9/12/17 - Cuing the Foot: Behind the Curtain
Almost universally, the ideal foot position is a neutral, stable one with force through the mid-foot. This is true for running, biking, squatting, jumping, and even skateboarding. Yet, if you listen to a fitness coach, it might sound like every other position is ideal depending on your activity. So, what gives?
I’ll never forget the debate. Back in 2010, one of my mentors, Andy Petranek, brought into question one of the most stereotypical fitness cues in history: “Keep the weight in your heels.”
His beef with the cue was that it seemed universal in the gym, but almost never a good idea outside the gym. Have you ever successfully guarded a point guard with your weight in your heels? How would a half marathon feel if you kept your weight in your heels? Does a linebacker keep the weight in his heels? Andy couldn’t find a single example outside of the gym where this cue made sense.
The conversations that ensued were priceless. Trainers defended the cue with the reasons why they wanted their clients’ heels down, from safety to performance, and folks with no skin in the fitness game corroborated the oddity Andy proposed and shared some version of the idea that having this cue in the gym was silly.
This is a wonderful teaching point. Consider, for instance, that the cue to “keep the weight in the heels” is a useful cue, but not a truth. There’s a difference.
How is this possible, you ask? It’s possible in the same way that you should “push out” in your feet or “wiggle your toes” or “grip the ground with your feet”. Meanwhile, having the weight in your heels, wiggling your toes, pushing to the outsides of your feet, and even curling your toes to claw the ground are all faulty movements in a literal sense. Yet, these very cues are used daily around the way to improve movement in the gym, and, I’d argue, rightfully so.
These classic foot cues are meant to get a proverbial pendulum to swing in the other direction. It modifies the listener’s behavior be taking them from one movement error and cuing them away from it, leaving them in a better, more median interpretation of the proper position. After all, a cue doesn’t need to be true it just needs to be effective. All of these requests are to get behavioral change in the mover. For example, are you deadlifting in your toes? “Weight in your heels!” Oh, you’re failing with internal rotation while you squat? “Push out!”
Listening to a controversial cue that isn’t true in and of itself isn’t the point we should be arguing. Rather, the real question is, “did the cue bring the athlete closer to the desired movement standard?” If so, it is, by definition, an effective cue. So, while I don’t want you deadlifting in your heels, I’ll tell you to if you’re deadlifting in your toes, capeesh?
6 Ring Dips
8 DB Hang Power Clean and Presses (50/30)