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August 31, 2010
Squat in the right shoes
Footwear seems to be a hot topic these days, whether it is the proponents of barefoot training, 5 finger shoes, or newer designs that promote better muscle activation and caloric expenditure. Unfortunately, all of these trends focus more on running, exiling the power sports, such as baseball, football, and volleyball, who should avoid any cardiovascular activities for fear of negatively affecting their performance (see Sparta Point 12/31/08). Unless used for walking to the refrigerator, power athletes should not even own running shoes because of the high, rubber heel which poses several problems in their training. At Sparta, during squats and Olympic lifts, our athletes wear entirely different footwear, commonly known as weightlifting shoes. Weightlifting shoes have a much less compressible sole, significantly harder than the running shoes mentioned above. This harder sole allows you to efficiently transfer greater force into the floor, the most important determinant in athletic movement (see Sparta Point 1/27/10). Softer shoes will dampen this transfer of force into the ground and cause a loss of energy that was created in your torso and legs. Most weightlifting shoes have either dense rubber or wood, as the wood may even provide an added benefit of forming to your stance over time. The dense, raised heel will also enable you to get into the necessary positions of weightlifting, particularly squatting and the initiation of the Olympic lifts from the floor. Bud Charniga, who has translated dozens of Eastern European weightlifting programs and texts, explains that a “shoe with a raised heel allows the weightlifter to squat down with a reasonably vertical disposition of the trunk, which requires fully bending the knees and tilting the shins forward; with the feet resting flat on the floor.” Such lower, stable positioning provided by weightlifting shoes is necessary for optimal muscular activation, especially in the prime movers like the gastrocnemius (calf) and rectus femoris (quads). This flat footed position enhances strength and balance not only pushing out of the bottom of the squat, but also descending into these deeper positions. Most importantly, this vertical position also places the majority of the forces on the hip joint, a large ball and socket joint built for large loads, instead of the knee and lower back. Our athletes use adidas shoes, because they have been the longest and largest manufacturer of these weightlifting shoes, providing reliable footwear that has lasted us years. As a power athlete, this should be the most important piece of footwear you own due to the simultaneous increases in weight lifted and reduction in injuries. However, if you’re competing against our athletes, please find the best running shoes you can to squat in, because that round in your back is probably nothing and lifting more weight cannot possibly make you better.
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August 31, 2010
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