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Lately, there have been many experts suggesting that for optimal squatting and conventional deadlifting performance, one should purposefully create torque by screwing one’s feet into the ground. Kelly Starrett and Mark Bell are two proponents of this.
I’d like to discuss my thoughts on this topic, but before I do I want to mention that I have tremendous respect for Kelly and Mark, so this is nothing personal.
And also before I get started, let me briefly touch upon torque for those who need a brush-up on their biomechanics.
What is Torque?
If I push against a wall, I exert force against that wall. I also exert force into the ground. Force is a vector quantity because it must contain a direction. I can also push against a wrench. However, since there’s a pivot, the force creates torque about that pivot. Torque is turning force, and can be thought of as linear force’s rotational analog. While force is usually measured in Newtons, torque is usually measured in Newton-meters, which you can think of as the amount of force exerted perpendicularly to the wrench one meter away from the pivot (which one be one long-ass wrench but hopefully you get the point). Torque is sometimes reported in pound-inches to make it more “American-friendly,” but the point is that it’s dependent on both the magnitude and distance away from the pivot of force production.
Every once in a while a study comes along and alters my understanding of biomechanics and sports science.Effects of weighted sled towing with heavy versus light load on sprint acceleration ability by Kawamori et al. was published ahead of print earlier this year in March. It’s an excellent study that supports what many strength coaches have been saying for quite some time (and refutes what many track & field coaches have been saying) – that heavier sled towing is effective in improving acceleration ability. In the past, many T&F coaches believed that using sled loads of greater than 10% of bodymass (or loads that reduced speed by greater than 10%) would alter sprint mechanics too much and negatively impact speed.