One Weird Trick: Installment 2 – What Do I Do With My Feet?

The first Monday back after any New Year is usually national bench press day. For those who are off to rebel by doing squats, deadlifts, and lunges, make sure you keep this simple trick in mind to optimize your next training session.

From a personal experience point of view, I’ve seen many errors executed for almost every lower body related exercise. Essentially, there are two concepts I want to go over that aren’t covered too often on your first day in the gym – how to best leverage your body when exercising, and how to displace force in a productive manner.

In the action of weight lifting, there is the dynamic of having a stable foot position that is evident from many philosophies, particularly the Windlass mechanism, the tripod foot position, on top of understanding how a larger or smaller base of support will affect your ability to produce force.

Will you have a greater base of support by having a larger surface area to “push” the ground away when you squat/deadlift/lunge, or a smaller surface area?

You can also understand these concepts from understanding Newton’s laws of motion. Now this isn’t a physics class, but bear with me. All three laws are important to respect when looking at lifting heavy stuff of course – ignoring one law of motion for favor of another is naive.

If you do squats, or deadlifts, there is a funny thing that happens when you are looking to perform to the next level – you’re going to have to put force into the ground in order to lift any appreciable amount of weight. Rethinking how you look at the concept of force production and ground reaction forces is something that will help you improve your lifts inside the gym.

Personally, whenever I look at jumping, sprinting, and lifting, I always think about how these ground reaction forces are playing into effect. If there is a certain height I need to reach when jumping, I need to push harder into the ground in order to get higher away from the ground… and these same forces are also taken into consideration in lifting.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

From a coaching point of view, you will need to understand that rocking back to your heels to discover that the posterior chain starts around the heels is simply one piece of the puzzle. This does not mean forgo the toes, or ball of the foot in your setup for your deadlifts or squats.

Just like how an exercise can be “classified” as a hip hinging or hip dominant exercise at the exclusion of the quadriceps, finding your heels for foot stability does not mean forgo tension in the toes.

Deadlift Setup - Incorrect

With all of this in mind, watch the following video to find out more details on how to avoid some key issues that may arise from an incorrect setup.