A Simple Movement & Posture Fix: Start With Your Feet

Are you using your feet right? Can you ignite the back side of your body when you stand, lift, or move?
 

Chances are, the answer is no.

I don’t blame you for this. Fitness culture is obsessed with the front side of the body: how it looks, how it moves, how to engage this or that big muscle. It’s the same in Pilates where the core/Powerhouse is oftentimes the central focus of every exercise.

Yet if I could offer one simple fix for your movement and posture it’s this: Start paying attention to your feet.

The foot is a beautiful, wonderful thing in human function and movement. It also happens to be the most forgotten part of the body in fitness! But if we could pause to consider how our feet play a role in daily movement and functionality, we’d realize how much we’re missing when we neglect the feet. 

Foot Fetish?

I promise you, I don’t have a foot fetish. But I do have basic knowledge that I deem pretty effing important:

  • There are over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot, suppressed by our constant use of socks and shoes
  • There are 26 bones and 33 joints in the foot. It’s no wonder that there is a an entire specialized medical track for the feet! They are in their own category!
  • There are over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot. Holy sh*tballs!
Not too long ago, I attended a workshop with Pilates master trainer Dana Santi where we focused exclusively on how our feet can dictate how we use our muscles on the apparatus. It was fascinating to see how the attention to this one minor detail could dramatically transform how an exercise felt in our bodies!

The Posture Drill – Do this now!

The foot, my friends, is the gateway drug to the other muscles and joints of our body. What happens in your feet travels right up the kinetic chain, affecting your knees, hips, trunk, shoulders and neck. So when we experience pain of some sort, or we struggle to activate a muscle group, I can usually see an issue occuring along the feet (Side note: I’m not a medical doctor or PT, and I’m not saying all pain or problems stem from our feet. What I am saying is…our feet can tell you a lot about what else is happening in the body).

The 7-Step Posture Drill

Here’s a lesson I’ve been drilling with my Pilates and strength training clients:
  • Stand up in your most natural stance. Notice where the weight of your body is in relation to the feet & ground
  • Put 50% of your bodyweight towards the heel and other 50% on the toes
  • Spread the toes. Lift the arch of your foot toward your shins
  • Lift your hamstring up to your glutes
  • Flex your triceps like you’re pressing up against a wall
  • Lift your back to your head
  • Lift your neck to your head, and your head to the ceiling

In this posture, you have a true (and unrealistic) posture: Tall, upright, and at attention. You are also equally distributed front and back so that all the muscles on both sides are “on”. Now take that feeling of 50% of the foot being in the backside of the body and it apply it to the exercise you do on the apparatus or in the weight room. Here are some examples:

In lifting:

  • Barbell squat: Spread the toes and lift the arches. Put 50% of your weight in the back of the foot. Lower down and press the floor away with that 50% and feel how the backside of the body comes alive during the movement
  • Strict press: Ground yourself with that 50/50% weight distribution. Lift the hamstrings to the glutes and wrap the core and ribcage in. Do all this before you lift…feel how secure and grounded you are because you took the time to turn on the backside of the body in what is traditionally an upper body lift
In Pilates:
  • Feet in straps: With the strap at the center of the foot, curl your toes up and forward and send 50% of your heels under the strap. Push down into the arms and lift the head from your body the way you did standing up
  • Stomach Massage: As you press the carraige away, you push into all ten toes. You pull back in with the 50% of the weight in the heel, lifting the hamstring to the glute. Now you not only get the “stomach massage” of the exercise, you fully integrate the backside of the body in an exercise that is traditionally focused on the front side of the body

Go ahead…try the drill. Stand firmly and feel yourself grounded. Then apply that directly into your workout.

When you're equally distributed front and back, all the muscles on both sides of the body are on and engaged.
When I’ve offered this drill with my clients at the start of a strength workout or Pilates session, I immediately bring them to “think with their feet” because the backside of the body (Posterior chain), is just as vital as the front side of the body. In Pilates in particular, everything is about the core/Powerhouse. We move, think, breathe, and act from this command center at all times.
But the backside of the body – the secondary Powerhouse – needs it own attention. By integrating the feet and honing in on the extra 50% into the heels, we can ignite the muscles of the posterior chain to improve our overall movement and strength.
The backside of the body is the secondary Pilates Powerhouse. It needs its own attention to improve posture, the quality of movement, and strength.

Next time you lift or get on your mat, do this Posture drill. Put the shoes aside and think with your feet. Put that into every exercise you do and feel how different – more powerful, more grounded, and stronger – each exercise feels.

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