If your goal is to achieve the perfect squat, you must think first about how you can achieve proper range of motion in your ankles. Yes, ankles are very important in almost all exercises you execute, and most definitely in all leg day workout routines.
Although the foundation of most movements stands in your feet, the ankle may be the most ignored joint, next to the wrists, when it comes to flexibility, injury prevention and performance. Any ankle mobility issues can limit your ability to train effective, or worse, predispose you to injuries.
The ankle is a stability joint that quickly absorbs force, and even though it seems ridiculous to strive for strength in such a small joint, the time and exercise you invest in building a strong ankle will help control and improve all other movements, especially in regards to reaction time, coordination, and power output.
“The ankle can be the linchpin of dysfunction that can create havoc further up the kinetic chain…”
The majority of people do not have adequate ankle mobility. There can be numerous reasons as to why that is, including bony limitations, decreased joint mobility and increased soft tissue. Here are a few reasons why you should think about improving your ankle mobility:
- Decrease the risk of injury
Like we mentioned before, a dysfunction to your ankles can create problems further up to other part of your body. When you work on improving your ankle mobility, you take a considerable amount of stress off your knees. If you have a low range of motion on your ankles, your knees will be next to suffer because they are forced into an uncomfortable and unnatural range of motion, one in which they are not designed to operate.
Another great way to prevent the risk of injury and also help with injury rehab is to wear a pair of quality ankle support sleeves. We designed a pair of Ankle Sleeves that targets compression areas while still allowing the full range of motion on the ankles. The lightweight material helps to support the joint which can help improve performance and everyday activities. The unique design, extremely soft materials, and contoured fit make the sleeves comfortable to wear for an extended time.
They are great for:
- Post-operative or post-traumatic use
- Chronic soft tissue inflammation and instability
- Support and stability
- Sprains and moderate ligament injuries
- Recurrent swelling, load-related pain in the foot and ankle
- Mild osteoarthritis
- Improve your squats
Whether or not you’re into doing squats at the gym is not relevant. Squats are the most used movement pattern by all people, from sitting on your couch or picking something up from the floor, we all execute squat movements. That being said, especially if you’re an athlete or doing squats in the gym, having low ankle ability can destroy your squatting pattern and form and that can lead to poor balance, a tendency to lean forward or lifting heels off the ground.
- Improve lateral movement
One thing that is especially hard to do when having low ankle mobility is moving sideways quickly. An athlete needs to be able to use adequate ground reaction force and this can only be achieved by keeping a solid base between the foot and the ground.
- Improve motor control
There is a strong relation between motor control and ankle mobility. The feet and ankles are decisive for effortless movement because they contain a very high number of receptors that can aid with balance.
- Boost your running
Running activates two primary movements of the ankle joint: plantarflexion and dorsiflexion.
Plantarflexion is the movement or pointing of the toes downwards, while dorsiflexion is the opposite – when you lift the ball of the foot with the heel in contact with the ground, as if you were pulling your foot upwards towards your knee. An effective use of these ranges lead to better shock absorption.
What causes poor dorsiflexion?
Dorsiflexion is the most important degree of ankle movement because it allows for the tibia (the shin) to move forward, relative to the position of the foot, which is very important for correct body positioning and efficient production and application of force. Poor dorsiflexion can be linked to a number of factors such as:
- Flexibility issues with the calf muscles
- Wearing heels too frequently, which results in a progressive loss of mobility
- Ankle joint restrictions that can come from prior injuries or surgeries
- Bad posture
- Injuries in the lower body – knee, hip or back pain as well as any other muscle soreness in the lower body, will instinctively limp or modify movement to avoid discomfort. This will make the ankle joint tighten, thus limiting its range of motion.
Exercise your ankles into mobility with these 3 simple exercises
- Banded ankle mobilization
Place a band with a considerable amount of tension around your ankle joint line. Bring your knee forward without letting the help rise from the ground. Perform 8 to 10 reps and hold each for 2-3 seconds.
- Self-ankle mobilization
Place your hand on your ankle and push from front to back as you bring your tibia forward. Perform for 8 to 10 reps and hold 2-3 seconds
- Ankle armor drill
Perform a standing calf raise, squeezing your muscles in the top position and hold it for 5 seconds – if you feel a cramp it means you’re doing it right. Once you lower, immediately perform a shin raise. Hold the top position for 5 seconds. Alternate between the two holds for 5 to 10 minutes.
If you care about improving your ankle mobility and not letting this small joint create problems in other areas of your body, then you’re going to want to pay a little more attention to your ankles. Spend 5 to 10 minutes before your next leg day, run, workout, basketball game, or simply your next day, bulletproofing and mobilizing the joints. You will be happy you did that when you’ll start to see the difference it will make!
Check with your doctor or physician first! The information contained in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. All of our content, including images, graphics, text available in this article is for general information purposes only. Mava Sports makes no representations and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information available in this article, and such information is subject to change without notice. We encourage you to verify and confirm any information you obtained from this article with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your doctor and physician. Do not disregard any professional medical advice because of something you have read in or accessed through this article.