Hey, big toe, tell my glute to salute!

By Jesse Kepka
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist

I talk a lot about the ever-fascinating communication between mind and muscle. Our nervous system calls on our muscular system to move our skeletal system. It’s my favorite thing. Glutes, core, hips – they all get quite a bit of attention. I’d love to take a minute to move the spotlight from those bad boys and shine it upon our big toes. Guys, it’s small compared to the aforementioned muscles, but it’s so important for communication!

Our feet are incredible mechanisms. They are built to springboard our bodies up into the air and absorb the force of the ensuing landing. For a lot of us, though, the mechanisms are deactivated from so much sitting, constant wearing of shoes and lack of care as far as recovery. Our arches are collapsed and the muscles are dead asleep. We know everything is connected in the human movement system – an inefficiency in the feet can cause altered mechanics clear up to our cervical spine!

So my tip for today’s Priority Fit Camp crew is one small, but important function of a long list of incredible functions of the big toe: it communicates directly with your posterior, most importantly, your glute! Crazy, right? I think for most of us, the line will be a little fuzzy, but with focus, we can switch it back on and create a more solid and powerful form for lifts and even basic posture. Don’t believe me? Try it!

At the bottom of a squat or deadlift, spread all your toes as far apart as you can and press those big toes into the ground. (Our toes were once organically spread like this, but our shoes squished them all together and our muscles will take the form of how you most hold yourself. Bye-bye magic feet mechanics. Doing toe yoga will help, but that is another topic for another day.) You should feel your glutes awaken in a contraction. Now use those glutes to pop you back up out of those lifts. Then repeat. With some practice and focus, it can become second nature. The result? Protection of your joints, stronger and more stable lifts, and crisp communication from mind to muscle. This digging of the big toe is also incredibly important for balance. Spread the toes, dig the big one, and make that glute scream! It’s a daily check-in, to make sure we use the right muscles for the right actions to prevent injury.

In effort to keep the lines clear, remember to smash the fascia in the bottom of your feet. We foam roll and stretch pretty much everything else, so the feet need the same kind of love. A tennis ball is a fantastic modality for this. Dig it into your feet with some intensity. It will probably feel crunchy, like you’re rolling over smashed potato chips. As always, deep breaths.

Tip shared by Jesse Kepka, NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist and owner of Elevate Fitness. Jesse is a co-organizer for Priority Fit Camp. Each week, we publish a health and wellness tip that is shared at the Priority Fit Camp community workout. The free group class happens every Saturday at 7:50 a.m.  

Click for more info on the free Saturday group workout.