How to Strengthen Your Feet for Barefoot Running
Sue Falsone July 5, 2011
Advocates of barefoot running argue it’s the way evolution wants us to run—and they’re right. However, this ignores the fact that we spend the majority of our lives locked into regular shoes. Rarely do we go barefoot anywhere.
Before you start running in your new barefoot running shoes or minimalist shoes, let your feet adjust by wearing them to the store, the office, and around the house. Next, work on building strength in the tiny muscles on the bottom of your feet, also known as your foot intrinsic muscles. Here’s how:
- Short Foot: From a seated position with your shoes off, cup the bottom of one foot—without curling your toes—so that it makes a ‘cave.’ Cup your hand against a flat surface to use as a reference. Once you’ve got this down, the next steps in the progression are maintaining this foot position while standing, while performing a lunge, and eventually while balancing on one foot.
- Toe Spreading: Sit barefoot. With one foot at a time, spread your toes apart as best you can, hold for two counts and release. Think of it not as creating a claw with your foot, but rather as trying to move your toes independently from each other.
When you’re ready to hit the road in your barefoot shoes, start with a half-mile run and work up to your regular distance over a two-week period. After you run, take a tennis ball or golf ball and roll it back and forth along the arch of your foot, focusing on sore spots. Do this for 30–60 seconds per foot to ease soreness and improve your barefoot running. To see how it’s done,watch this video.
About The Author
Sue Falsone – As the Vice President of Performance Physical Therapy and Team Sports, Sue Falsone provides the critical link between therapy and performance. She develops and implements therapy regimens for athletes at Athletes’ Performance.
Marc Digesti is certified as a USA weightlifting sports performance coach. Digesti’s professional experience in the performance field includes serving as head strength coach for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, a performance specialist for numerous top training facilities, and trainer to pro NBA and NHL athletes. In January 2010, he founded PerformancEDU with the goal of merging performance and education.
Think your core is MMA-ready? Give trainer Doug Balzarini’s 8 MMA midsection exercises a try to find out.
The “core”, “trunk”, “torso”, “belly”, “stomach”, “abs”, “6-pack”… The terminology alone confuses me. It would seem, somewhere along the way, the definition of one’s core has gotten lost in translation. I cringe every time I hear someone say it’s, “time to blast the core,” only to then lay on the floor and begin crunching away for 5 minutes to get that good burn. Which is to say, we need to better understand what the core really is, and how best to train it.
One term for the core I actually do like is the “transfer station” for the body. EMG studies show that muscle activation begins from the ground up, so when we are curl, push, or press something with our upper body, we generate our movement from the bottom and transfer it up to the moving parts. One great example of this is when we throw a punch, as we begin to generate that power from the ground all the way up to our fist. A couple studies that support this include; 1) Dyson, Smith, Martin, Fenn. (2007). Muscular Recruitment During Punches Delivered At Maximal Force & Speed. XXV ISBS Symposium 2007, Brazil, 591-594. 2) Valentino, B., Esposito, L.C., Fabrozzo, A. (1990). Electromyographic activity of a muscular group in movements specific to boxing. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 30, 160-2.
Frankly, to me, the core is - any muscles and structures that support and stabilize the pelvis, spine, and shoulders. It’s everything but our limbs some people like to say. I’d have to refer back to my A&P textbooks to confirm it, but I’m fairly certain then that this involves more than just our rectus abdominis. It’s this definition that makes exercises like squats, deadlifts, tire flips, pushups and pull-ups all excellent “core” movements in my book. It’s also this definition that makes lying down and pulling on the back of your head to facilitate cervical and thoracic flexion not my idea of healthy “core” work.
Most of us sit for 8+ hours a day. Our hip flexors, pecs, and anterior shoulder muscles are tight, and our gluteals inactive. If our scapulae are stuck in protraction, why then would we have them come in to our facility and sit them, or lay them, down?! We’re, in the long run, doing more harm than good. I like to refer back to one of my favorite exercise-related questions, “Why?” Why are we performing a particular exercise? You should be able to defend, or explain, every exercise you do.
To Move or Not To Move
While we train most muscles to move and accelerate, we should train our core musculature to decelerate, control, and transfer movements. They work to prevent motion and provide the solid foundation needed for safe, effective movement.
Midsection Moves for MMA
Your core is especially important in MMA. Having mobile hips and a strong, stable, and efficient core leads to better footwork, stronger takedowns and takedown defense, and increased power in all of your striking. Now, while I’ve made it no secret that I’m not an advocate of crunching movements, MMA athletes are a different breed. If we are being sport-specific and training them functionally for their craft, one could then make a case that we should be performing various crunching movements. For this particular article, however, I’ll keep it a “crunch-free” zone.
My Current Top 8 - I say “current” because I’m always trying new movements and changing the list up.
1. Seal Walks
This is a great “anti-rotation” movement because our goal is to minimize the rotation of the pelvis as we move. Keep your abdominals braced and be sure to not lock out your elbows as you move.
2. Valslide Hip Circles
This is a variation of the popular abdominal knee tuck that we commonly do with the Valslides or TRX. The primary difference is the abduction and adduction component of the hips. This is great for opening up the groins and an important movement for combat athletes who want to improve their flexibility for their ground game.
3. Stability Ball “Stir The Pots”
This is a great progression from the traditional plank. By adding an unstable tool, such as the stability ball, we easily increase the intensity.
4. TRX Body-Saw with Knees
From the plank position with your feet in the cradles, initiate the movement from your torso and shoulders by pushing your body back (think heels toward the back wall). As you come forward drive one knee towards the same side elbow.
5. TRX Hi Plank w/Stops & Perturbations
These are two variations I like that both begin in the pushup, or hi plank, position. For the perturbations, have a training partner push your feet in various directions while you try to resist. For the stops, you will perform pendulum swings and your partner will cue you to stop moving at random times.
6. Sandbag Get-ups
The traditional get up, which I also love, is typically performed with a kettlebell and an extended arm. Two reasons I choose to show the sandbag version are 1) it’s slightly easier to teach and 2) I like having the heavy sandbag laying across the chest to challenge breathing patterns.
7. Standing Tornado Ball Figure 8’s
This movement is great for developing rotational power through the thoracic spine. Try to minimize the movement of the hips and really focus on keeping your abdominals braced and your shoulders rotating.
8. Hanging Wipers
This is one of my favorite midsection movements. Like I mentioned in the clip, perform this in a controlled manner and don’t feel you need to go too far from side to side. Once you are you hanging from the bar, swing your legs up so you are inverted with your ankles, knees, and hips are in a straight line, perpendicular to the ground. From here, let the legs fall from side to side controlling the speed and movement from your obliques, erectors, and abs.
Please give these a try and let me know what you think. I encourage feedback and would love to try any crunch-free abdominal exercises that you’ve had success with.
About the Author
Doug currently works at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE). He is also the strength coach for Alliance MMA in Chula Vista, CA. He earned a B.S. in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management from Westfield State University and completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU. Certifications and specialties include the ACE Personal Trainer Certification, NSCA-CSCS Certification, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, Spinning certification, FMS training, and CPR/AED instructor status. He has appeared in multiple fitness videos, manuals and magazines; produced his own 2-DVD Set on strength & conditioning for combat athletes, completed a MMA Conditioning Coach certification program, and has competed in multiple grappling tournaments.
Great article from a prior athlete of mine and friend, Jessi Stensland.
Posted in training on June 04, 2011
Athletes must move. How efficiently and how powerfully one moves is often the difference between being injured and being injury-free; winning and losing; thriving or surviving in sport and in life.
“Movement preparation, as the term implies, prepares your body to move,” explains Core Performance in “The Beginners Guide to Movement Prep.”
Movement preparation may still be a long way off from being as commonly referred to as the terms sleep, nutrition or recovery when it comes to maximizing endurance performance; however, this relatively new kid on the block is bound to become popular as the necessity for time-efficiency and precision in endurance performance continues to rise. It certainly packs both punches.
Movement prep is a dynamic, fun, efficient way to prepare your body to handle the demands of your sport. It involves activating, elongating and coordinating your muscles and your movements prior to a sport-specific effort.
Think of movement prep two ways: pre-season and pre-workout.
I. PRE-SEASON MOVEMENT PREP
Movement prep is a fantastic complement to the base phase of a complete training program. It is ever-important to prepare your body to handle the demands of your sport in advance of your training and racing season. Taking some time during the pre-season with a specific focus on improving your joint mobility, flexibility, stability and strength off-the-bike is a time efficient way to make long-lasting performance gains that can be maintained with minimal effort all season long.
Take one Pro Tour cycling team, for example. During a two-week pre-season training camp, Darcy Norman, PT, ATC and performance specialist, took riders through basic movement preparation exercises daily. By the end of the camp a number of riders were able to get into positions on their bike that they previously had to spend the first few months of the season “riding into.” Quite a huge selling point for a rider of any level. Who wouldn’t want to be riding in a comfortable, more efficient position as quickly as possible?
II. PRE-RIDE MOVEMENT PREP
Movement prep has been more commonly referred to this way, implemented in small daily doses, whether as a pre-ride dynamic warm-up or even as its own workout in order to maintain or continually improve one’s movement efficiency throughout the season, always with the goal of maximizing injury resistance and power output.
When thinking about designing your own personal pre-ride movement prep, take the following into consideration:
Riding comfortably and efficiently requires the following…
1. Good posture on the bike
2. Core strength and stability
3. Mobility and stability of the hips, knees and ankles.
4. Leg strength. Key muscles include: glutes, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings.
5. Coordination. For efficient, total body energy transfer into the pedals.
If we consider these the basic requirements of cycling performance, we must also take into consideration the extremes, like sprinting to make a move, bridge a gap or avoiding obstacles on the road, including cars. The ability to react quickly, with precision, coordination and power is paramount. You must prepare your body for the extremes, the worst-case scenarios you may encounter. Therefore maximizing the mind-body connection (the central nervous system) and the elasticity of the muscles are also key elements to powerful cycling performance.
A proper movement preparation routine will challenge all of the elements mentioned above. The good news? Movement prep can be done in as little as 5 minutes thanks to a number of dynamic movements that challenge them all at once, just as you are required to in your sport. Got more time? Spend more time. Up to 30 minutes or more does a body good.
Below is one example of a 5 minute pre-ride movement preparation routine:
1. For good posture and core strength: be tall. Think about your posture. If driving to the ride, sit up tall in your car on the way. Logically, the more you do this throughout the day the better, but certainly make it a part of your movement prep.
2. For joint mobility: do self-massage. Take a 1-2 minutes to massage particularly tight areas. Use a foam roller like the TP Therapy GRID or a ball like the TP Massage Ball. Areas such as the upper back, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves are all great spots to hit pre-ride. Choose the spot(s) on your body can use the most work. Even just 30 seconds on an area can help loosen up a muscle and help increase the mobility of a nearby joint.
3. For core stability, joint mobility and stability and muscular strength: do dynamic movements that challenge them all at once. Choose 2-3 of your favorites from those listed below. Do 5-10 repetitions of each. Mix it up from day to day or stick with the few that you know work for you. The more you do them, the more they’ll become habit and the easier you’ll be able to knock them out while maintaining a conversation with your riding buddies while they’re just standing around pre-ride. Click on the name of the movement to see a video at http://www.coreperformance.com. These are just a few. You can find additional options here.
a. Mini-band Bent Knee Lateral Walks
b. Mini-band Squats
c. Single Leg Glute Bridge
d. Knee Hug + Forward Lunge
e. Inverted Hamstring Stretch
f. Lateral lunge
4. For elasticity and increased reaction time: hop, skip or jump. Chose at least one and do 5-10 reps of each.
a. Pillar skipping
b. Squat jumps
c. Box blasts
Finally, think of movement prep as putting pennies in the bank. A little bit, consistently, over time, goes a long way.
Jessi attributes her desire to race at an elite level and her ability to do so injury-free to the team at Athletes’ Performance and the Core Performance program. An understanding of body awareness, being athletic, and how to integrate all elements of performance into life is a message that Jessi is committed to passing along. Jessi is the owner and founder of MovementU. MOVEMENTU provides hands on, interactive experiences designed to enhance the understanding of how to increase INJURY RESISTANCE + POWER through body awareness and efficient movement as it relates to life and your specific sport. To see if MovementU is coming to an area near you, visit movementu.com.
Join our All-Star line-up of world-class, professional women athletes and 100 other competitive and recreational participants in the sports of mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and running for the first all-women’s sport camp. We’ll gather together at Northstar-At-Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, California for over 3 days of clinics, group rides, group runs and good times. All Distances Offered! All Levels Welcome! Space is limited to 100 women~ Register TODAY! Check out the website HERE.
PerformancEDU is very excited to announce the collaboration with Stack Magazine on assisting them in the growth of the Ski Specific content of their website. We will be writing blogs pertaining to philosophy, programing, periodization, and relating ski specific movements on the hill pertaining to the training floor.
First entry is coming soon, STAY TUNED!
Marc Digesti USAW | Founder of PerformancEDU
- Develops camaraderie and a strong support system
- Positive reinforcement and motivation, especially if your having an “off” day
- Instills friendly competition
- Improves confidence and self-esteem
- Prompts you to push yourself even more to “keep up” with the team
I have the great pleasure of introducing Taylor Donovan to PerformancEDU followers, a chiropractor at Meridian in Reno, Nevada. Taylor and I’s philosophy are very similar and it was a “no brainer” when it came to the referrel transitions. PerformancEDU would like to thank Taylor Donovan for finding the trust in our Philosophy. We are very excited to deliver the healing and recovery process here at PerformancEDU to the already existing movement and nutrition areas.
Here is Taylor Donovan:
Marc Digesti USAW
Founder of PerformancEDU
As Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) continues to grow in popularity, so do the methods and techniques used to help the MMA athletes reach their full potential. Coaches are realizing that their athletes must have a complete well-rounded program that covers not only their specialty; but many other aspects as well. Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are working on their stand-up game and Muay Thai fighters and kick-boxers are working on their ground and pound. The latest “piece of the puzzle,”also known as strength training, is another aspect that more and more coaches are implementing into their programs. Strength training is a great way to “lay that foundation” and help an athlete develop superior strength and power endurance. While I enjoy developing traditional strength training programs, I have to say my favorite piece is the metabolic circuits we do with our fighters. I experiment with all sorts of movements and equipment when putting these circuits together to see what works best. Some equipment is dropped, some is used sparingly, and then there are some foundational pieces that you ‘ll always find. Of those staple items, here are the five “must haves” to include in your metabolic circuit.
1. The Tire
There really isn’t an athlete out there that can’t benefit from incorporating the tire into their training program. Obviously, every client and every athlete is unique and has their own specific set of goals and ambitions; however, the tire is such a versatile tool that it can be incorporated into most programs.
The tire can be used for a number of different movements; jumps, step ups, and drags for the lower body. There’s also pushups, partner pushes, and sledgehammer hits for the upper body. For the purpose of this article, I’ll discuss the most popular exercise with the tire – the tire flip. I love this exercise for combat athletes because it combines total body strength, endurance, power and flexibility. These are all extremely important aspects in a MMA match. If you’re deficient in one of these areas, then your weakness could be exposed which could be the difference between a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, or a visit from the medic with the smelling salts.
I also love that it incorporates grip strength, triple extension through the hip, knee, and ankle, and tremendous glute/hip drive, which is one of the most important joints to train for a combat athlete; especially if the fight goes to the mat where strong mobile hips are paramount.
A tire flip is not a deadlift. There are some similarities, however, it needs to be executed a certain way so the benefits are maximized and the risk of injury is reduced. First, squat down next to the tire and get into a four-point stance. Lean your chest and shoulders into the tire, keep your arms wide. Your back should not be arched at all, and your butt should be down. Begin the lift by using your hips to drive into the tire and push up at a 45 degree angle. This is very important as most athletes attempt to lift straight up with their arms. The 45 degree angle is important for safety and allows the athlete to get into triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip. As the tire approaches shoulder height, you need to transition your body into a “clean position” to catch the tire and then drive it forward like a standing chest press. Allow the tire to fall to its side and then repeat.
You could easily perform a challenging, effective, whole-body workout with just bands. This tool is very versatile and very simple. They range in thickness from 0.5 inches to 2.5 inches. The thicker the band, the harder the exercise will be. All of your common exercises can be done with bands from bicep curls and tricep pressdowns to resisted squats and deadlifts. For the purposes of the MMA athlete, I enjoy using them for explosive hip movements (squat and high pull), powerful pulling movements (one-arm row and rotations), torso rotation work, and resistance runs/jumps.
The prowler is possibly the best tool for developing leg drive, power and endurance. These are critical for pinning and controlling your opponent up against the cage, or if you’re in the clinch and battling for superior position at any point during the match. The beauty of the prowler is that it’s not just a “leg machine,” it’ll develop strength and power up into your hips, torso and upper body.
For the traditional pushing movement using the high handles, simply grab the posts, get in a nice forward lean, get your hips down and drive hard. Some variations include using the low handle – if you’re up to the test. Also, extended arms vs. bent arms will change up the arm and shoulder stabilization challenge.
Our distance traveled will be determined by what we’re using the prowler for on a particular day; longer, slightly slower pushes if used in a metabolic circuit or all-out-I-can-hardly-walk prowler sprints if we’re using them as a “finisher” (think Tabata protocol). For pulling movements, we attach a TRX (link here) or sled straps and use the prowler as a sled.
Like the bands, medicine balls are another tool that could be used to perform a complete full-body workout. They incorporate speed, power and hand-eye coordination and come in all different sizes, weights and materials. Which weight and type of medicine ball we use will depend on the particular exercise being performed. Most people are familiar with the medicine ball push-ups and wood-chop variations. We like to use the balls for explosive release movements. Slams, throws, sprawls, etc., are all included in our medicine ball work.
Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with good old-fashioned body weight exercises. This is a sport of weight classes, so if you aren’t capable and sufficient in moving your body quickly, safely and efficiently, then you shouldn’t be adding weight to it. If you have poor body awareness and incorrect mechanics, then adding external load (dumbbells, bars, balls) will only further exacerbate the issue and lead to muscular imbalances and eventual injury. While the movements are not specific to the MMA athlete; everyone can benefit from bodyweight training. That being said, as long as you are healthy incorporate these five amazing tools into your training arsenal and you’ll be on your way to increased strength, power, performance, and most importantly, victories.
Doug Balzarini CSCS
High school athletes are typically most concerned with the performance measurements their sport values. Volleyball players want to increase vertical jump and football players usually want to decrease 40 times. These measurements are obviously very important. What athlete doesn’t want to run faster or jump higher? The problem I have with these types of specific questions is that there is no magic pill or drill that will achieve these goals. There are coaching cues and tips on a 40 start or 5-10-5 shuttle that may shave off precious tenths of a second and there are great pieces of equipment that can help increase a vertical jump. But the real answer to these questions lies in the movement patterns of the athlete. The majority of all high school athletes that come to my facility have inefficient movement patterns due to muscular imbalances in the body. If the athlete cannot move properly without showing signs of tight hip flexors, weak core, tight adductors, weak abductors, focusing on one movement or metric will not improve their performance. Athletes who want to jump higher and run faster must commit an extended period of time to consistent and well planned training that addresses overall imbalances, strengths and weaknesses.
The job of an experienced performance coach is to assess the athletes’ strengths and weaknesses and implement an exercise prescription that will enhance the performance of that athlete. What muscles are being used efficiently and what are being compromised? A properly aligned car gets better gas mileage. An athlete with efficient movement patterns can also perform better. When an athlete commits to spend an extended period of time under the watchful eye of a performance coach and that performance coach cleans up the imbalances in the musculature of the athlete and improves the athletes overall movement mechanics; only then will the athlete truly jump higher, run faster, and hit harder.
Jay Hebert, C.S.C.S. is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Performance Director at Velocity Sports Performance San Diego. He manages a staff of performance specialists that coach athletes from 8-18 yr olds as well as college and Professional athletes. Jay has coached dozens of NHL, NFL, MLB, PGA athletes including Super Bowl Champions, Stanley Cup Champions, Olympic Gold medalist as well as thousands of amateur athletes.