International Expert in Functional Training & Calisthenics.
What you’re standing on might be the limiting factor to better health and performance, I discovered this the hard way…
Years ago, I would never pay attention to those details. It’s only after an injury that I´ve discovered how flooring and footwear, can affect your whole body and performance. I used to squat in a commercial gym; you know, those big gyms, with hundreds of machines, spa, collective classes and then the average 1 or 2 squat racks. Even though I was a rookie at the time, I knew the importance of squats in strength training.
What I didn’t acknowledge, was that the gym flooring was too soft. Gravity’s main job is to pull you down to keep you on earth, therefore, when you stood on a soft/cushioned floor, you naturally “sink” into it. It’s not really a problem if you don’t put any extra weight on yourself.
Nevertheless, when you perform movements with extra weight on your back (i.e. squats), you need sturdy flooring.
What about the training shoes?
Well… a key point to optimize in training safely especially with compound movements such as the squat is; stability and power transfer into the ground.
When squatting, a great tip to tell anyone is: instead of thinking about getting up from the bottom position of the squat position, think about pushing your feet into the ground like you’re trying to push the earth away. It’s simple physics, the earth isn’t going to drift away as you’re thrusting up. Simply because the mass force you apply into the ground is lower than the mass of the earth itself (obviously, right?).
Besides the inconvenience of the floor, I made another mistake: my training shoes.
Performing compound movements that have significant metabolic stress on your body and mind with the “wrong” shoes can be dangerous. Most trainers have the soft cushioned sole to help support shock absorption, which can be an advantage for sports like running, basketball, etc. Though again, it creates instability and makes you lose power transfer. This still isn’t something you want.
Your feet are your base of support of your whole body. Not having a strong and stable foundation can compromise the function of your structural joint mechanism. Imagine a building with unstable foundations, if the base doesn’t firmly accommodate the rest of the building chances are it won’t stand for long. It’s similar to what happens to your body when you lift big weights, it has a lot to do to stabilize or else eventually, you´ll end up damaging your body and frame (Don´t worry you´re not a building so you will not collapse).
The sturdier the shoes the better stability and power transfer (again). Some shoes are even designed for better performance, like Olympic lifting shoes that have a strong and solid base that allows the lifter to create more power. It even has some elevated heels to support ankle with mobility that boosts your range of motion for your squat. Here you have some great shoe options: Adidas Leistung 16 or Converse Chuck Taylor.
So now you have the right shoes on, but what happens with the flooring?
Now imagine squatting with weight on a soft floor. The more you force you to create to go up, the more you “sink” into the floor thus, losing stability and power since the flooring is “absorbing” it.
Having the stability is the ability for your joint to move safely without being compromised or having to do more work that they are “designed for”.
Most commercial gyms use this type of floor and it really isn’t the best option. Even for simpler exercises, even if you don’t feel it, your body does and it’s something that can have repercussions and eventually end up getting you injured (like me).
When training, you would´ve probably understood by now that you want stability and power transfer into the floor. An extra safety key point is shock absorption, Soft flooring is all about it but misses the other parameters for health and strength. Flooring like “hard” rubber mats is a win-win. It’s hard enough to provide the stability and power transfer you need while absorbing shocks. You may go over specific PAVIGYM products that cover those needs perfectly, such as PAVIGYM Extreme or PAVIGYM Endurance.
This insightful experience has made me more aware and taught me to pay more attention to many details. It’s not something most people notice and it’s totally normal even though it should be something to be conscious of as, besides adding weight to your lifts, it’s a matter of health. The very least it should be the gym owner, coaches, personal trainers and athletes taking measures so that the general membership in the gym doesn’t suffer incautiously.
After I got injured, I signed in another gym, making sure that the floor was suitable for my needs and I chose hard soled trainers. I took care of my injury and by then I was back on my feet. I started squatting again, and the difference was pretty noticeable. I still got injured later on but that’s another story.