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Overpronation in Fitness Classes

Learn how to spot and correct this common imbalance.

Overpronation in class

Overpronation is a fairly common problem among many fitness enthusiasts, including the ones who take your classes. As an instructor, therefore, you may have opportunities to identify and correct this (and other) musculoskeletal deviations in students (while staying within your scope of practice). Practicing this skill will keep you at the forefront of the developing corrective-exercise trend and help participants reach their health and fitness goals in a positive way.

This article explores overpronation, a regularly-experienced musculoskeletal imbalance, including how to assess it during class, what moves can make it worse and, finally, how to correct it.

See also: Collective Corrections.

Overpronation in Class

Pronation is a normal bodily function, in which the foot collapses inward toward the midline of the body. When people overpronate, the foot collapses too far inward. As the foot pronates, the leg also rotates inward toward the midline of the body, affecting knee and hip alignment. When the leg rotates inward, the pelvis usually moves into an anteriorly rotated position.

Assessing During Class

Yoga. Yoga uses many standing poses. It is imperative that the feet and ankle complex is properly aligned in these poses. An easy way to help students become aware of the correct foot and ankle position is to teach them how to perform a simple hands-on assessment.

Instruct students, while standing, to bend forward to touch their toes and place the thumb of their left hand on the dimple on the inside of their left ankle (just forward of the ankle bone). Then ask them to place their forefinger on the dimple on the outside of the ankle bone. When both thumb and finger are in place, ask them to overpronate and flatten their feet. Coach them to feel the increase in pressure from the talus bone, which will have moved toward the thumb. Then ask them to oversupinate and shift their weight to the outside of the foot. They will now feel more talus bone pressure on the forefinger. Coach them to pronate and supinate until the pressure of the talus bone is even between the thumb and forefinger. Perform this technique on both ankles. Your students will now know how to get their feet and ankles into a neutral position for all standing poses.

Step/Cardio Class. The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscles to the heel. When you look at the back of a person’s lower leg, you can determine whether he is overpronating by the alignment of his Achilles tendon. If he overpronates, the heel rolls inward toward the center of the body and the Achilles tendon appears to bow inward (see picture). When teaching, walk around and coach participants whose Achilles tendons are bowing in (overpronating) to raise their arches slightly to a more neutral position.

Moves That Can Make Overpronation Worse

Yoga. The foot and ankle should and will pronate as your students transfer weight over the foot, as in a lunging warrior pose. However, many participants will not be used to exercising in bare feet and may overpronate because they lack the support of an arch-supported shoe. Therefore, poses that demand the body to over-reach or balance on one leg (e.g., balancing stick pose, or tuladandasana) should be added cautiously until the foot and ankle complex becomes stronger.

Step/Cardio Class. Transferring more force through the body in any given exercise will increase the likelihood that the foot and ankle will overpronate. This is why a step class with excessive amounts of stepping down can increase the likelihood of knee injuries. As the foot and ankle collapse, the knee will move toward the midline of the body, placing undue stress on the medial side of the knee. Over time this can lead to dysfunction, injury and pain.

How To Correct Overpronation

Yoga. Use the assessment technique detailed above to make students more aware of the neutral foot and ankle position when beginning each pose. As students shift their body weight forward and transfer weight onto the foot, coach them to push down with their big toe. This will act as a braking mechanism, giving the arch of the foot more stability and preventing the foot and ankle from collapsing incorrectly.

Step/Cardio Class. Use creative visualization techniques to help participants be more aware of their feet and avoid overpronation. Have them imagine there is a raw egg or baby chick under the arch of their feet when they are moving. This imagery will remind them to keep the arches up so as not to “crush” the egg or chick. It will also help strengthen their arches and prevent them from overpronating.

More Fun for Everyone

If you can learn to assess participants for overpronation you will soon become familiar with their individual musculoskeletal imbalances. This will help you evaluate your program design and address pain while still creating a fun and energizing experience.

See also: The Top Ten Corrective Exercises.



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Justin Price, MA

Justin Price is the creator of The BioMechanics Method® Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBMM-CES) program, the fitness industry’s highest-rated specialty certification. There are trained TBMM specialists in over 70 countries helping people alleviate pain and reach their performance goals. He is also the author of several books including the esteemed academic textbook The BioMechanics Method for Corrective Exercise. Justin is a former IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, founding author of PTA Global, and a subject matter expert for The American Council on Exercise, PTontheNET, TRX, BOSU, Arthritis Today, BBC, Discovery Health, Los Angeles Times, Men's Health, MSNBC, New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Wall Street Journal, WebMD and Tennis Magazine. Learn more about The BioMechanics Method®

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