5 Steps Toward Finding an Effective Set Up: Part Two – Finding Your Feet

Joes Barbell
Comments Off on 5 Steps Toward Finding an Effective Set Up: Part Two – Finding Your Feet

I was recently coaching a weekend Weightlifting course and asked the lead instructor if teaching athletes how to engage their feet was ever something he considered doing.  I was quickly and aggressively met with “No, I don’t want to clutter their heads with too many details!”
Hmmm, I thought … that is an interesting stance to take (no pun intended) when just yesterday at the opening of the course we spent 20 plus minutes talking about grip and grip width.  Of course, as the low man on the totem pool I kept this thought to myself and went about my business. 
However, I did get to thinking, aren’t all new tips, tricks, and techniques clutter in the beginning?  
What if “finding your feet”  was just a fundamental part of the set up? 
With that thought in mind here we go!
“Finding My Feet” at the AWF GG1 Attitude Open.  Photo courtesy of Recon Photography (if your in Atlanta FB’em)   
Finding Your Feet
To effectively find your feet you must do two things, being aware and actively engaging them.  The end goal is comfort and finding the place where you feel most powerful.  
To begin your search for that happy place of power and awareness, first, step up to the bar, look down, and cover a portion of your feet with that bar.  I allow three options for my new athletes.  Covering the base of their toes, the straight or bottom shoelace.  Second, covering the mid foot, about the middle of their shoelaces. Third, covering the top of their foot at about the place where the knot in their shoelaces will be.     
If you are unsure start at the middle but be consistent about your approach.  I have found that shorter athletes and those with good hip mobility have success setting up closer to the bar.  Longer athletes and those with poor hip mobility generally do better setting up away from the bar.  It is also my opinion that closer is better, but don’t be creepy.  If each time you pick up the bar you scrape away a new layer of skin an adjustment should be made, friction is not your friend in Weightlifting.            
Next, I focus on foot width.  I ask most beginning athletes to set start with their feet directly under their hips.  For most athletes this will be a great place to start in terms of setting their initial foot width.   To make sure simply bounce around moving your feet in and out.  You want to find the width where you feel the most powerful or could potentially jump the highest.
There are a few reasons to make adjustments regarding the foot position.  In my own lifting I take a wider stance because as I transition under the bar I move my feet very little.  With a wider set up I find myself jumping less, punching more and pulling myself under the bar more quickly. 
With general foot awareness dialed in I then begin instructing my early athletes to engage their feet.  
First, they simply need to be aware of the angle of their toes.  I favor a more 12 o’clock, or straight ahead, position in my set up.  The more I set up to a 3 and 9 o’clock position I begin to lose tension in my hips and legs.  To me, tension is power.  Smarter guys than me, like Kelly Starett, have articulated this point more eloquently.  When I point my toes out my legs simply feel “noodley” and the last time I checked noodles aren’t great for supporting anything.    
I then ask my athletes to do one of two things; separate the floor with their feet or screw their feet into the floor. Whichever, or any other analogy, gives them the perception of strong feet, legs and hips is the one they should lean on.  
Why not pay more attention to our feet?  Quick anatomy lesson folks, our feet are awesome, and you should learn how to use them.  The fact is, in order to move the bar in front of you efficiently you must apply pressure against the ground with your feet and drive with your legs; not pull it up with your back and arms. 
Considering these points of performance regarding a Weightlifter’s set up, the end goals are comfort and power.  I did not start Weightlifting with my shins tight to the bar with a wide base.  I also, never would have determined it to be a positive technique for me without consistent practice, a starting point, and a coach.  Start in simple and comfy place, measure performance, and pay attention to what your feet are doing.  It also helps to have eyes and minds around you that you trust to help you tinker and make adjustments. I’m currently looking for training partners!
Apply the steps above, find your feet, and you’ll be sure to find a better total.   
Until then – shoot for six for six, its the only way to live!