Human kinematics is of keen interest to health and fitness professionals alike. No matter the type of movement, the goal remains to move in the most economical, safe and advantageous manner possible. Whether it is rehabilitation of an ACL injury or squatting 600 pounds, kinematic proficiency is priority No. 1.
Solving what's to blame for improper execution is typically the most difficult part in movement correction. Some professionals believe they can pinpoint specific muscles that lack the ability to "fire" or use the "weak core" cop out term with their clients. Unfortunately, it's not that easy, as the body works synchronously in what is called the kinematic chain. One joint or body part movement has direct correlation with the next and so on throughout the entire body. Back issues may not be solved by simply foam rolling the affected area, but it may take some correction in posture and hip mobility, for example.
It can get tricky when looking at how one moves, and where to start if faulty movement patterns are seen. In any case, I begin with the easiest place to look, the feet. I equate the feet to the foundation of a house and take a bottom up approach to analyze movement. If somebody cannot execute a squat without a foot collapse, they run with a poor foot striking pattern or deadlift with their heels coming off the ground, then it is no mystery that they are feeling pain elsewhere. The rest of their body is compensating for poor fundamental movement. In many cases, correcting foot placement and/or weight distribution can solve numerous problems.
One of the best anecdotal experiences I can provide is from a former athlete I trained with who had an extreme valgus knee collapse in her squat pattern. She had been told that her glutes were not firing, her core was weak, her knees were bad and a whole host of other diagnostic statements.
Upon initial evaluation, I asked the athlete to demonstrate a few repetitious body weight squats so I could see the issues for myself. Right away, I took my focus to her feet and watched as they collapsed inward and rotated a bit with each rep. What I did next was ask her to imagine standing on train tracks, trying to load her weight on the outside edges of her feet and her heels, as well as spreading her toes wide in her shoes. She went ahead and implemented my cues as she began another set of squats, only to find her knees in perfect alignment and that her glutes did in fact work.
The ever so simple technique of foot correction completely changed her squat pattern and allowed her to enjoy training again — simple yet effective.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
While foot placement is only a starting place in the greater picture of overall locomotion, the major point I contend is that it is useful at times to look globally at movement and move to smaller pieces as each box is checked.
Sometimes the answer is simple or needs to be viewed from a greater lens. Cueing is a fascinating subject as well, and I learn a great deal of mine from one of my mentors, Nick Winkelman. He is a magician at helping athletes get themselves in proper alignment when moving. Some of the best physical therapists and strength coaches I've met implement external cues and begin with gross movement patterns before diving into finite details.
Certainly, there will be cases that require extreme detail and analyzation from highly skilled professionals. In the case of many others, simply starting from the most primitive places and moving upward from there will help solve a lot of issues.