Passive vs. Active Foot For Squatting Performance

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There’s a lot to think about and that can (potentially) go wrong when you have a barbell on your back.

Photo Credit: Elitefts.com (Julia Ladewski)

Is it better to high-bar squat or low-bar squat?

Big air!

Are my lats engaged? Where are my elbows positioned?

Head position?

On the descent is it hips back or knees forward? (Hint: it’s both).

Are my knees out? Too far out? Or are they caving in?

What about out of the hole: am I maintaining tension, is my core braced, am I leaning too far forward?

Am I getting my hips through at the top?

Shit, did I forget to turn my stove off before I left my apartment?

Goddammit, I totally forgot to pack my protein shake. I’m totally going to lose all my gainz after this workout.

Last episode of The Walking Dead was amazeballs.

Did I get deep enough on that set?

Basically, Squatting Can Be a Mindf*** of Epic Proportions.

What works for one person, may be a disaster for someone else….and there really is no such thing as one right way to squat. Different people are different. Anthropometry, leverages, training goals, and injury history will have an effect on how one person squats compared to the next.

That said: you should pay close(r) attention to detail when squatting. Far too often I see people approach the bar with a nonchalant attitude with nonchalant technique, and not surprisingly they have nonchalant numbers to show for it.

If gym goers put as much effort into improving their squat technique as they did perfecting their “selfie” taking in the locker room or trolling fitness message boards to argue macros we’d probably have many more stronger, leaner, and happier people.

And less douchebags.

However, even for those who consider themselves more of a connoisseur there’s one component to squatting that’s often overlooked or dismissed altogether. And I’d argue it’s one of the most important.

Tripod Stance.

…….or recognizing the difference between a passive foot and active foot.

This is something I “stole” from Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training a few weekends ago while attending his powerlifting workshop here in Boston.

I’ve always known about tripod stance, and have always incorporated it into how I coach squats with my athletes and clients. However, I never heard the idea described in the same fashion as how Chad described it. And that’s what I wanted to share today.

Passive vs. Active Foot

A Few Things to Consider

1. I’d recommend taking your shoes off to really get a “feel” for what’s described in the video. There’s really no other way to get a firmer grasp of the concept and to get the tactile/proprioceptive feedback than to take those cement blocks you call shoes off.

And yes, this means you too psycho minimalist, I-read-Born-to-Run-and-wear-my-Vibrams-everywhere-I-go-and-make-sure-to-tell-everyone-about-it guy.

2. I look, like, way more intelligent when I wear my glasses.

3. Don’t misinterpret my mentioning of “knees out” when cueing the squat. Telling someone to push their knees out is one thing (and correct), but it’s another thing altogether to tell them to push out so far that they end up on the outer edges of their feet.

4. Practice barefoot with bodyweight only. From there you can put your shoes on and try to get the same pressure points, and then add the barbell.

5. As noted in the video, with an ACTIVE foot you’ll probably notice you won’t be able to squat as deep, and that’s okay. You won’t go to hell. I promise.

6. It isn’t enough to just get the pressure points. Really focus on “corkscrewing” your feet into the ground (and gaining external torque in the hips to improve stability)….this is the final step in gaining the active foot.6

7. It’s amazing how many people who swear they have flat feet and have been told their entire life that orthotics are the only answer who are still able to get an arch and maintain an “active foot” with some practice.

Give it a try today. It will feel weird. It will effect how much weight you can use (at the start). But I promise with a little practice it will make a profound difference in the long run.

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