-The Ankle, The Knee, and Perpendicular Lines-
Jonathan Messner, MS, CSCS

My Job is Awesome
Why is that, you ask? Let me tell you, curious reader.
1) I have the coolest clients on the face of the planet. They cook for me. They hang out with me. They try and set me up on blind dates (actually not so cool, sometimes). My clients can beat up your clients.
2) I am
the man where I work. My name is in huuuuuge letters out front.


Do you have any idea how cool that is? It’s like having a F-22 as a ride to work… with Jessica Alba as your chauffer. That’s two visuals that require I take a cold shower.
3) It is also very satisfying getting people healthy and strong, blah blah blah… I love Jessica so, so much. And
thrust vectoring… What was I talking about again?

Hot Pilot Chicks
Speaking of hot chicks piloting fast jets, I would argue that there are good exercises in this world and some not-so-good exercises. Good exercises turn into crap exercises awfully quick when strict technique is not adhered to, such as unintentional out-toeing, which is really dangerous with the “high risk client”.
I want every exercise I teach to be as simple and 2-dimensional as possible from a coaching point of view. I think that squatting, deadlifting, and lunging is much easier to implement from a coaching standpoint if the standard for everyone is feet pointed straight ahead. Slight out-toeing can sometimes turn into more-than-slight-out-toeing. You know, that slippery slope sorta thing.

Fix Your Feet, Fool
Anywho, I never clarified what a straight foot was, exactly. I think that’s because I was unable to quantify what my brain was processing at the time. Which of course led to many arguments between me and my clients.
Fix your damn feet.
Loyal Peon: They are already straight! Look, my toes are pointed straight ahead. They line up with the lines on the floor!
Me: Let me ask you something. Who is in charge here? Me? That’s what I thought. Now get me a smoothie.
Loyal Peon: You are so demanding. It's no wonder you are single!
Me: Ouch. I deserved that.
Now that I think about it, it was my client’s fault as to why I was unable to articulate what a straight foot was.
However, I have recently figured it out because I am
Chuck Norris awesome, and I wish to share that awesomeness with you, the people. As I said before, I want to keep everything as simple and 2-dimensional as possible, which means exercise technique should mirror perfect posture; chest up, shoulders back, and feet and knees pointed straight ahead.

What the Hell is with this Geometry Crap?
What I look at, when it comes to aligning the feet initially, is really not the feet. It is the angle that the tibia makes with the talus bone, and whether or not the angle on the right shin/foot is perpendicular with the angle on the left shin/foot.

(Left image) Not so good. (Right image) Muy bien!

Once we start moving around (say squatting, for example), we want the angle at the knee to align with the angle at the ankle; both angles should fall on the same axis. More simply, we want the knee pointing in the same direction as the big toe.

Most all people will have a left-side, right-side dysfunction. This dysfunction will clearly be seen when attempting to position the feet parallel with one another. One side will look fine, and the other will be all discombobulated. Even after you properly position the discombobulated shin/foot, it will slowly creep back into whatever position it was comfortable in before.
However, it was during single-leg squat work that the light bulb really went off. Maintaining proper position of the discombobulated shin/foot while single leg squatting (and bilateral squatting too) resulted in the knee on that side dropping into
valgus BIG TIME. So like all good people, we would correct this with a mini- or a super-band.

The Magical Mini-Band

Subsequently, if the shin/foot angle was maintained in that perfect position while performing the exercise, our in-session dialogue would go something like this…
Loyal Peon:
Me: Told you so. I am awesome.

Yeah But Why?
I don’t have “proof” or “data” to back any of this stuff up.
Hell, a petri dish on my desk with Doritos growing out of it would make this thing I call training more scientific.
But I don’t have a petri dish on my desk. (Because Doritos are bad for you. Except for the Cool Ranch Doritos. They are good for your soul.)
However, I do have a system that is grounded in some very concrete ideas, such as:
1) Posture is important.
2) Glute strength is important.
3) Spinal stability is important.
These "ideas", and all the other ones floating around my head that I have neither quantified nor qualified yet, lay the groundwork for this experiment I call "Personal Training with Jon".
This list is not the be-all, end-all. Some of these ideas have been with me for a while, some are brand new, and some have gone the way of the dodo bird.
What is important is the fact that I have a list (albeit a mental list-how apropos) that I am constantly refining.