The Relationship Between the Rib Cage, Pelvis, and Ankles

Since my story post of this topic yesterday got so much positive feedback, I figured I’d make a more formal and detailed post regarding the reasoning for the vast improvement in just 1 week in Payton’s squat. (CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO)

There really is just one main difference between the two videos, and that is on the right Payton has some thin 2.5lb plates under his heels to simulate a heeled shoe. The idea of elevating the heel is nothing special, its more so why this worked so well. Payton has been powerlifting over 7 years now, and even though he knows better, the idea of maintaining neutrality at the rib cage, lower back, and pelvis alluded him. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what to do, its that there was some restriction that just was not allowing him to achieve that position. And for those 7 years, all he had ever used was a flat soled shoe to squat in.

To understand fully what was going on here, we must understand the relationship between the rib cage, pelvis, and ankle. They cohesively work together, and when one of these struggles with proper orientation, the others follow. For example, if someone does the typical “booty pop” and anterior rotates on their squat, it will cause the rib cage to flare, the femurs to internally rotate, and the ankles to pronate. As well as the fact that an anterior tilt lengthens the hamstring, which then places greater tension on the calf muscle as it tries to lengthen and allow the ankle into dorsiflexion. Or if we puff up chest up in the squat and elevate the rib cage, that will cause the pelvis to anteriorly rotate, the femurs to internally rotate, and the ankles to pronate. Hopefully you get the picture now. One weak link in this chain then causes compensation throughout. And this weak link can be due to either improper movement and bracing patterns, or some type of actual restriction.

In the case of Payton, the tell for me that the issue stemmed from his ankles is that even while doing a safety bar squat or Goblet squat, which naturally pulls you into a more neutral position, he still could not orientate his rib cage and pelvis correctly. At surface level, he didn’t appear to have some issue with ankle flexion, as his foot actually remained in a decent position and resisted pronation. But as can be seen, as soon as he slightly elevated that heel he was able to drastically change the orientation of his rib cage and pelvis. My thought here is that Payton was actually doing a good thing, in that he would stop forcing more ankle flexion when he knew it would cause pronation and a loss of foot position. I say this is good, because too often people rely on pronation to achieve depth, rather than addressing the issue at hand. Because of this though, he then would have to compensate by flaring the rib cage and anteriorly rotating the pelvis. And with that, he didn’t have a mobility issue either. We only genetically have so much ankle dorsiflexion, some more than others, so just constantly forcing stretches isn’t always the answer. For Payton, he just needed that slight assistance with the heel elevation to gave him an added effective range of motion, which then allowed the other two links in this chain to position properly.

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