Externally rotating the ankles not only creates the right tension, but it also stabilizes the back and forces the torso upright. Mobility guru Kelly Starrett says the movement is important for the set-up of the deadlift as well as the Olympic lifts.
“I contend that if you turn that foot out as an unconscious compromise, you’re immediately going to collapse through the ankle,” he says. “And that sets me up so my only plane of force is to rotate in—’cause it’s difficult to rotate out—and there I’ve collapsed and there’s my ACL.”
Cuing “knees out” can accomplish the same effect, Starrett says, citing Coach Mike Burgener.
“I shove my knees out—that allows me to really drop my torso into an upright position, and now I’m just into transition so easily,” he explains. “How do I get out of transition so I can jump longer and have movement options? I do that with external rotation.”
Additional reading: Learning the Olympic Lifts: The Stance by Mike Burgener and Tony Budding, published Nov. 1, 2006.