For most people it is natural when standing to have the feet slightly externally rotated. It’s never really thought of, much less addressed, but this could be a serious issue when it comes to performance.
This duck footed position if you will, is a sign of an imbalance in your hip extensor or glutes. This can be a result of various factors, but can be easily addressed using a few soft tissue techniques.
One reason this can be a major factor in injury is because of the knee angle it will most likely cause. This will be particularly important when partaking in sport, whether it be running, weight lifting or roller derby.
It is something that is taught in the upper level athletes called knee valgus.
When standing in this position you create a shearing force in the knee joint. This causes force to cave in the knees.
You begin to lose power in this position because the force that is being transmitted down your kinetic chain is dispersed through the valgus knees. Instead of driving the force straight down into the knees it is converted to shearing force, force coming from the outside of the knee in.
Ideally in all sports and positions you want your knees to align directly with your feet. You want your toes and your knees to point in the same direction, as shown in the next picture.
This is going to be the position you can create the most power in. When you are in the position of the first picture (knee valgus) the force is dispersed through the knees. Your knees therefore absorb the leaded force. This could be dangerous and lead to ligament tears in the knee joint. In the second picture when everything is in line you can then create force from the hips, the powerhouse, that travel down the kinetic chain.
It is a long and complex process to correct this knee valgus problem, retraining the motor control system.
Collapsed ankes could also be helping to cause this problem. This is another reason why it is important to have a proper ankle stability and mobility routine in your strength training program. Check out this guide for a few strengthening exercises.
What I am addressing in this post is externally rotated feet. We will leave the topic of knee valgus for another post.
The primary culprit of this position is the glute muscles. When these muscles begin to hold tension you naturally externally rotate, beginning from the hip joint, causing turned out feet.
What we will work on is mobilizing using soft tissue and some static stretches. Part 1 of this post will focus on soft tissue, part 2 will be the static stretching
Also it is going to take effort to consciously be aware and not allow yourself to go back into this position.
First I will list the tools needed to execute these soft tissue mobilization exercises.
LACROSSE BALL, ORB, PVC PIPE, FOAM ROLLER
We will begin with soft tissue work on the glute. It will depend on your experience and the level of tension in your glute on which tool to begin with.
If you are a beginner, a foam roller will work just fine. If you have experience, then you may want to use the soft ball or Orb. If you have used both of those you then can graduate to a more specific, or evil (depending on who you are talking to) tool, the lacrosse ball.
The first variation is to position yourself with one glute on the roller. Make sure to get the whole glute. It’s common to stop too low. You want to roll out the whole length of this muscle. When you find an exceptionally tight area you can focus your efforts there a little extra. It is optimal to roll out for 2 minutes on each side.
The second variation is going to be crossing your leg. This is going to lengthen the muscle in order to get a little deeper in the tissue. Once again when you run into an extra tight area feel free to focus your efforts there.
The third method is what’s called tack and floss. You will be in the same position as the last picture but you will begin to move your leg (the side that is on the roller or ball) back and forth.
What is happening here is the layers of tissue are starting to slide over each other. This is going to help break up those adhesions that lie deep within the muscle belly.