One of the things we repeat over and over is that 90% of missed lifts are attributed to the feet. Your feet are your foundation and base of support. They contribute a TON to the success of your lifts.
One fundamental fault is overemphasis of the toes. In the finished position, we see lifters in "triple extension" which is extension of the hips, knees, and ankles. How the athlete gets there is important though. Many new lifters overemphasize pushing through the toes to get up onto their toes. Often what happens here is a premature shift of balance forward and/or less emphasis on driving with the legs.
Rather than trying to finish with a calf raise, push the ground down with your legs with your weight balanced on the full foot and squeeze your glutes at the top. By focusing on aggressive leg drive using using our big movers (glutes, hamstrings, quads) your feet will come off the floor naturally into that plantar flexed ankle position. The toes pointed down is an EFFECT not a CAUSE.
Drive through the full foot and drive with the legs, not your puny calves. 😝
In Part 1 we talked about leaving the calf raises to the bodybuilders. Calf raises are cool and all, but it’s not a priority for us as weightlifters. We get much more bang for the buck if we can drive through the legs and transmit power through a larger base of support, i.e. your full foot.
Here’s a simple drill that you can try to help train driving through the full foot instead of rolling into the toes.
Be careful with this. Rolled ankles aren’t fun either. You’ll need to slow down and be precise with your movements. Which is good in general. Remember, practice DOES NOT make PERFECT. Practice makes PERMANENT. PERFECT PRACTICE makes PERFECT.
Set up with your toes hanging off the edge of a platform. Start with empty hands and get a feel for dipping into the "down position” (bottom of the dip) and then driving with the legs into the finish, all while driving through the full foot. If you go too far into your toes, you will fall over. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can progress to doing the Burgener Warmup with a PVC pipe. You can then work your way up to an empty bar. Once you’re pretty confident there, go ahead and try high hang snatches or even snatches from the hang.
For weightlifters who tend to jump forward, this or a slight variation of the drill can be a good drill to practice. Set up with the toes at the edge of the platform. Again, start with light weight and practice driving through a full foot and sliding the feet out sideways into the landing/squat position.
Continuing on our topic of maximizing our leg drive by driving through the full foot, here’s another common fault we see with regard to footwork: being too far back in the HEELS.
This commonly happens as an athlete is transitioning the bar past the knees. Having been taught to “stay back”, the tendency for some lifters is to be too far back and losing balance about the foot. Rather than keeping the foot flat, too much weight ends up in the back of the foot and the toes float off the platform. This becomes problematic as the weight gets heavier. As the bar gets heavier, it tends to pull the lifter forward. If an athlete is too far back on the heels, there’s a good chance they will end up rolling forward into the toes prematurely. Now we are back where we started in parts 1 and 2 of this series where the athlete is too far into the toes.
To correct, focus on pressing the big toe into the ground and pushing the ground away with your full foot as you elevate the bar through the first and second pulls. Remember that the more contact we have with the floor (i.e. a full foot), the more potential we have to drive force into the floor.
Another potential solution to this imbalance in the feet is to do something similar to last week’s video. But rather than setting up with the toes hanging off the edge of the platform, set up with the heels hanging off the edge. Again, be careful here and start light until you become more proficient. Then slowly add weight.
Drive through the FULL Foot - Part Four
Footwork is important.
Last week we took a look at athletes rolling too far back into their heels.
The snatch or clean liftoff can be a helpful exercise to add into a complex that will prime your body to maintain a flat foot through your first and second pulls.
As you push through the floor, keep your big toe pressed into the ground and your heels down. Pause at the "launch position". For the snatch, the bar should be about mid thigh. On the clean the bar should be just above the knee. The body position is close to identical. The angle of your back should be the same as it was in your start position. Pause in the position and get comfortable here. Then return the bar to the floor and perform the full lift.
Lastly, notice the tempo of the bar from the ground to the launch position. It is a slower more controlled pull to ensure I hit the right positions. Once the bar gets to the launch, I accelerate the bar and then pull myself under. You don't need to rush that first pull. Rushing often leads to getting out of position and consequently a missed lift. Be precise with the first pull. It's the most awkward part of the lift and the phase of the lift where you have the least mechanical advantage. Once you get to the launch position, it's all business. Accelerate aggressively and get under the bar.