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The Footstrike and Plyometrics | Boddicker Performance

Filed under: plyometrics, strength training

The Footstrike and Plyometrics

by on Aug 11th, 2010

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Yesterday I received an e-mail from my friend and colleague Brijesh Patel discussing the most ideal way to coach a footstrike in plyometric activities taking into account how the foot and ankle spring systems work.  B wanted to know if there is any difference in between “landing on your arch” and a forefoot strike in the efficiency of the response.  As is often the case, I think the answer is that “it depends” and, provided the “on your arch” cue doesn’t force the athlete’s COM too far back, I think we we can make an argument for either.

Forefoot landings offer many benefits, including a relative deloading of the patellofemoral joint, a forced eccentric contraction of the plantar flexors, and maybe a more sport-similar contact pattern.  A flat-footed landing likely offers many of the same benefits, but there is theoretically less of an eccentric load placed upon the extensor mechanism.

What I think matters most, however, is the “tripping of the trigger” mechanism, which, provided appropriate mobility is available, should happen in both scenarios.  Tripping the trigger is a idea that David Tiberio and Gary Gray have used to describe to the function of the subtalar joint.  Upon ground contact, the subtalar joint everts forcing inversion of the midtarsal joints or vice versa in a forefoot landing, which creats a relative internal rotation of the tibia loading the extensor mechanism of the hip via iliotibial tract.

Aside from the hip extensor loading, the resultant inversion of midtarsal joint, subtalar eversion, and talocrural dorsiflexion facilitates elastic loading and proprioceptive facilitation of tibialis anterior, peroneal group, the two-joint gastrocnemius, and tibialis posterior.  As many of these muscles have relatively short contractile tissues and very long tendons, we’re speaking of muscles that have great potential to store and release elastic energy.

The key to making this trigger work effectively is to ensure proper talocrural, subtalar, and midtarsal joint mobility as I have written about extensively in the Alleviating Ailing Ankles Part 1 and Part 2.  Without proper mobility of the joints, there is little hope for an ideal utilization of the trigger.  This holds true for those who lack subtalar motion into eversion whether they are individuals locked into inversion or the flat foot, locked into eversion athlete.

If we’re looking to teach good landing mechanics that utilize the foot’s trigger and elastic loading, I think we can benefit from teaching our athletes our early jumping and hopping progressions without footwear.  Barefoot movement is relatively self limiting, and after an initial series of barefoot movement, the body tends to select the most effective pattern that spreads contact pressures and leads to a more natural foot strike that is probably best for elastic recoil.

What do you think?


Carson Boddicker

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Leave a Comment »6 Comments
  • Carl Valle August 11, 2010

    It would be nice to see the difference or lack of difference with you and B.Patel with some videos or photo sequences because many readers are visual people. Perhaps since you have videos of ankle exercises you would share some plyometrics and good foot strikes vs common errors due to dysfunction. Since Coach Goodwin is making some good discussions perhaps we could look at the jumps over 36 inch hurdles and 1.3-1.6 meter spacings and see what this effect has on vertical forces and how that ties into the glutes via the fascial system. Knowing this, how would certain support exercises help with actually getting maximum speed since the glutes seem to be popular.

    David Tiberio and Gary Gray have made some vaild points and more discussions about his work (Tiberio) would be a nice change of pace for the readers. Fresh people makes things more interesting and Gary Gray’s work could be valuable as well if used in good settings.

    Good subjects and well researched Carson. Keep posting as it raises the bar. The real trick though is to use great information and see how we can get it done in the weightroom and field/court.

  • Carson Boddicker August 11, 2010


    Thanks for the comments.

    The difference was between he and his intern, which in reality, I think is small. Given that few, if any, or my runners are prepared for 36 inch hurdles at this point, I’m not sure about that, however, I did tell B that I’d do some Dartfishing of shod/unshod jumps at some stage when I’m done moving, etc.

    I’m not in the research field, so I honestly am unsure (and don’t really care) about finding out changes in vertical forces between the two styles myself. Lots more to concern myself with during the day than running research. It is definitely important, but not my speed. Maybe it would be a good piece for one of your PhDs to examine, though.

    As per your use of information comment, you’ll be pleased to know I’ll give you some insight into how it all plays together in the next few days.

    Carson Boddicker

  • Carl Valle August 11, 2010


    I am not sure why you posted the running oval picture, but it seems that investigating that diagram through the use of foot strike analysis and muscle recruitment would be great since you work with runners. I am interested in your ideas about that challenge of increasing top speed since you in fact posted it.

    Video of foot strike differences between bounds, hops, and jumps…and even skips would be cool since you do dartfish would be a big help. They don’t need to be Stefan Holm or Linford Christie, just good healthy doses of quality of movement.



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