AFA Course Developer and Student Support Officer Chris Meggyesy takes us through why the traditional cue of ‘drive through your heels’ isn’t necessarily the correct way to cue your clients when performing a squat.
I’m sure you’ve seen this before. The trainer telling their client to drive up through their heels when they squat to engage their glutes. On the surface there isn’t anything wrong with this, the client gets to feel their glutes turn on a bit more, that’s what you want your squats to do right?
But what about the rest of your foot? What about your centre of gravity? What about good squat technique?
Good technique during a squat means that the lifters centre of gravity will remain over their midfoot. In a bodyweight squat, centre of gravity is usually the lifters belly button. In a barbell squat, it will be where the barbell is positioned. So, what’s going to happen if we’re trying to squat and we drive up through our heels? We’re going to inherently shift our weight backwards onto our heels and no longer over midfoot.
Shifting the centre of gravity posteriorly onto the heels is going to do two things. Firstly, it is going to make balancing more difficult, and with a loaded barbell this is going to lead to technique errors and just be dangerous in general. Secondly, it is going to lead to increased shear force at the knee, meaning a higher likelihood of experiencing knee pain.
Now that we know why this is a mistake, what’s the solution? Let me introduce you to the tripod foot cue.
When you’re setting up for a squat, bodyweight or loaded, you should ensure you have three points of contact with your feet, and your weight is evenly distributed between the three. These three points are the:
- First toe
- Fifth toe
- The heel
Ensuring that pressure is evenly distributed between these three points is going to help us maintain the centre of gravity over the midpoint of the foot (or as we now know, our tripod foot).
A good way to get a feel for this is stand in your usual squat stance with bare feet. Now think about putting even pressure between your big toe, little toe, and heel, and think about keeping your centre of gravity over midfoot. With your tripod now set, drive your knees out to the sides, keeping all three points in contact with the ground. This will create external rotation at the hips and engage the glutes, as well as creating a nice arch in your foot.
Once your arch is set, perform your squat, and imagine driving up through the entire foot with all three points making good contact to the ground.
Remember, the squat is not JUST a glute exercise, it’s an entire lower body exercise, and when performed with a barbell it’s a whole-body exercise. Don’t short change yourself, or your clients by getting them to take half of their foot out of the exercise.
If you’d like to take your knowledge of squatting to the next level, check out our brand new Advanced Squatting Techniques short course and gain 5 CEC points to put towards your registration with Fitness Australia!