Strength in Conditioning for Friday, May 28, 2015
Increasing intrinsic foot strength can help athletes combat both foot and knee problems. While many athletes realize the importance of ankle dorsiflexion range of motion and are stretching their calf muscles and mobilizing the ankle – it is important to have intrinsic foot strength.
The arches are ‘pulled into existence’ – we are not born with arches – we develop them. Foot strength and ankle mobility are both important for keeping the knees healthy. Knee problems are often the result of poor arch function and weak glutes.
As part of my intake with new athletes – I always check leg length and both foot and knee tracking. Foot position lays the foundation for good knee position in squats and deadlifts. Leg length issues can be corrected with a lift.
However, athletes that wear an orthotic for arch support can benefit from spending some time strengthening the feet and using a combination of inserts for weight bearing activities like running and barefoot training to improve knee tracking and arch support.
Stability from the Hand and Foot
The cues, “Screw your feet into the ground/separate the floor with your feet” and “Crush the kettlebell with your grip have similar effects – both increasing stability in the shoulder and hip through a contraction of the hand or foot. The increased stability occurs through a process called irradiation where neural drive is increased to the extremities by firmly gripping the kettlebell to recruit the rotator cuff.
The short foot position confers a similar advantage. By activating the foot, neutral drive is increased to the external hip rotators. In other words, screwing the foot into the floor (creating the short foot position) increases stability in the hip.
The graphic below shows the ‘tripod foot’ points that form the short foot position. The first metatarsal head (big toe) to the heel is the medial arch and the fifth metatarsal head to the heel is the lateral arch. It is important to maintain all three points of contact on the ground when squatting and performing single leg exercises to strengthen the hip.
The following exercises for intrinsic foot strength and training the short foot position can help athletes who have plantar fasciitis or have trouble maintaining a neutral foot position during squats – either collapsing the arch or shifting their weight excessively to the outside of the foot.
- Kevin Kula, “The Flexibility Coach” – Creator of FlexibilityRx™ – www.FlexibilityRx.com
10 Minute Jump Rope Practice + Double Under Skill Work
Row + False Grip + Muscle Up Transition + Dips + Tucks + L-sit
2 Minute Max Push Ups, Lunges, + Sit Ups
1 Minute Max Push Ups, Lunges, + Sit Ups
500 Meter Row Sprint
3-5 Minute Rest
500 Meter Row Sprint