Bryan Miller of the United States Naval Academy does a fanatstic job of training athletes to be bigger, faster, stronger, and most importantly SAFER. Coach Miller is known especially for his mobility exercises that he implements with athletes he works with. He is very particular about how each exercise is performed, making sure that every body part is in the corrcect position to get the most out of each exercise. His perspective is that if an athlete is very strong but not mobile enough to get in and out of various athletic positions, then what good is the strength? This is not to say that he does not strength train them, but he argues that stregnth and mobility are of equal importance.

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One of Coach Miller’s favorite exercises is half-kneeling, unilateral shoulder press, using a kettle bell bottom-up…the reason being that it combines mobility (hip flexors), stability (all of the core) and strength (shoulders). Very important to note is the postition of the rear foot in the lunge (half-kneeling) position. In all exercises, stability is of the utmost importance, and foot position is key to ensure stability. Having the toe of the rear foot loaded develops tension throughout the foot, ankle, and entire leg and increases stability of the exercise. This is vital especially when working with youth athletes whose proprioception is still developing. Coaching “toe-up” or “loaded toe” mechanics is also key with younger age groups because it important to engrain this into young minds and develop positive habits.

The position of the “toe” joint, anatomically referred to as the metatarsal-phalangeal joint (MTP joint), is crucial to get right in coaching running mechanics; and therefore, is equally as important in a lunge or other position with one or two feet in contact with the ground. The MTP joint is the distal attachment of the plantar fascia, a tight cord of connective tissue that originates from the base of the calcaneus (heel bone). This fascia is stretched very tightly from heel to toe, and when the MTP joint is flexed, elastic energy is stored to be released in a spring like action. If athetes learn to “load the toe” while running, lifting, or doing any static exercise, not only can they improve stability in the given exercise, but also get used to proper mechanics of an elite athlete, for when they compete at a higher level.

Bryan Miller, football strength coach at the United States Naval Academy, shares his insights on this topic in the video below.

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