Thursday, July 22, 2010

Technology: Helping Athletes Regress One at a Time

If you have glanced at any of my weekly workouts you will quickly learn that I am not an endurance athlete. Despite the fact that I rarely partake in any continuous athletic endeavor lasting longer than 30 seconds, I have learned quite a bit from some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Here is a picture of a barefoot runner:

Notice that this runner has exquisite running technique (some might call it POSE) and this runner is not so coincidentally barefoot. At this point I have read so many articles that reference the various studies on the numerous benefits of barefoot running (i.e., no heal strike, reduced occurrence of running-related injuries, etc.) that at this point I find them almost as tedious as long runs themselves. If you are interested in learning more about the host of advantages associated with barefoot running check out this website run (pun intended) by the Harvard Skeletal Biology Lab:

All of the assertions in these various studies regarding barefoot running made sense to me right off the bat. Neolithic people started having knee problems because shoe companies began marketing padded running shoes that allow people to get away with heal striking relatively unscathed. Modern people should learn how to run properly instead of purchasing shoes with a massive shock-absorbing heel in order to mitigate the occurrence of “overuse” injuries that have become all too common in the long distance running world.
Now people are slowly assimilating (following the various Harvard studies produced recently the barefoot running revolution. There is even a shoe made to make you feel like you are barefoot ( Why one needs a special shoe to mimic the effects of being barefoot is a concept that I will never understand--but the shoe sells (thanks to the ever increasing popularity of CrossFit and primal fitness), so more power to the Vibram people.

I never thought that these theories regarding barefoot running would be applicable to jumping, basically because I thought that there was too much impact involved in a max vertical leap. It turns out that my initial hypothesis was wrong. Thanks to Joe DeFranco’s article ( which I posted a while back) in which he suggests that an athlete wear snug track waffle shoes when testing his or her vertical. His theory is that normal basketball/ running shoes absorb a great deal of the force that one produces against the ground in order to jump as high as possible. When attempting a max vertical leap the goal is to produce as much force against the ground as possible, consequently wearing shoes that absorb the force that one produces is counterintuitive. This made sense to me, I tried it out during a max box jump workout two weeks ago and I added 3 inches to my previous PR. Lately I have been wearing some tight-fitting, low top Chuck Ts (pretty close to being barefoot) when I jump on outdoor basketball courts. I should probably just sack up and jump without shoes on.

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