Medical Experts Explain Michael Jackson’s Gravity-Defying ‘Smooth Criminal’ Lean

If you’ve ever tried and failed to imitate Michael Jackson’s gravity-defying “Smooth Criminal” tilt, don’t be disheartened.

Turns out, it’s not you — it’s science.

And a little help from specially designed shoes.

A new study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine found that it’s physically impossible for one to perform the dance move without help, and it could likely cause serious injury if attempted without proper assistance.

For the King of Pop, that came in the form of footwear featuring a V-shaped clasp at the bottom of the heel. The contraption allowed Jackson to hook the shoe to a nail on the dance floor to attempt the dangerous 45-degree tilt forward — all while keeping his back straight and feet planted to the floor —  as popularized in his 1988 music video.

From his pelvic thrusts to the signature moonwalk, Jackson had already established his name as a master of dance, but the move in question was particularly risky because of its potential damage to the Achilles tendon.

Three neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, determined that one must boast very strong core and torso muscles in order to perform Jackson’s tilt — and, even then, he or she could only maintain the tilt at 25 to 30 degrees forward.

“MJ has inspired generations of dancers to push themselves beyond their limits. Though a visual delight, such moves also lead to new forms of musculoskeletal injuries,” said Dr. Manjul Tripathi, one of the study researchers. “The King of Pop has not only been an inspiration but a challenge to the medical fraternity.”

See his “Smooth Criminal” performance in action here:

Want more?

Remembering Michael Jackson’s Iconic Style on the 10th Anniversary of His Death

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalking Shoes Will Be Auctioned Off

Michael Jackson Birthday Tribute: His Best Shoe Moments

Access exclusive content