Learn to Move with Intelligence in 3 Steps
What is Athletic IQ?
Athletic IQ is the body-knowledge that allows us to move explosively with minimal effort. It’s what makes hard movement “look easy” — the hallmark of athleticism. Where strength can be measured and endurance can be quantified, Athletic IQ is the invisible thread that connects elite performance. It is the ability to innately interpret terrain, to visualize the sequence before it happens, to react seamlessly, effortlessly, and intuitively
HOW TO USE THESE DRILLS
It starts with a strong foundation.
The road to the next level starts with the feet, the foundation of all athleticism. No part of the human body has been so affected by modern civilization—our feet evolved to read and interpret terrain, and our highly cushioned shoes have stripped them of this inherent neurological purpose. Our philosophy here is simple—when you reignite the feet, you reignite performance.
And strengthens the brain-body connection.
As you raise your Athletic IQ, you’ll learn to manipulate the ‘volume controls’ of your own strength, endurance, and movement.
The journey to high performance can’t be taken in one step—but it can be done in three.
Let’s get started!
“I’ve always struggled with the descent, especially on sketchy/unstable scree, and today I felt my quads tightening and my feet slipping and realized I was placing too much weight over my feet, and not trusting my feet to lead. The rest of the way down I concentrated only on what my feet were feeling, letting the power transmit up from my toes through my ankles instead of down from my quads. What would have made me cry a little earlier this summer felt easy. And now my feet are sore, which tells me I was probably learning something. I can’t thank you enough for the simple insight to make this suddenly make sense.”
Nikki J.Climber, Obstetric Hospitalist, Army Reserve Field Surgeon, Veteran
Many of us have lost control of our toes—and our awareness of footing—because of shoes. Here’s how to nurture the most powerful and athletic positIon of the human foot.
- Stand barefoot on dry ground.
- With a strong, stiff ankle, grip the ground by curling your toes in and under.
- Watch how your extensor tendons (the tendons just beneath the skin on the top of your foot) become engaged and more pronounced.
- Now start walking barefoot, gripping and releasing the ground with every step.
Note: If you need to improve the neurofeedback, stand on a sheet of paper. Curl your toes, with the goal of pulling the edge of the paper toward your foot. Repeat on each side paying attention to the cues in Step 5.
BUILD BETTER STRUCTURES
Elite performance relies on elite infrastructure – to perform without getting injured. Injury prevention comes down to the load tolerance of our collagen matrix. Isometrics are proven way to increase tendon thickness and stiffness which can make us more injury resilient.
Elite performance requires a training strategy aimed at building bombproof collagen structures to transfer (and enhance) force and prevent injury.
Here is where we prepare our tendon and fascial matrix to handle high forces with ease.
- Starting with your left foot, draw your toes in and press into the ball of your foot (near the head of your metatarsals), lifting your heel slightly off the ground with a strong, stiff ankle.
- With a nice curve in your lower back, and keeping your body in a relatively straight line from shoulder to right foot, pivot at the hip, lowering your chest over your left foot. Hold this position for as long as you can, aiming for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other foot, adding a weight (like a kettlebell) once you are able to maintain stability for the entire exercise.
- Repeat this sequence 2-3 times with a 2-minute break between each go. Practice daily for a week.
Note: Want to build even more stability? Click the video for a bonus drill called the Starfish. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram to tell us how it’s going!
USE THE (MULTIDIRECTIONAL) FORCE
Traditional strength training is often done in slow, repetitive, two dimensional movements, while that might build big muscles, it does not contribute meaningfully to our athleticism. Athleticism is reactive explosive and the timing is hard to predict.
High-level athleticism requires high-level feet. In step 2 we improved load tolerance, in step 3 let’s improve the rate at which we can respond to the terrain. Sprinters, gymnasts and MMA fighters rely on rapid eccentric loading to improve reaction time, and muscle stiffness. Developing this kind of foot power will change the way you move!
In this drill, we teach the body to produce powerful forces at the highest rates—it’s got to be fast. The way to do that is through rapid eccentrics—pulsing and bounding movements that teach your body to stop itself on a dime.
- Step on top of a short box (between 8” and 18” is ideal).
- Drop to the floor and land on your toes and balls of your feet—don’t let your heels touch the ground.
- The goal is to stabilize and stiffen right away on impact and reduce the amount of compression on your ankles and knees as you land.
- Repeat 5-10 times. This drill can be done several times a day.
Note: You can amplify this drill over time by increasing the height of your stair or box.
Where will your athletic journey take you?
“Working with Z has been a gamechanger. From the first call with Z, it was apparent that I was no longer going to be mindlessly training—but training with an athlete mindset and working towards an identified goal….for me that was to drastically improve my abilities in the alpine backcountry. Z’s approach is a perfect balance between relatable science/research and customized training, that have yielded solid results. Over the past 8 months, I’ve seen noticeable improvement, but I know it’s only the beginning….I am truly excited for the next chapter of the Samsara training experience.”