaching Absolute when coaching any activity: running, jumping, stretching or in sports practice. Your athletes will perform better in all these areas if they keep their knees aligned---knees over toes. They will be less injury prone, especially in injuries to the knees. All you have to do is yell “knees” and positive things will happen once your athletes have been taught this vital coaching absolute: Knees Aligned.

Superior sprinting mechanics, which includes proper knee alignment, is one reason Tim Montgomery can now claim the title of "The Fastest Man in the World."

Photo 1 Knees over toes

Photo 2 Incorrect - knees are too far forward and heels are off the floor

Photo 3 Use a partner to practice balance and correct knee alignment

Photo 4 Light Front Squats can help establish correct balance and knee alignment

Photo 5 This athlete’s knees are outside his toes. To correct, just widen the stance

Photo 6 Are the knees over the toes? Do the knees look good? Would being in this position be good on the knees in strength and conditioning and in sports?

Photo 7 Are the knees over the toes? Do the knees look good? Would being in this position be good on the knees in strength and conditioning and in sports?

Photo 8 Good or bad Knees?

Photo 9 Good or bad Knees?

Photo 10 Good or bad Knees?

Photo 11 Good or bad Knees?