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Fix your stiff ankles!

Do you have trouble getting into a deep squat because you can’t keep your torso upright while squatting? There are a variety of factors that could be affecting your ability to get into this position and, believe it or not, your ankles could be one of them. You may have noticed that you have a better squat with plates under your heels or in weightlifting shoes, that’s a decent indicator that ankle stiffness could be a component to your squatting issues. I’m show you how you can screen your ankles to see if you have enough ankle dorsiflexion and give you a couple easy mobility exercises to work on that can help improve your positioning.

A quick and easy test to see if you have adequate ankle dorsiflexion is the wall test.

  1. Start in a half kneeling position with the big toe of the leg you are testing one hand width from the wall as shown below.

  2. Try to touch your knee to the wall without your heel raising off the ground, foot rotating, and keeping your thigh pointing straight forward.

  3. Repeat with your other leg.

If your able to touch the wall with your knee then you have enough dorsiflexion to get into a squat position and you don’t need these mobility exercises! If not, you have restricted dorsiflexion and this could be a limiting factor in your ability to squat properly.

Here are several mobility exercises that you can implement during your warm up to help improve your ankle dorsiflexion.

1. Calf foam rolling

  • Foam rolling is a great way to get your tissues warmed up prior to beginning the following two activities. I would recommend spending 3-4 minutes per leg rolling over the tissues of the calf complex. Start out lightly rolling and get deeper as the time progresses. If you find any particularly tight spots or a trigger point (IE knot) spend a little extra time there putting some firm pressure down on that area until you feel a release.

2. Banded ankle mobilization

  • Perform 1 minute on each ankle for 2-3 sets.

3. Barbell ankle smash with active dorsiflexion

  • Perform 4 sets of 12 alternating 5 second holds.

In order to improve mobility you have to be committed to doing these activities several times a week for an extended period of time. No one gets anywhere without putting in the work first. I would suggest doing theses activities in the order above 3 times per week for 4 weeks. This routine should only take about 15 minutes to complete. If you have any questions or want to get signed up for a movement screening session to identify what else might be holding you back from a full depth squat feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or at thriverxphysio@gmail.com.

Happy ankle mobilizing!

Sarah Morgan, PT, DPT, APHPT-Cert

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