Gripping the ground
I love foot strengthening, it is really my all time favorite thing to do and once you learn how, you realize just how easy it is to do anywhere. A word of caution, all of this stuff can feel very much like you are Uma Thurman in Kill Bill sitting in the back of the P**** Wagon trying to will yourself to “wiggle your big toe”. It can be so frustrating to learn and feels like nothing is happening but I promise you will get there!
In all you do in your life, you should have a strong and stable base. You should be able to rely on that base to provide a solid platform for the rest of your body to move. So, let’s connect that base with the ground and screw it in tight! 3 basic steps:
Stand tall and look down at your feet. I want you to make sure that the base of your big toe, your little toe and your entire heel are touching the ground? Want to make sure you are doing it correctly? Keep those three points on the ground and pick your toes up. Still have three points on the ground? Yes? Good! Now balance your weight in the center of those three points and then let your toes relax and go back to the ground. Practice lifting your toes and balancing your weight and then putting your toes back down a few times with your weight still balanced in the center of the tripod you made. (No? Try again, this 1st step can be pretty rough for some people, we don’t spend a lot of time making sure we have a good tripod in our daily lives so keep working at it, you will get there.)
Now, standing with our toes on the ground and our weight distributed evenly through our foot tripod lets grip the ground with our toes. This is a kinesthetic awareness drill, I want your brain to understand where the ground is and where its support is. Can you maintain the tripod and have your weight evenly distributed while you are gripping the ground? Time to move to step three if the answer was yes and to keep practicing here if the answer was no.
Last step is to screw your feet in to the ground. Grip the ground with your toes, drive your weight down in to the ground and ever so slightly “twist” your feet out just a bit as if you were screwing them in to the ground. This is a subtle movement, you shouldn’t go all crazy duck foot, but they should feel as if they are driving in to the ground with a bit of a lateral (outward) motion. You should feel this in your feet, not your knees! If you are feeling this in your knees, then you are twisting too hard, back off a bit and see if you can control the motion just in your feet. It is ok to feel this in the hips, your hips should be in on the program too, so squeeze those glutes if you need to!
So, why are we learning this? First, many of us have lost our connection with the ground and this is the quickest and easiest way to feel it and reconnect with it again. Secondly, most of us have no control of our feet! Just standing and balancing on our three support points is work for some and we need to start owning our foot mobility and increasing our proprioception. Lastly, as basic as it is, this is actually a great starting point for learning how to “tent” the foot or do short foot exercises as they are also known. You are building up the basic strength needed as well as the neuro pathways to get your foot to start using its “core”, brain training and muscle training are kind of one and the same.