In life, it's not surprising to learn how the smallest of things can often trip us up. Just like how a mislaid brick can easily compromise the integrity of a structure, poor body mechanics can lead to a decrease in movement performance. One of the most overlooked parts of the body when it comes to optimising athletic performance happens to be the feet, which happens to be responsible for so much more than just walking or running.
Second only to the hands, the feet has the most number of bones in the body – 26 to be exact. When you consider this little fact of human biology, it's safe to say how most of us tend to take the function of our feet for granted. Unless you undergo a professional run analysis, foot mechanics often becomes to relegated to a mere afterthought when it comes to training in a gym environment.
However, a strong foot is crucial to strong lifts. Take the back squat for example. This compound movement utilises several muscle groups in both the upper and lower regions of the body. The primary movers and synergists involved are the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and lower back. While you may not see the feet being included in this list, consider your point of balance and force vector. If your balance constantly shifts across your feet and you're unable to produce enough force vertically into the ground, you won't be able to squat nearly as much as your muscles and joints are capable of moving.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
Fixing faulty foot mechanics is always a tricky thing due to the amount of time we spend on our feet and the amount of thought we usually allocate to their movement. However, the first step to re-teaching the body is always to create awareness. With the single-leg RDL kettlebell swap, the body is forced to rely on a sole foot for balance while the movement of the kettlebell generates slight instability.
While it may look like a circus trick for beginners on the surface, performing this movement correctly requires a good deal of control over the muscles of the foot. Specifically, the focus will be on maintaining a three-point contact with the floor (big toe, pinky toe and heel), gripping it, and keeping the balance of the body across the middle of the foot. For anyone who's studied barbell lifts, these cues should sound familiar – they're often used when it comes to coaching the squat and deadlift.
The amount of time it takes to master the single-leg RDL kettlebell swap will vary, depending on just how proficient you are in displaying proper foot mechanics. However, it is paramount that you move slowly in order to reap the full benefits of this exercise. The idea is to be able to generate and maintain tension in the right areas of the body; going too fast will lead to momentum being generated and can result in compensatory mechanisms kicking in. Trust me though – taking it slow won't make it much easier!