The Newest Fitness Fad; Exercising Barefoot

The Newest Fitness Fad; Exercising Barefoot

Our feet are the only part of our anatomy that touches the ground to transmit all the force that we spend so much time developing in the rest of our body. Think about that –  the only part of our anatomy to touch the ground when we run or jump – and most of us spend little to no time developing strength, mobility and proprioception in the feet.”

Although a growing trend, this training technique is nothing new.  There are many pictures from the ‘70s of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his buddies training barefoot.  Not only a more natural way to train, going barefoot or minimalist provides some very real performance advantages.Bunions, corns, hammer toes, Achilles shortening, athlete’s foot, and ingrown nails are just some of the issues associated with training in shoes.

The Science

The architecture of the hand and the foot are almost identical. So what would happen if you had incredibly weak hands? If you have incredibly weak hands then you can’t pick anything up and if you can’t pick anything up then the arms, back and legs can’t get strong –  and it would be easy to see that if the arm isn’t strong then it’s also more susceptible to injury. It only seems right that the same principle applies to the foot.

The Benefits

No Heel-The lift caused by the heel of a traditional shoe alters the body’s center of balance on its vertical axis.  This shifts the weight slightly forward and as a result the body compensates by exaggerating the lumbar curve.

Uneven Cushion-When weight is applied in the direction of gravity (such as in the case of squats) the foam compresses unevenly and inconsistently introducing an element of instability into the lift.  This can lead to less weight per lift. As the lifter attempts to move the weight against the pull of gravity (as in the case of a deadlift) the compression of the cushioning fails to transfer all of the lifters energy to the ground or lifting platform which robs the lifter of the full benefit of his or her efforts.

Increased Balance And Posture-There is no substitute for the bare foot when it comes to improving posture.  Proper posture leads to improved technique which allows you to lift more weight more efficiently and more safety.

Yoga Like Benefits-One major difference can be seen in yoga class. The feet of those who have been performing yoga barefoot for a lifetime are different than those who may have just begun. Well-formed arches and un-cramped toes are often the results of barefoot training.

No More Shin Splints– The subtly raised heel and the added arch support of the average training shoe change the natural mechanics of the foot. In short, time spent in a raised heel unnaturally tightens the calf muscle and lengthens the shin muscle. Calf cramps and shin splints are often directly caused by shortened calves and lengthened shins.

Reduced Joint Pain– Artificially supported shoes can force unnatural pressure into the knees, spine, and even neck. One way to naturally strengthen the arch and shin, relax the calf, improve overall ankle stability, and promote proper muscle alignment is to train barefoot.

Less Impact– “People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike.” “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.

Negatives

The Shock Factor-Suddenly going barefoot or wearing a minimal shoe can be quite a shock to the foot and require a slow adaptation phase. Like anything exposing new movements and training regiments at full force can cause injury overuse.

Why Fix What Isn’t Broken-If you have no problems and no pain, do you really need to change anything?

Gym Rules-Many gyms don’t allow you to train barefoot

Dirty And Unsafe Surfaces– Shoes can provide protection from glass, dirt, and other random debris that can cause foot damage. But lets be honest, if you drop a weight on your foot than you are going to be hurting either way.

Blisters-Almost everyone who switches to a minimal shoe or starts going shoeless will find themselves battling blisters for the first few weeks until calluses are formed.

Conclusions

It seems petty but strengthening your foot is an essential part of strengthening the entire lower limb. I think the hand analogy describes it best. What would happen if you had incredibly weak hands? If you have incredibly weak hands then you can’t pick anything up and if you can’t pick anything up then the arms, back and legs can’t get strong. It seems like the same principal should apply to the foot. That is why I  am recommending that people give this a shot. I have always been an advocate of eating things as they are found in their natural state. I have the same ideas towards exercise. Whether it is choosing the treadmill over the elliptical, free weights over machines, or barefoot over shoes, always go with the most natural form of sutff. Start off by incorporating a few exercises and build up to an entire barefoot workout. If you are a germ freak and can bare the weird look of them, give Vibrams a shot  http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/index.htm.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin
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The 5 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making

The 5 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making

1.You are a victim of routine and habit:

Muscle memory is no myth. If you perform the same exercises and workouts every week, with no variation, your muscles will grow accustomed with them overtime and your fitness goals will severely plateau. Repitition of exercises allows the brain to become “hard-wired” with a simple, efficient circuitry that enables the activity. The brain and muscles no longer have to work hard to make that particular movement happen, so the activity “feels easy” to you, as if it were second nature.

My suggestion: Switch it up

  • I am all for getting in and sticking to a set routine, however, if you want to see progression in your fitness goals, whether it is bigger strength gains or more fat loss, vary your workouts/rep range/rest time.  You will see dramatic changes as your muscles will have to work harder to adapt to these new changes.

Great examples:

  1. Intervals vs. steady cardio. (see previous post for more specifics about this)
  2. Heavier weights with reps between 5 and 8 and allowing more rest in between rest.

2. You don’t get in a good warm-up:

The goal of any warm-up is to increase your heart rate, body temperature,. and blood flow to your muscles. The increase in these things will prepare you muscles and mind-set for the upcoming exercises. As a result, you will see better performance results and reduce chance of injury. Research over the last decade has shown static stretching cold muscles can actually inhibit performance and put you at greater risk of injury.

My suggestion: Perform movements that are specific to the exercises that will follow.

  • Activate the energy systems and muscles that are going to be required to complete your workout.
Great Examples:
  1. Jump Rope for 5 minutes- This gets both your legs and upper body involved at the same time.
  2. Dynamic stretch warm-up and not static stretching!-Do 5-10 minutes of dynamic movements that will get your blood flowing and major muscle groups activated. (bodyweight pushups, lunges, squats, or spider man crawls all work great)
3. You don’t do enough multi-joint movements:
Everyone wants more bang for their buck. So, why limit yourself to single joint movements or “isolated movements” when you can combine exercises and use multiple joints to build muscle, decrease fat, increase metabolic rate, and burn more calories, all at the same time.
My suggestion: Use multi-joint movements for the bulk or your exercises and supplement them with single joint movements.
  • Multi-joint movements will allow you to become a more functional and well conditioned athlete by using major muscle groups in conjunction with one another.
  • Supplementing multi joint movements with single joint movements will allow you to take care of the smaller and stabilizer muscles that can be overshadowed when doing multi-joint movements.
Great Examples:
  1. The old-fashioned back squat- Not only do squats activate all your lower body muscle group,  but it also activates your core muscles which are the foundation to your strength and posture. (utilizes knee,ankle, and hip joints)
  2. Dumbbell snatch- A great, functional exercise that utilizes major muscle groups such as your legs, core, and shoulders.

4. After all my suggestions you still do sit-ups:

Core is an essential component to a functional and strong body.Why is it that I continue to see people wasting time doing one of the most inefficient and outdated exercises today!

My suggestion: Trade in your old-fashioned sit ups for a core exercises that are more efficient

  • There still exists a common misconception that the key to a six-pack is by doing a bunch of sit-ups. False, the key to washboard abs is by losing stomach fat through a healthy(total body) exercise regimen and an all-natural diet.

Great Examples:

1. Plank on swiss ball- This exercise will force you to stabilize your core on an unbalanced surface.

2. Hanging leg raise- Targets your hipflexors and lower abs along with the rest of your core.

5. You don’t replenish your muscles after your workout:

“Approximately 30 minutes after intense exercise, the body optimizes its ability to replenish energy stores-particularly muscle and liver glycogen. This is also a critical time because the body instigates muscle protein synthesis for muscle tissue recovery and repair, replenishes fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat, and adapts to the stresses encountered in the workout.”

My Suggestion: Invest in a workout shaker and some tupperware.

  • Bringing a recovery powder to your workout will ensure you provide your muscles with adequate nutrition to fully recover immediately after finishing. Bringing some food in Tupperware is also a great way to ensure you are getting ample carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Depending on your sport and fitness goals, your post-workout shake should range from a 1:1 carb/protein ratio to 4:1 carb/protein  ratio if you are involved in more endurance activities and are trying to restore carbohydrate levels.

Great Example

1. 6oz of coconut water
6oz of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c yogurt, 1 banana
1 c frozen strawberries/blueberries
1 scoop whey protein powder
3-5 grams glutamine

For all those interested in fat loss, check out my good friend’s website Kellie Kaufman at https://wrapmeskinnywithkellie.myitworks.com/home. This may help you gain the edge and break through plateaus.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From Naples,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com