With foot and ankle complex training becoming more and more popularized each year, you've heard it before: the foot is instrumental to athletic performance because it is literally the first interaction with the ground on most sporting movements. And as you well know, shoes can and will not only kill our chances of developing a properly-functioning foot, but make it difficult to mitigate this issue with training. So we need very targeted methods in our training arsenal. There are seemingly endless ways to train this foot-ankle machinery as simple as warming up and/or training barefoot, to barefoot proprioception, to towel foot curls, and none of them are wrong, but one way that's been gaining some traction in the performance world is the "floating heel."
How does the ankle/foot complex interact with the ground?
Take a look at essentially any explosive movement in basketball. Do you see the heel interacting with the ground? Deceleration, yes. Of course.. But acceleration? More slight changes of direction? The block foot in a bilateral jump? Max speed sprints? That heel, hopefully, won't touch the ground. If it were to touch the ground, the stored energy in the achilles tendon and connective tissue will be immediately lost, and that movement is going to become quite less explosive and much more taxing.
What is a "floating heel?"
Benefits of floating heel exercises:
I find the benefits of floating heel exercises to be three-fold. I'll keep them pretty brief!
The floating heel, like every other concept employed by S&C professionals, isn't the magic wand on an athlete. It's a tool. If you use it, you'll probably get some benefits. If you don't, there are other ways to get these same benefits too! In terms of how to use them, I don't have much experience using them with athletes because they have somewhat recently come to the forefront and I am experimenting on myself first, but I'd begin with the isometrics, include them here and there with your accessory hypertrophy work, and eventually progress to loading them or using the drop catch option. Just my thoughts. Feel free to let me know in the comments where else you see opportunities for this concept to be used, if you've ever used them, or even call me out on bullshit! Any conversation is welcome. Stay safe everyone.
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