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Fitness from the Ground Up | Squat with Heel Push. Over-emphasized Cue from Trainers and Strength Coaches Contributes to Achilles, Knee, and Low Back Injuries
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Squat with Heel Push. Over-emphasized Cue from Trainers and Strength Coaches Contributes to Achilles, Knee, and Low Back Injuries

baby girl squatting

22 Jan Squat with Heel Push. Over-emphasized Cue from Trainers and Strength Coaches Contributes to Achilles, Knee, and Low Back Injuries

Are you an athlete looking to increase your leg strength, power and explosiveness? Are you mom or female exerciser working out in the gym and hoping to firm up your legs and improve a jiggly butt and reduce the visibility of cellulite on the back of your thighs and butt?

To keep up with the latest from Zig Ziegler, follow Zig on twitter @zig_ziegler.

If you look around the internet at various training websites including youtube videos, you will hear numerous experts explain proper squatting technique touting squat technique as the answer to your dreams.  The truth about fitness is that there is only one squatting technique. The best technique for squatting is the one you were born with and used until a fitness expert tried to instruct you, you read an article in a fitness magazine, or followed the advice of a friend.

If you watch children up until the age that they begin organized training, their bodies develop at a rate in which we perceive is balance between strength and flexibility. Coordination, however, takes a while to catch up for those children of all ages who experience a growth spurt or constant changes in activity.

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A child playfully squatting without fear of damage to knees and squatting perfectly through the body’s full range of motion without regard to injury to the knees or back.

In fact, a developing toddler to adolescent is capable of demonstrating strength and flexibility while constantly battling coordination mainly because they have no perception of failure or understanding of instructions given to them on how to walk, run, squat, or throw. They just do it.  In fact, the first signs of struggle we see from children while performing physical activities is after their first words of instructions.

Recently i began to instruct my teenage daughter on how to play a new sport. The more practice and instruction I provide, the more she struggles. The more I allow her body to do what she does naturally, the better her performance and the better the result. My goal is to provide her with the strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility to assist her body in performing the task and allow the skill to benefit from her body having the strength, coordination, and flexibility to perform the skills necessary to play the sport. With those things, I am instructing around one weakness or another.

Have you ever heard a strength coach or a fitness professional say, you’re going to struggle until you learn proper squatting technique. I’m glad no one sad that the kid in the pictures. Who knows how long it would have taken him to get up and move on to the next toy.  Over the next few minutes I hope to shed a little light on a topic that has finally started to negatively impact, sports, fitness, and life.

I wanted to keep this post brief with the idea of making several points. Here’s how the body works when you perform a squat or for that matter any task on your feet:

1. The first segment of the body to store absorb, and transfer forces absorbed from the ground is the big toe on both feet while performing any activity while standing, walking, running, jumping or lunging.  That force is transfer through the joint between the big toe and the foot (the interphalangeal joint). This is the first joint to store and release energy into the entire foot as it passes through the foot and ankle. As forces pass through the toe, it is the bottom of the foot (not the top) that must properly absorb the force and pass it on to the ankle.As a result of forces applied to the ground, the soft tissue of the bottom of the foot contracts and releases efficiently in order to properly move the forces out of the foot or injury may occur.

2. The next segment of the body to absorb, store, and transfer energy is the entire lower leg.  The muscles which must first absorb the force as it comes out of the ankle is the gastrocnemius/soleus complex (posterior compartment of the lower leg also knows as the calves) but only after the force passes through the Achilles tendon which connects the ankle to the posterior (back) lower leg muscles.

3. The gastroc/soleus provides the necessary muscle contraction to transfer the forces properly out of the lower leg and next segment, the femur and the muscles of that segment which begins with the hamstrings and glutes. The glutes and hamstrings help to stabilize the pelvis and put it into position to complete the entire squat.  The quadriceps act as a stabilizer and help to extend the knee during when elevating the body from the squat position.  The quadriceps are triggered to extend the knee and are stimulated by any other anterior muscle contraction in the lower leg or foot.

In the 1960s/1970s/1980s and even the early 1990s, weightlifting was done primarily by body builders including Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The legendary body builders focused on squatting through the forefoot.  In the mid 1990’s some so called expert (no one will ever take credit for it now) began to instruct people to squat, lunge, leg press, etc while pushing through the heels of the feet. In fact, if you watch just about every fitness video, or so called expert in glute training, every one stresses pushing the the heels.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger squats in the gym with a 2×4 under his heels. This action forces the weight into the forefoot forcing increase gastroc/soleus/hamstring/glute contraction when standing from the squat position. This also disables internal tibia rotation (lower leg rotation), while enabling external rotation of the thigh at the hip. (While his base is narrow contributing to overload of the hip joint (scientifically referred to as the acetabulofemoral). However, there are no glute medius issues present here.)

Here’s a test for you to run through your common sense meter.  Perform a toe raise by shifting the weight towards the heels. In performing toe raise, notice the increase intensity in your quadriceps contraction and some contraction of your glutes.  Shift the weight into your heels by raising your the entire front part of your foot off the ground, step, or where ever you are doing this test. In doing so you may feel a some contraction in the glutes.

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However, you should notice that the more you try to squeeze your qlutes, the more you squeeze your qaudriceps (thighs)  instead.

Earlier, I mentioned the role of the big toe. If the weight is in the heel, what happens to the big toe?  It lifts off of the ground as the top of the foot and toes extend upwards, initiating the front side contraction of the entire leg.

Now try this test.  Perform a standing calf raise (heel lift). As you lift your heel, try to contract your glutes (squeeze your butt).  Were you successful? If you were, your kinetic chain and kinematic sequence are correct.  Your kinetic chain and kinematic sequence are easily explained as the flow of energy and order (sequence) of muscle contraction.

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Perform a calf raise by elevating your heels and pressing through the front of your foot. increase the intensity in your glutes by turning your feet and legs outward a few degrees.

What you feel here is the muscles contraction and areas of intensity you should feel when are at the top of your squat. While in performing the heel raise, you should have noticed a significant difference in muscle contraction on the calves, hamstrings, and glutes.

But is the contraction greater or less than the Toe Raise (heel press) rather than the Calf Press (heel lift).

In Biomechanics and Kinesiology, in order to push through the heels a person must first shift the weight backwards.  To do so, requires a contraction of the muscles on the front of the lower leg. In EMG research testing in my lab, the entire anterior compartment of the lower leg (shin) contracts once the weight shifts behind the mid point of the foot.

The gastroc/soleus complex also contracts but only acts more as a stabilizer than a primary mover. This means the calves neither receive nor deliver any force to the middle of the foot or the big toe when pushing through the heels.  In other words if the weight is in the heels and the lifter pushes through the heels, the entire front of the leg contracts to help with the squat.   NOT THE BACK OF THE LEG!

As a result of the single exercise cue “Push through the heels” sports and fitness professionals have inadvertently contributed to an increase in Achilles tendon injuries, knee injuries, low back pain and injuries, tight hips, and numerous other injuries.  It’s time for a change in the industry and it starts with exercise professionals. I have come to that conclusion based not on opinion but after evaluation of the Biomechanics data of over 50,000 athletes and exercisers over the past 18 years.

By the repetition and migration of injuries to different parts of the body, it’s easy to conclude that many professional athletes like Greg Oden, Tiger Woods and others were instructed to push through their heels while squatting and lunging during rehab.  Because it is clearly a cue given as an industry standard, I can imagine  that even Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, as he rehabs in hopes to return to play this season has been repeatedly instructed to push through his heels.  Even though Adrian Peterson had an incredible 2012 NFL season, he still exhibits signs of a weakened left foot and left ankle demonstrating that he may have been pushing through his heels while training.

Here’s the problem:  When you apply force back into the heels, you disable the foot and ankle’s ability to resist internal tibia (lower leg) rotation.  In doing so, the athlete’s body is inadvertently ENABLING that same rotation that the foot could be preventing. It is that rotation that cause stress in the Achilles tendon and may cause medial and even lateral knee pain.   In addition, the same rotation is what contributes to patella femoral syndrome and can lead to patella tendon ruptures. In previous chapter, I discussed Greg Oden’s injuries and what could have been done to prevent all of his injuries from 2008 to present. It is this simple cue that may have contributed to his repeated injuries. I am able to conclude this because of the presence of rotational stability issues in while he performed running and squatting Biomechanics tests. Brandon Roy, currently signed to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves also exhibited signs of rotational instability. And in numerous exercise videos on the internet Roy can be seen showing those same signs of knee rotational instability due to weight in his heels in various youtube videos.  Later in this book, I will share research data from over 1,000 individuals performing squats and other exercisers in evidence of my findings.

Personally, I used to recommend pushing through the heels, as well. In fact, in my early days in the industryI used it as a common exercise cue believing what at the time made sense. However, looking back, my reason for suggesting it didn’t make “common” sense and as I began to apply more of the principles of Kinesiology, I knew I needed to change many of my exercise cues which came from the still evolving fitness industry.  From 1997 on, I advocated mid-foot striking while on long distance runs and mid to forefoot pressing while performing strength training and conditioning. I switched to this cue as a way to allow the body to develop and utilize the foot as it was intended: a shock absorber. In order for the foot to assist in absorbing shock with high, low, or no impact activity, the forces start at the segment nears the end (distal) part of the foot, not in the heel.zig hurdle

As a former hurdler, I NEVER ran on my heels.  However distance runners (more in the US than other countries) were instructed to run with a heel strike. Here’s a common sense question, if pushing through your heels help increase glute muscle contraction, wouldn’t distance runners have large glutes and strong hamstrings? In addition, would sprinters (who incidentally run on the balls of their feet) have small glutes and stronger quads when compared hamstrings?  Instead, its just the opposite.  Distance runners have large quads and non-existent glute muscle development when compared to sprinters.

The bottom line is time for a change in this simple cue. Please stop instructing clients to push through their heels unless you are trying to develop strong anterior (front side) leg muscles. Because as a cue to develop more glute strength or get rid of cellulite on the butt, it’s just not gonna happen.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Absolute Kinetix: Fitness From the Ground Up.  To be added to the list to receive a copy of the book, post a comment or reply to this article or send a tweet mentioning Absolute Kineix: Fitness From the Ground Up! @zigSports.

Zig Ziegler, The Sports Kinesiologist can be followed on Twitter @zig_ziegler and on www.facebook.com/iwannabeaworldclassathlete

www.aworldclassathlete.com

Zig Ziegler
zz@fitnessfromthegroundup.com

Zig Ziegler, The Sports Kinesiologist can be followed on Twitter @zig_ziegler and on Facebook.

23 Comments
  • Cagri
    Posted at 19:37h, 22 January

    Thanks for this interesting article. I’d love to read your upcoming book.

    • zigsports
      Posted at 17:04h, 23 January

      Thank you. I will be sure to keep you updated. Follow me on twitter @zigsports to be sure you’re on top of the release.

  • zigsports
    Posted at 05:44h, 23 January

    Thought this additional comment might be beneficial to each reader. My response to a question about arnold, the baby, etc.:

    I believe that you are absolutely correct about Arnold. The wedge assists those with limited ankle mobility in the completion a squat. I’d like to see if we can come to a conclusion on whether or not the wedge was to ENABLE pushing through heel or something else. As people, sometimes we perceive based upon our own experiences that because a tool is added, it is to be emphasized and many times is over utilized. We see this in all aspects of our lives but significantly in sports skill instruction and explanation of exercise techniques.

    In the case of the wedge, what conclusion would we come too if we looked at it as a GUIDE instead of a tool. As a guide, the wedge emphasized or “guided” the lifter towards mid foot bearing of the weight possible due to limited ankle mobility. This limited ankle mobility may have forced Arnold and his peers too far forward of the mid foot. As a result, they may have felt as if they were not able to maintain “solid” foot contact of the entire foot. Today, most people demonstrate hyper mobility of ankle in some areas including ankle dorsi flexion when the knee is flexed. They also exhibit extreme ankle rotational instability at this point, causing excessive pronation of the foot. Both of which are affected by gastroc/soleus mobility/strength and exacerbated by bent knee conditions.

    So my question to you is what happens when we change our perception of what we think we see and look at the wedge differently? 10 people may see 10 different things when asked to describe the scene at a basketball game. Partially because they all were attracted to different things around the scene. However if you took the same 10 people and gave them cues for what to look for, their description of the scene would become similar. Research shows us that the eyes are attracted to what they have already seen or the mind is aware of when viewing a scene.

    The same holds true for visual evaluation in the areas of physical activity. The owner of a few PT clinics in Chicago told me just last year how difficult it is to get his 20 therapist to see the same things. If he asked them to blindly evaluate the same patient, without knowing the history, each would come back with different evaluations…similar, but different.

    I have to wonder if the first people who began to stress pushing through the heels just over emphasized the “heel” itself in order to help the person perform the squat. And over emphasis of instruction has caused the heel the to be stressed too much for the novice fitness person or athlete.

    Oh, I almost forgot, the baby did not use the wedge because it possessed the mobility to demonstrate maximum stability in its squat. I’m not saying the baby had coordination however. But neurologically, the baby demonstrates the innate ability to seek the point where it could achieve the greatest amount of balance. As a result, the baby rests on feet which are flat on the ground. But total weight distribution would have to be in the center most point of the feet or the baby would fall backwards because it lacks the coordination/proprioception to balance on the heels.

    It is the OVER emphasis of the cue I am stressing in the excerpt.

  • Hal
    Posted at 03:42h, 25 January

    Good knowledge to add to library. What relationship does this potentially have, if any, to shinsplints. I am always looking for the best ways to reduce/avoid shinsplints. Coach
    Hal

    • zigsports
      Posted at 10:23h, 08 March

      Good Morning Coach,

      Shin Splints are more often caused by rotational stability issues in the ankle/lower leg. IF we can address and improve ankle stability in all the planes of movements, the risk of “shin splints” is likely significantly reduced. All the best!

      Zig

  • Dillon Wu
    Posted at 08:26h, 25 January

    Zig, great article! Looking forward to Absolute Kineix!

    • zigsports
      Posted at 16:02h, 07 February

      Thanks Dillon. Will keep you posted. All the best!

  • helene villinger
    Posted at 09:03h, 25 January

    I first became aware of the importance of the big toe role in our bipede life with Paul Chek ,when I ruptured my peroneus brevis tendon after a serie of achilles tendonitis, plantar fascitis etc..I was looking for some answer to prevent further similar damage and train myself and others in a safer way.In my gym we do a lot of loaded squats lunges runs etc…with athletes as well as overwweight clients,females males young old etc…and yes my copartners insist on the heel push, I have tried to decompose and explain te correlation of ankle flexibiity , push of the big toe…but this argument is brought to a short end especialy coming from the only female trainer ….yet I was in an old gym in France training only weightlifters ,wood floors old shoes of competition on the wall …and was struck by the sole elevated wood heel. My daughter runs and like many fast runners I have seen, does not strike with her heels….So I am very glad to see the discussion opened..and am always looking for more analysis studies and perspectives on this complexe natural mechanic that a simple move such as walking requires. In the mean time I observe unloaded squat with a broom on the numerous clients that come after with knee pain low back pain etc…,I look at their knees and hips and head, and from there [knee coming in ,or forward, pevic tilting to the side ,breathing pattern altered[head posture and face expression will translate whats happening in their trunk and neck during the squat.. ]will work toward a more optimal move for that person.Question;the argument changes on the bike;what do you say …I have read and seen and heard different views on the pedal stroke….I have found whats right for me ..and leave it opened for my clients [that’s in consideration that in most cases newbies wear running shoes ….another thing a child approach with no time spent on saddle height or flip flop attention….

    • zigsports
      Posted at 16:01h, 07 February

      Thank you for the comment. The argument does not change on the bike. The concept is the same but on the bike you have a smaller surface cyclists who push thru the heels place more emphasis on the quads which are already under extreme load because the leg rarely gets to full extension at the hip.

      Most cyclists assume a mini-squat position when standing on the pedals. If they allowed their leg to get to full extension at the hip they would exhibit significantly larger glutes and hamstrings rather than the dominant quads.

      Also, ankles would be stronger not weakened by the load or should I say unloaded ankle plantar flexors.

  • Craig Binkley
    Posted at 13:39h, 26 January

    Very well written article with good explanation of your points. Would like to hear your take on other training cue myths. Look forward to the book coming out.

    • zigsports
      Posted at 15:56h, 07 February

      Hello Craig thanks for the comment. Lots more to follow. There are so many cues that the average person doesn’t know what to think. What works for Johnny, no longer works for Suzy. In fact it never did but now its time for a change. All the best to you!

  • Derrick Blanton
    Posted at 14:05h, 26 January

    Zig, big fan. Very thoughtful and provocative post. I would suggest that MANY well intended coaching cues start out as “corrective” and then are extrapolated to healthy subjects, and unfortunately end up perverting normal human movement patterns.

    As such, I would be interested in your opinion on the following:

    Many squatters, (particularly women with their greater Q-angle), tend to dump the knee inwards in the transition from eccentric to concentric contraction. I think we can safely assume that we don’t want the knee buckling inwards during loaded movement.

    I have found that cueing a weight shift to the lateral, posterior heel through the insertion of small plates only at that heel location helps to correct this “valgus collapse” during the squat. This sensory feedback from the bare foot appears to help in the lateral hip (glute medius, piriformis and short rotators) proprioception and activation.

    I don’t know if this is contradictory anecdotal evidence to the reasoning that you elaborate on, or perhaps just solving an overcorrection in the other direction. Perhaps they have adopted a movement pattern of overloading the big toe due to quad/adductor dominance?

    Keep up the great work, Zig! Love this blog.

    Derrick Blanton

  • G
    Posted at 16:29h, 15 February

    Zig, I am very curious.

    1) Please show us a video of you squatting on the balls of your feet while a) getting below parallel and b) not putting an incredible amount of stress on your knees.

    2) Sprinters have huge hamstrings and glutes because of HORIZONTAL forces while sprinting and achieving full triple extension.

    3) It is ridiculous for you to say anything about Adrian Peterson in regards to his squat. ACL torn legs atrophy, I am sure it has nothing to do with how he squats.

    I don’t disagree at all the the action starts at the balls of our feet when we move, but we strengthen our quads AND posterior chain through heavy loaded squats, Deadlifts, Splite squats, etc on our heels, and then transfer that strength through other means such as jumps, sprints, bounds, etc on the balls of our feet. I’d like to hear your take

    • zigsports
      Posted at 17:47h, 15 February

      G, I assume you wish to remain anonymous or do you wish to share who you are? I ‘dlove for my readers to know with whom I am debating so that they can also determine if the results of my motion analysis findings are being disputed by an end user (novice) or a professional in the sports, medicine, or fitness industry. It’s much easier to answer questions when I know who with whom I am speaking.

      Regardless, I have a question back for you. Are you saying in point number 2 that distance runners mechanics should be different than sprinters? What I mean is do they also not go through triple extension? In the article, I compared sprinters to distance runners yet your point only references sprinters. I just want to be sure I answer your question correctly.

      As for Adrian Peterson, you are correct. A leg undergoing ACL “repair” will atrophy as a result of the surgical procedure more so than the atrophy caused by the damaged ACL itself. You stated that “you are sure it has nothing to do with how he squats.” How can you be sure? I can’t be sure, which I why I used the words “may have”. If you can honestly say you are 100% sure then that explains a lot, you are the wisest person on earth.

      You are honestly entitled to your opinion, so I will not call them ridiculous as I do not feel the need to demean your opinion. However when contradicting the findings of any OBJECTIVE research, I would enjoy it if you would please back up your opinion with data or facts to help all of my readers know that your opinion is supported by data. All of my findings are based on objective facts. As a result, my opinion is no longer valid. I have no ego when it comes to interpreting the data because its just like the alphabet, I can’t add my own opinion for how I want each letter to sound or look. They are what they are. Ego is the single biggest factor in the failings of people who work with athletes. Everyone is trying to add their own twist or gimmick. My gimmick is I want people to measure stop confusing people with opinions. It causing the sports, fitness, and medical industry to lose credibility.

      Just because you or I work with athletes or used to be athletes or work out in a gym and look fit, those things alone do not make either of us an expert. Many athletes achieve championships and gold medals in spite of the experts they work with in the training room or the gym.

      My final question to you is what will you be able to see in the video you request? Video is objective and 10 people will look at the same video and see different things, spinning it to their own beliefs. Motion analysis is objective and no matter how anyone tries to spin it, the data is the data. So please elaborate on what you will be able to point out in video. And by the way, NOWHERE IN MY ARTICLE DID I SAY EVERYONE SHOULD SQUAT ON THE BALLS OF THE FEET. I stated that emphasis of overcuing towards the heel is a fault causing other problems. What we said 20 years ago and I still say today as a cues is “Keep your feet flat and firmly planted on the ground. Its so much easier yet lasier to yell push through your heels. In my article, I used analogies and comparisons to help illustrate my point. A part of the problem with much of what goes on in society today, is one or two phrases or points of articles are often taken out of context to and used to illustrate someone else’s point of view or opinion. Please reread the article so that you can gain a more clear understanding of the results of my findings (not an opinion).

      As for your final point on the heavy loaded lifts, what data can you provide to validate your point? Or is that just your opinion based on your experience and what you think you see. I used to think I could see everything with my eyes. When I started using motion analysis over 14 years ago, I realized my opinion about a lot of “technique issues” was wrong. And I put my ego on the shelf and looked at everything more OBJECTIVELY (supported by data) Rather than SUBjectively (validated by opinion). The hamstrings and glutes are triggered by every portion of the posterior chain below them. What part of pushing (mindful of the word PUSH) triggers the hamstrings? None, because the hamstrings are triggered by a PULL. Just like the biceps of the arms, they are the biceps of the legs. To help illustrate your point, please describe what you believe to be the ideal kinematic sequence of lower body mechanics while squatting/deadlifting, etc.?

      I appreciate your questions as they provide others with the opportunity to hear an expanded explanation based upon your questions. Thank you.

  • Gabe
    Posted at 21:50h, 15 February

    Zig, my name is Gabe Salinas and I am a Strength Coach.

    I apologize for not being clear. While there may be triple extension in both athletes, the angles are much different(here’s some research for you 1) ESPECIALLY in the start. Sprinters apply much more horizontal force and this is why they don’t “have small glutes”, because the glutes are HEAVILY involved in producing horizontal force, and research has shown us that horizontal force production is much more important in maximum spring velocity than vertical force production! (2,3,4,5,6)

    I chose improper wording with my comment on Mr. Peterson. However, while you said he “May” have that issue due to squatting you also said it is “easy to conclude that Tiger Woods and Greg Oden were given this cue, along with “Greg” Rose. (It is Derrick Rose by the way). How do you know 1) They were given those cues every time there were rehabbing (which has been multiple times) and 2) That that is the cause of their injuries? The answer? You don’t.

    You are right…you never said to squat from the balls of your feet. However it was insinuated with the picture of Arnold Squatting and the caption “This action forces the weight into the forefoot forcing increase gastroc/soleus/hamstring/glute contraction when standing from the squat position”. Sounds like advocating a ball of your foot squat to me.

    Finally, are you kidding? There is tons of data to back up the efficiency of squat and deadlift for glute activation (7,8,9) AND Deadlift (and variations) for hamstring and gastroc activity (10,11). Do i believe that’s all you should do to be a fast sprinter and avoid injury? Absolutely not. I do however think that instead of just mindlessly talking, back up your own evidence.

    I asked for a squat video and did not receive it. You keep talking about your “data” but I do not see it. I just gave you 11 peer reviewed articles in a few minutes.

    Thank you for your time

    1.http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=12&ved=0CDQQFjABOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdigitalcommons.wku.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1443%26context%3Dijes&ei=RBEfUYr7EMTVyAGRooHwBw&usg=AFQjCNHwUFkSlusr5Baewyf4RuMMnOJBSg&bvm=bv.42553238,d.aWc)
    2. Brughelli, M., J. Cronin, and A. Chaouachi. “Effects of running velocity on running kinetics and kinematics.” Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. (2010): Epublished Ahead of Print.
    3. Hunter JP, Marshall RN, McNair PJ: Interaction of step length and step rate during sprint running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Feb;36(2):261-71.
    4. Hunter, J. Marshall, R., and McNair, P. “Relationships Between Ground Reaction Force Impulse and Kinematics of Sprint-Running Acceleration.”
    JOURNAL OF APPLIED BIOMECHANICS, 2005, 21, 31-43
    4.Kyröläinen, Heikki; Avela, Janne; Komi, Paavo V.. “Changes in muscle activity with increasing running speed” Journal of Sports Sciences 23.10 (2005).
    5. Kuitunen, S., P.V. Komi, and H. Kyrolainen. “Knee and angle joint stiffness in sprint runners.” Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise. 34.1 (2002): 166-173.
    6. Kröläinen, Heikki; Avela, Janne; Komi, Paavo V.. “Changes in muscle activity with increasing running speed” Journal of Sports Sciences 23.10 (2005).
    7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19574661
    8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19130646
    9 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19130646
    10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11932579
    11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22736206

    • zigsports
      Posted at 23:42h, 15 February

      Gabe,

      I appreciate you identifying yourself. I am, however, disappointed that you feel in order to get your point across you must add insults as if it adds to your credibility. I am still posting your comments in hopes that rather than attempting personal attacks because you disagree, you will add some value to the discussion. If you wish to continue the debate which I am choosing to do in this open forum, please refrain from the personal attack and let’s have a debate without needing to belittle the other.

      I appreciate the articles you referenced. None of these “peer” reviewed articles referenced “pushing” through the heels, and some of them even offered validation to my point. However, because they did not include EMG on the gastroc/soleus/anterior tibia compartment, we do not know the true results of the reporting of what their subjects exhibited.

      Anyone who has ever done research or participated in a research study is aware that subject selection impacts your results. If I selected subjects who worked with the same strength coach, they would exhibit the same strengths and weaknesses.

      Here is an question, if coaches taught the best sprinters in the world to run with a limp and the world record holder ran with a limp, would you teach all other sprinters to run with a limp? (oh by the way, this happens in the 1930s after a runner won a gold medal and showed signs of a limp.

      If you test athletes who have followed the same cues for 1-2 years, are you likely to get similar results of their bodies’ strengths and weaknesses. Yes, or no?

      All of the articles you referenced failed to answer the questions of what would be biomechanically correct. Instead they reported the results of what they found. So if reviewed by peers they could replicate the study and achieve the same or similar results. That means research studies what people do (regardless of whether it is efficient or not).

      Here are some definitions of the word research:

      1) Systematic investigation to establish facts or principles or to collect information on a subject

      2) To carry out investigations into (a subject, problem, etc.)

      3) To study (something) thoroughly so as to present in a detailed, accurate manner…Such as studying the effects of one exercise on certain muscles group BUT that research also includes the history of the subject. And if the subject is flawed, so is the research.

      So basically, Research is the study of something. And it could easily be called the reporting of the results of findings of the study of something, not reporting what they SHOULD do.. If I study, 100 distance runners and come back to you and report what they did, does that mean all runners should now focus on becoming exactly like those runners… Common sense thinking Gabe, would say , absolutely not. Why? Because each one of them has their own strengths and weaknesses. So why would I imitate someone else’s weakness.

      I’ve spent the last nearly 20 years researching what athletes do and comparing it to correct movement patterns. So, my data is every article ever written about how each joint and segment is supposed to move.

      What’s a Kinesiologist?
      Kinesiology is the study of motion, so a kinesiologist is the person studies the causes and consequences of physical activity as it relates to the human body, from medicine to sports and fitness to comfortable office chairs. We don’t study people as subjects, we study the body as the perfect subject. So the data that you ask for is ideal human movement.

      A question for you: Based on ideal Kinesiology, what are the motions of the foot and every other joint or segment of the body? What happens when each is loaded or under stress and what causes those loads? The answer is different for every person because their bodies move differently due to their own strengths and weaknesses.

      It’s not mindless chatter. It’s common sense. Its the human body. Have you actually looked at or studied what the body would do if it were perfect or have you studied what other people say the body should do to perform an exercise based upon their research of flawed human beings. I’d rather trust the hundreds of years of research on the skeletal and muscular systems rather than modern reports of findings on how to squat.

      Again you requested a video, and I asked what you would hope to see.I asked this questions to determine what cues you would be looking for in the video. And I also said, anything you think you see is merely your opinion and does not prove anything because I would be able to point out something different based on my opinion.

      In the image of Arnold squatting with plates under his heels, the advantage gained is that he is able to achieve greater range of motion as he wedge under his feet allow him to maintain contact with his entire foot. A novice viewer would assume that because the 2×4 is under the heel that all of he weight is now on the ball of the foot. It is not, some of the weight is also on the heel. I’d like to invite you to try this at home. But becareful, if you have been pushing through your heels the rest of your foot may not function properly and may cause injury. So I would ask you again, what would you expect to see in a video. Would you be looking for those cues with which you have experience identifying? It would make sense that you would. Hoever, if you looked at the body from the ground up, you’d most likely see something different.

      All I ask is that instead of following the books, you might ask how you develop the entire body. If you goal is to squat heavy pushing through the heel can assist with performance. However, if you are developing an athlete, you must consider whether or not your cue may contribute to other deficiencies like a weakened

      I have a few questions for you:

      1) How important is technique in your training programs?

      2) Is your training program about demonstrating an increase in the amount of weight they lift or how they lift the weight?

      3) What do you expect to see in a video?

      4) If you found out that you had been teaching cues incorrectly, and yet your athletes were still getting to the top but had glaring weaknesses, would you change your teaching methods?

      5) Answer truthfully, what exercises do you ask your athletes to perform to strengthen their feet in your training programs?

      6) Do any of your exercise cues take away the use of a part of the body that will be used in performance of the sport the athlete plays.

      7) If you tell an athlete to squat 500 lbs with weight on his heels, what happens when he starts to sprint and must now try to run on the balls of his feet? How much did the cue help him? And how much did it hurt him?

      8) Is the squat a push or a pull? I’ll answer this one for you…When it is done with efficient recruitment of muscles in all planes… A Squat is BOTH!!! A push and a pull! as both linear and rotational forces are at work. And you can’t see this in a video.

      Instead of attacking me with adjectives and emotion you might want to use logic not opinion. Because everybody has an opinion about how to train an athlete. My focus is on developing the body from the ground up. I don’t help athletes squat the most weight they can squat or run the fastest 40 times. However, if we improve athletes from the ground up, shouldn’t we see healthier and stronger athletes?

      I’m obviously logical not emotional so, I ask you to use logic not emotion. I have zero emotion tied to anyone else’s research. I appreciate the articles, because they actually support my position. But the bottom line is this….

      Our athletes are lifting heavier weights and yet we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of injuries accross the board. In the 1980’s and 1990’s we saw a limited number of ACL injuries to high profile athletes, now, its common place. Why is that a true statement? What factors are contributing? What has changed? The biggest contributing factor…technique is no longer important. Oh many trainers and strength coaches say it is the most important thing but if you watch their training or coaching sessions, the emphasis is on just doing the exercises, not doing them correctly. The world calls an exercise functional and all of a sudden technique doesn’t matter. Just look at the most popular exercise videos and slogan. Just Do It! and P90X is the most popular training program on the planet? Oh sure some people are losing weight and they are getting more active, but they are are getting more hurt.

      I aim to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem. What side are you on?

      • Gabe
        Posted at 06:49h, 16 February

        Whew! That was a long comment! You are correct, I apologize for not being diplomatic in my argument.

        As for the research, you asked what data I had that proved squats/deadlifts/split squats, etc worked the posterior chain! I provided that.

        1)Technique is an incredible component in my programs. I have a video on my website for all to see (oaathlete.com) and i am proud of my athletes form and technique.

        2)My goal in working with athletes is to increase sports performance. I do not care about how much weight is on the bar.

        3) As for the video I am realizing you simply believe “push through the heels is overused and, correct me if i am wrong but you just believe in a feet firmly planted on the ground cue…NOT a balls of your feet position. Is that right? If so i do agree with that and don’t need a video. I simply felt like you were attacking that way to squat and wanted to see what you do better.

        4) which is a continuation of this point. Absolutely i would change. I learn new things and research all the time. I would be a terrible coach of i did not constantly improve and search for a better understand of the body and performance.

        5) i believe that teaching sprinting and jumping are a very important part of foot strength. On top of that we perform pogo jumps, ankle rockers, dorsidlexion exercises, and toe scrunches as well. What would you also recommend?

        6) Absolutely not. As for the push through the heels cue in the squat, some of the cues i use are “weight back on your heels”, or hips back, as many new athletes learning to squat have an anterior/posterior imbalance. Further, i really don’t agree with your theory that people squat well and then have it ruined by a coach. I agree there are many terrible “trainers” out there, but i also know from experience that the majority of the population-men, women, athletes, and non athletes have a few deficiencies when they first learn to squat and it looks nothing like it did as a baby-tight hip flexors, caving knees, excessive forward lean, rounded back, knees too far forward etc and need to be re programmed! Do you not agree with that? Weight back on the heels cue has helped me with correcting some of those issues.

        7) i see what you’re getting at here and i disagree strongly. If i tell an athlete to squat through his heels and then he goes to sprint, he will sprint properly. An athlete may squat for what? 10 minutes a week total? Maybe less. He will sprint MUCH more than that. Sports practices, conditioning, agility work, etc. So will that 10 minutes completely throw off his running mechanics? I don’t believe so. Furthermore, i find that is a well known fact than many sprint coaches incorporate forms of either the squat, deadlift, or both in their programming. If squatting ruined that, they wouldn’t.

        Finally, i respect and agree with your opinion of “harder and faster isn’t better” p90x is the worst and id love to see a injury study done on it. Further, i agree that proper technique is the most important aspect. It is sad to see some of the clean technique college weight rooms use (look on YouTube sometime…bad!). I was blessed to be a part of a great college strength and conditioning program and learned a lot from my mentor who was very big on proper technique.
        I believe athletes are injured more now because we are stronger and faster! I do not havr research other than what i havr seen and heard but most pro and collegiate football acl injuries are contact …like Adrian petersons was! That is unavoidable no matter how strong or healthy you are. In the high school area though, many are non-contact and that is a big issue that needs to be corrected by doctors/athletic trainers/coaches alike.

        Thank you Zig, i have appreciated this debate and look forward to hearing what you would recommend

  • Bruce Pang
    Posted at 07:27h, 21 June

    Dear Zig, thank you for this awesome article!
    It was informative and strongly supported but solid research which can give me confidence especially nowadays when inaccurate information can mislead people who are not experts. The delivery was also great as I know nothing about Kinesiology but could still understand the essentials of this article.

  • coach Rivard
    Posted at 21:11h, 16 December

    Hi Zig, I really appreciate when people dare to question unquestioned facts, so thank you!

    I always wondered why we squat through heels when every sports require acceleration (with NO heels on ground).
    I’ve been doing single-leg squat on a box for a while and I’ve recently tried to push with my weight on midfoot and heel off the box.
    I found it to be the best way to squat adequately without thinking too much about it. It also permits me to add heel raise on top of the movement.
    I use dumbbells as counterbalance to make sure weight isn’t too far in front.

    What are your thoughts about that?
    thank you in advance!

  • t
    Posted at 08:08h, 16 May

    So I am not a blogger at all. However, in my efforts to correct my many flexibility faults and slight APT coupled with knee pain and lower back pain I have been on a quest. My background is military and collegiate athletics and I am speaking on the basis of my personal experiences. I enjoy all aspects of physical fitness to include Olympic lifting. I am now extremely interested in the squat for weightlifting purposes as well as everyday function. I came across some websites that involve Chinese weightlifters and their opinions on lifts such as the snatch and clean and jerk I relation to the squat portion. I actually asked prior to finding your sight as to where they felt most of the weight being loaded (I think an interesting test would be to have pressure sensors in the shoes or the floor to see where in fact the weight is being displaced on something like the snatch or clean and jerk by a professional). Received no response yet. Another website I found discussed the heel height of Chinese lifters and stated they are higher than most. So based off the higher heel height and their technique of keeping hips level and straight back I can only assume they are actually driving with the ball of the foot and the heel size (much like the Arnold picture you have) is only a means of stability. So my experience thus far; I have recently started squatting with the weight on my Forefoot to include Olympic lifts with no Olympic shoes with light weight to get a feel for it. I am not using weightlifting shoes in an attempt to disprove that even wearing weight lifting shoes you still are driving with heels. I no longer initiate the squat movement with moving the hips backwards (I believe this to contribute to my back problems and APT and hip impingement) and simply keep my torso upright and bend at knees. Move looks similar to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V9MvP1nxOs. Only my heels do come off ground. What I have noticed so far; I feel way more powerful with no joint no back pain and most ironically no more lateral knee pain. I feel the moment I think fore foot all appropriate stabilizers are engaged and I can squat freely. Many others cues I have seen lately along with heels is keeps knees out. Tried this and for me caused lateral nee pain . What I noticed in addition to your diagram of standing of the person stand on the bar is that if you place your weight on your heels and squat or even been the knee you have to force the knee to track of the foot. Place your weight on your Forefoot and been the knee, there is no work as the naturally tracks over the foot as it was designed. Is almost impossible to have internal rotation od the ankle which can lead to nee problems. Anyways The pain in my knee had been steady for several months until now. My knees actual feel awesome. In reference to your point of driving with heels I have avoided this and drive off the ball of my foot. I also apply this to supplementary lifts such as lunges. What I am noticing is my left hip (anterior rotated with slight impingement is becoming unimpinged and posteriorly rotated when I make the simple “cue” of driving with the ball of my foot. I can not contribute it all to this as previously mentioned I am on quest to fix my problems. It may seem as if my body is all jacked up but I am actually in great shape. I can speak on the basis of the one who has experienced problems of what has and has not worked. I have 14 years of conditioning and strength training and 10 in the military. I have been the guinea pig. I fully understand that an individual is in fact that and must be treated as such. There is no mass solution to everyone problems. I take my experiences coupled with others knowledge an apply what works best. I love learning and trying new things and like the many points you bring up.

  • t
    Posted at 08:32h, 16 May

    Just an additional thought. Once again each individual wild be difference and I am talking from personal
    experience. I didn’t mention in my earlier post that I can squat with keeping my heels flat and get into the idea commercial squat positition. However as mentioned I am starting to find better alternatives for me. To your point of teaching others as I am not a coach but have had several, I think the first problem could be not only the” cue” drive with your heels but the “cue” keep your feet flat. Many instructors teach fro the beginning keep your heels flat. Without proper ankle flexibility and too much emphasis on keeping your heels flat outs the person from the start in and improper unhealthy position. I believe (personal opinion once again that it may help to allow the person. From the start to let their heels come up and let gravity work from there. If one squats in their Forefoot enough they will eventually develop flexibility in their ankle to have theirs heels naturally on the ground in the ground in the correct position rater than heels flat bad position. Once again I can squat flat back heels on ground but after squatting mire on the Forefoot it feels more powerful and healthier. Wondering what your thought are? thanks in advance

  • t
    Posted at 08:35h, 16 May

    Apologies for an awful job of spell checking. I posted that on the fly. Please let me know if you need help deciphering. Thank you

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