I always say a mistake isn’t a bad thing unless you don’t learn from it. Well, today you’re going to learn from MY mistake. I’ll take one for the team on this one.
Long story, short: Today, I shattered my big toe by dropping a barbell on it. I mean, it’s awful. I can’t put much weight on it, it’s completely bruised up, swollen and I would love to upload a picture of that so you could see how crazy it looks, but my feet are hideous so I’ll pass. Trust me.
I’ll live. I once got my foot (same foot) crushed by a 1999 Honda Civic, so compared to that this is basically nothing. The bright side is that this is going to be a teaching moment, and a very timely one.
Today, I’d like to teach you my thoughts on foot position during popular exercises like back squats, split squats, deadlifts, etc. This is something I picked up a while back from a coach named Mike Robertson. I added it into my training, my clients training and tried to make adjustments to make it even more successful during exercise.
I’d like to start off by saying that the concept of pushing through only your heels on an most lower body lifts is dead. It’s faulty, it doesn’t work and it might even make you weaker – in my opinion.
You do still need to feel the heel, though, along with two other regions of the foot – the first and fifth metatarsal heads. In other words, you need to maintain ground contact and exert force through the heel, the padding just under your big toe and the padding just under your pinky toe. Think of that as a triangle of force, with 33.333333333333333333333333333333333% (haha or one-third) of your “push” coming from each of those areas.
Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about foot position after posting some Instagram split squat videos. So this is actually great timing.
You may have heard me tell you to find your heel, grip the ground or push your foot through the floor when you’re squatting, lunging or any other exercise. Those are just simple ways to help you put your foot in the right position based on what I see. It’s very important know that you need to use your whole foot when exercising, not just the heel like many people may believe.
If you put all the weight in your heels, you’re shifting your center of gravity. Let’s say you’re squatting and you overload the heels. You’re going to lose some ground connection in the upper half of your foot. You may not feel that happening, but it is. Worst case, your toed lift up from the ground and you fall backwards! On the fly (you won’t notice this either), your body is going to adapt because the human body is amazing. More than likely, you’re going to excessively arch your lower back, tip your pelvis forward and cause detriment to the activation and/or mobility of your entire lower body.
Another huge reason something called proprioception, which is basically your ability to sense your body positioning and movement. Your feet are your first contact with the ground. If you aren’t gripping that floor with your entire foot, you lose the ability to sense where you are at any point in a given movement. This affects strength, power, speed, mechanics, posture, balance – everything.
I’ve done this so many times. Everyone has. Eventually, you will feel the accumulation of that poor movement pattern and I don’t want that for you! But when you nail the right foot position, and a lot of my clients naturally nail it, you’ll feel ten times stronger. Seriously. I have legitimately seen people make drastic improvements in 30 seconds just by changing this one small detail.
So, to wrap it up; My toe being broken is actually really sad for me. It’s going to limit my lower body workouts a lot for the time being! But on a good note, I got to share some thoughts with you guys and hopefully help out anyone who may have been making this mistake. Continue to lift with the exact same form you do on everything, but implement this one tip and I guarantee the movement will be easier to achieve based on your foot position.