“Heels down!” You hear it all the time. What’s the big deal? Every strength and conditioning coach has his/her finger on the “Heels Down” trigger at all times it seems. Considering that the idea of sitting back in your heels is neither athletic in theory nor in practice, it certainly begs the question, “what gives?”
If you ever played basketball you’ll know the best way to get beat by your opponent is to stay on your heels. Care to get no where fast in a tennis match? Put your weight in your heels. Sport is executed with movement from the forefront of the foot. It’s explosive and agile.
So, why then, are we cued to train in our heels so often?
The gist of the verbal cue is designed to fix a problem, not necessarily describe an ideal body position. I don’t think any elite level coach actually wants their athletes to squat or jump from their heels. This doesn’t mean cuing an athlete to be in their heels is a bad cue.
While optimal athletic movement comes from the forefoot (or ball of the foot), it is important that the heel be in contact with the ground for a large majority of movements. The moment the heel leaves the ground, the athlete loses posterior chain recruitment. That’s nerdy talk for, heels off the ground means that your butt and hamstrings aren’t helping out anymore.
What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, those muscles are some of the strongest muscle groups you’ve got. Plus, once the heels leave the ground, the knee joint holds the load. Your knees, then, would appreciate your heels to be down next time you’re squatting hundreds of pounds.
It’s important to note, that there’s a distinct difference between the heels being in contact with the ground and having your weight in your heels. Good running coaches, for example, will cue their runners to strike the ground with their forefoot. Taking it one step further, however, they will also indicate the importance of the heel “kissing the ground,” which is different than running on your heels. (Good runners don’t tippy toe their way to winning marathons.)
Next time you hear “Weight in your heels!” you’ll have a better understanding for what your coach is asking of you and why. Squat, jump, pull, pull, and run happy, folks.
20 Power Snatches (115/85)
20 Power Snatches