For the last coupe of weeks, and no doubt going forward, we will be working on our back squat progressions. While this common, relatively simple movement is very familiar with most of us, there are a few points that we can address to make us more effective at it. One of these, is the “tripod foot”.
As a coach, when we cue beginners in any squat variation, we often use “keep the weight in your heels” or “keep your heel in contact with the ground”. Something along those lines. While that is without question one of the most important aspects of a healthy squat, we can take our foot positioning further.
When we set our feet for a squat, we are laying the foundation for the movement. If we are going to build a house, we need the foundation to be rock solid. If the foundation shifts, so does everything else built on it. This is exactly what happens with our feet when we squat. If our feet are moving even slightly as we squat, then our foundation is not stable. If our foot moves, our ankles moves. If the ankle moves, the knee moves. If the knee moves, the hip moves. You get the picture.
In the illustration of a “tripod foot”, we are focusing on three points of contact with the ground. First one is our heel. We should all know this. The other two are the base of our big toe and the base of our pinky toe. When all three points of contact are stable and solid and weight is disturbed, we have a solid foundation for a squat. When we assume our stance for a squat, we want to create “torsional loading” through our feet. This simply means we are thinking about trying to screw our feet outwards and into the floor (they aren’t going to actually move of course). When we do this, it externally rotates the knee. This shouldn’t be anything new to you. We know by externally rotating the knees, it puts them in a stable position to track over our toes and helps open up our hips for better mobility. What you may not know about this position, is it also reinforces the arch of our foot.
Give this a try. Take your shoes and socks off. You’ll need to be on a floor where you can get some traction. Assume a normal squat stance. Feel and think about the “tripod” position with weight in each of the three contacts points. Note your arch position when standing relaxed and neutral. Now, create torsion by “screwing your feet into the floor”. Knees externally rotate, hips open up, glutes turn on and low and behold; your arches are higher and more stable. That’s where you want to be!
So the next time we see back squats come up in our programming at the gym, there’s one more thing to add to the checklist of things before we start moving heavy weight. Without a firm, stable foundation, the entire rest of the movement is also unstable and weak. Start with an engaged, active and solid foot and from the ground up we are turned on and ready to lift!