The Secret To Stability
One of the most overlooked aspects of training is focusing on your feet. Sounds funny, right? Why your feet? Think about it like this. You’re in a house on the beach that is on two stilts. Would you want those two stilts to be very narrow and not really stuck in the ground very well or would you want those stilts to be wide and planted firmly into the ground? I’m not sure about you, but one cough too hard might end poorly for you they have very narrow, unstable support beams. Now lets relate this back to your body. Those two support beams are your legs, the contact those support beams have with the ground are your feet, and the house is your body. You can either choose to actively engage your feet by focusing on gripping the ground with your feet creating wide, stable surfaces or you can neglect to think about them and be unstable from the foundation up. If you are neglecting your feet the primary support beam to your body is unstable, which travels up the chain to your ankles being unstable, knees unstable, etc. I hear the phrase all of the time “I need to work on my balance.” If I asked 20 people off the street if they felt confident in balancing, I bet 15 out of the 20 would say they need to work on it. However, if I also asked them how often they focus on gripping the ground with their feet, I bet 15 out of 20 would say not very often, if at all.
Why is it important?
Your foot in composed of multiple intrinsic muscles (see picture) that are used to primarily to control your toe and foot movement. By gripping the ground and engaging those muscles you are creating a solid, firm foundation. If you don’t engage those muscles, you are sending red signals to your brain that you are not stable foundationally, so other muscles have to try to compensate for that lack of primary stability. This leads to working in poor compensation patterns, shaky knees, predisposition for injury and many more negative effects.
How do you do it?
Whenever you are standing, squatting, balancing, or doing any type of movement where your feet are on the ground focus on spreading those toes, driving that big toe and heel into the ground, driving the rest of your toes in the ground, and gripping with your entire foot. Maintain tension and engagement of that foot throughout the entire movement. If you start to feel wobbly, refocus your attention to your feet. Are they engaged? Can you feel them working? If not, re-engage them. The more you actively engage your foot, the more you will strengthen the bottom of your foot, which will help you with that stability component.
Remember, it’s the tiny little aspects like this to your training that might make world of the difference for you. Engage those feet. Focus on the details. Train hard, but also train smart.
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