Here’s a question for you: when you hear core training, what words come to mind?
- Injury prevention
I’m sure there are some aesthetic ones too but aesthetics are harder to maintain when exercise hurts so… Let’s focus on keeping you healthy and pain-free. The rest flows from there.
Strength typically radiates from the centre outwards
The above is one of my favourite images. It’s from Tommy Kono—a Japanese-American weightlifting legend—with 26 world and 7 Olympic records—among other tremendous contributions.
Why is the core so important?
What did Kono understand more deeply than his competition? That you can’t build a house on a shaky foundation. Or, in more Canadian terms, you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe. If you are trying to efficiently transfer force from one place to another, structure is non-negotiable. Imagine trying to sprint at top-speed with a loosey-goosey core. Or trying to jump to maximum height from a slumped-over position. Without the requisite stiffness, you wind up leaking energy all over the place.
Your other core
So, if structure and efficient transfer of energy are important, where else should we look? Where the rubber (or the foot) meets the road. Your feet are the conduit between your core and the ground. All that core efficiency may be for nought if you wind up leaking it with every stride or push-off. Go back and read that stuff at the beginning of this email. All of the same language applies. Fancy shoes won’t save you and insoles are largely just a racket. If you want performance, you need to train your feet—as you would any other part of your body. That begins with posture.
What is good posture?
Funny you should ask. Posture is not a fixed thing. It is dynamic in nature. Fluid. Responsive to the environment—and the demands within it. When angles, demands, or intentions change, so does posture. So, if posture is one predictable thing, it’s a default setting. Unless a tennis player has a good reason, their racket is not behind them or upside down. Unless a boxer has a good reason, their hands are not hanging limply or inside their shorts. Unless you have a good reason, your spine is long, your breathing is deep, and your upper traps and hip flexors are fairly quiet.
Want booty gains? Get footy gains
Most of the halfway worthwhile you see around training glutes assumes efficient energy transfer from the feet. Gaining muscle means consistent mechanical stresses. Energy leakages through the feet will hamper your ability to create these stresses. So, if the feet are loosey-goosey, your booty won’t be juicy. It’s just physics; don’t be mad. Training the feet is non-negotiable if the glutes are a priority.
What is good foot posture?
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, actually. If you can’t feel what you’re doing, you can’t reliably change things. Sensory acuity is key. It is a trainable skill and very much needs to be integrated into any kind of meaningful physical practice. You have to be able to feel what you’re doing. Start there.
Where do we go from here?
- Set a posture and challenge it without breaking it. If that means less weight, so be it.
- The muscles in your feet are still muscles. Train them accordingly. Sets. Reps. Rest periods.
- Don’t compromise on position. If you can stand with a good arch and 20 lbs of weight on your back but not 30 lb, proceed accordingly.
- Insoles can be used for a change in sensory input. Novelty, in other words. That’s their primary value. It diminishes rapidly.
- Boxers don’t spend three years on punching and defense and then learn to keep their hands up. Posture needs to be integrated into whatever you’re doing. Even when it’s as seemingly simple as your foot (or spine) positioning.
- Work (gradually) toward ditching and/or minimizing shoes during workouts. Especially if you’re working out at home (or at a place like ours). The sensory input you receive from your feet will help you make faster, better, more nuanced decisions about positioning.