Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lower Body Coaching Cues: "Tripod Foot" or "Drive Through the Heel"?

Recently I became involved in co-authoring a coaching course that fitness business owners will be able to use to streamline the training of any coaches that they hire. I also recently just performed a training assessment and am teaching someone how to squat and deadlift, something I haven't done for several months.

All this recent work on the fitness side of the fitness industry (rather than the business side) has inspired me to write a blog post. I haven't posted a fitness blog post since my latest book. This is simply because I haven't done any training since then, and I didn't want to post anything that was purely theoretical without any basis in reality.

However, in teaching this new "client" (I'm doing this for fun; I'm not charging her) how to squat and deadlift, I had a little "aha" moment that I wanted to share.

The issue involves the "tripod foot" cue. Tripod foot involves allowing one's bodyweight to be evenly distributed among three points of contact with the floor- the first metatarsal head, the fifth metatarsal head, and the heel.

This was the best picture of tripod foot I could find.
Internet, you have failed me.
With tripod foot, weight should not be shifted forward towards the toes or backward on the heel at any point during performance of an exercise. Likewise, weight should not be shifted medially or laterally. I believe I first heard about tripod foot from Dr. Evan Osar at Mike Robertson's 2010 Midwest Performance Enhancement Seminar. He made a very convincing argument on why tripod foot is important. After hearing about it, I did a little research of my own and concluded it was the right thing to do. I don't actually remember any of the details of what I read, but I remain convinced to this day that tripod foot is the ideal position.

However, before I ever heard about "tripod foot," I knew the "insteps off" and "drive through the heel" cues. The idea with those was to preferentially recruit the posterior chain, especially the glutes, by placing more weight on the outside of the foot and by actively pulling through the heel when returning to the top portion of a lower body lift. I know from experience that this works very well for what it is designed to do.

So, what should you do? Is it the"tripod foot" or the "drive through the heel" cue?

I think the answer is "it depends." (Although I also like "it doesn't matter.")

The girl I'm working with is quad and adductor dominant, and, as you might conclude, her glutes could use some work. Whenever she drops into a squat position, her knees and arch collapse, and her weight shifts towards her toes and towards the inside of her feet.

Now obviously, this is neither "tripod foot" nor "insteps off" and "drive through the heel."

I originally taught her "tripod foot," as that is what I try to do for myself now because I believe it is ideal. However, I noticed that didn't quite fix the problem. 

Why not? I think she was so used to squatting the way I described that an even distribution of weight was not enough of a change to get her to stop doing it.

So instead of trying to force "tripod foot" upon her, I taught her the "insteps off" and "drive through the heels" cues. That solved the problem. Her foot stopped collapsing in.

The lesson here (at least, I think the lesson here) is that the "ideal" position is what is ideal for the client. You need the right cue at the right time with the right person. I feel that perhaps a little over-correction won't be a bad thing for her, especially since I corrected her in a way that will get her out her highly quad dominant movement pattern and into one more favorable for her posterior chain.

There probably is a happy medium here as well. You can probably have "tripod foot" and manage to "drive through the heel" at the same time. I'd just rather not confuse the people I work with.

I'm open to your opinion as well, so leave a comment if you like!

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