Recently, I have been asked by several barre trainers why I do not believe in training participants to be in a forced arch with knees driven over the feet while pulsing rapidly for a lengthy period of time. I believe this position overly compromises the functionality of the body, thus creating a lot of risk for our participants. In this blog, I want to discuss how not to compromise your feet and knees while in a fitness barre class.
Let’s talk about your feet first
First, why would we ask our participants to perform this movement? Do you see it replicated in life anywhere?
Secondly, there is always a risk to benefit ratio in exercise. This movement has a much larger risk associated than benefit. It is one of the most compromising positions you could put your body in for injuries! Most women feel an excruciating pain during this exercise. They are told they are “spot reducing” and/or “toning,” which is false. Let us remember that the body works as a whole, not as a part.
Take a look at the x-ray of a foot forced into a high arch. This position prevents the foot from doing what it is designed to do : absorb gravity and disperse impact throughout the rest of the body. When the foot hits the ground in gait, the subtalar joint locks up and creates stability for the foot as it goes through inversion or abduction and adduction, with the ankle moving through dorsi and plantar flexion. Forcing students to stay in this position for extended periods of time will create dysfunction of the foot. Remember that very few ballet dancers leave the world of pointe shoes without major foot issues.
Also, without proper foot function the rest of the kinetic chain is compromised. Here are a few issues directly associated with improper foot training:
- Bunions will develop
- Mortons neuroma will develop (which is extremely painful)
- Planter fasciitis, due to such stress on the fascia of the foot and over stretching it
- Calves will become extremely tight
- Glutes will become extremely weak
What about the knees?
Next, forcing the knees over the toes places the patella femoral joint in a very painful and compromising position. The knee is designed to naturally flex and extend but not be placed in a forced abduction and over the toes for a lengthy period of time. Once again this position forces compression on the knee laterally, and most women have lateral knee issues stemming from torn meniscus to arthritis. Lengthening the muscles above and below the knee, especially the glutes, will create strength, flexibility, and function.
What should I do instead?
In conclusion, if you are determined to add this particular movement into you barre classes, perhaps you should only add a few reps in plantar flexion and hip abduction. For the safety of your participants, do not over pulse, hold, or use this risky position. Replace this motion with a true squat position with the knees and ankles in a safer and more functional position. We need to train better movers, so give them exercises that replicate true life movements.