The ankle joint is the red-headed step child (sorry Janelle) when it comes to mobility focus. It’s one of the most important, yet most neglected joints in a traditional mobility routine.
For me, ankle mobility is important for two main reasons:
- The better my ankle functions, the better my knee functions (I’ve had two previous knee surgeries from football/bad movement patterns and I don’t plan on having another 💯).
- the better my ankle functions, the crispier my squat pattern (back squat, front squat, OHS, snatch, clean, pistol, you get the picture). And I’m BOUT THAT LIFE when it comes to GAINZ.
Now improving ankle mobility isn’t rocket science, but it does require us to do the work and do it consistently to create real change. Make a plan, stick to that plan, and you’ll be well on your way to granting that well deserved freedom to your ankle joint.
In order for us to track real progress, we must have a way to test if what we are doing is working. For me, ankle mobility/function is most important for my squatting pattern. And for that reason, we’ll use the air squat as the pre/post-test for this mobility series.
- Action: Complete 2 Sets of 10 Air Squats (video second set from side angle)
STEP2: FOUR-STEP MOBILITY ROUTINE
Roll The Feet (4 Minutes): Your feet are flexible structures of bones, joints, muscles and soft tissues that all play a vital role in how your ankle functions. There are 26 bones, 33 joints, and HUNDREDS of muscles/tendons/ligaments in the foot alone! And one of the easiest ways to improve the function of the foot is to mobility the plantar fascia (bottom of the foot).
Roll The Calves (4 Minutes): As a rule of thumb, to improve the range of motion of a joint, we must make sure the surrounding muscles allow it the freedom to move. The calves are the first major muscle group above the ankle joint (on the backside) and deserve some love.
Roll The Ant Tibs (4 Minutes): The anterior tibialis is the first major muscle above the ankle joint on the front side. And it’s important to note the better you are at ankle extension (pointing your toes) the better you become at ankle flexion (bottom of the squat). Open up the frontside of the ankle an you’ll be amazed at the amount of freedom you create.
Static Stretch (4 Minutes): This is the tried-and-true stretch when it comes to improving the function of your ankles. Because there are two main muscles in the calf group that function a little differently (one crosses the knee joint in and the other doesn’t), I like to stretch for 1 min with the leg bent at the knee and another minute with the leg straight.
- Action: Complete 2 minutes of work on each leg for each of the mobility exercises above.
STEP3: ACTIVATE NEW ROM (Pick 1 or Both)
After creating temporary new range-of-motion with a mobility routine, it’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that we activate our muscles through movement. If we simply stretch, but don’t move through this new freedom, our mobility will go back to what it was pre-mobility. Below are two options to activate that new ROM through the ankle joint.
Option1: SL Box Squat – this should be completed off the side of a stable box that allows you to travel the full range-of-motion through the ankle joint. Focus on maintaining 3 points of contact with the planted foot (big toe/little toe/heal).
Option 2: Hover Hold – this is ideally done with something (KB/DB/Object) in the goblet position. While this option won’t work the left-right sides individually, it will allow you to reach full ROM of the ankle joint in the squat pattern.
- Action (SL Box Squat): Complete 3 sets of 5-8 reps at controlled tempo.
- Action (Hover Hold): Complete 3 sets of 20 seconds maintaining tension & posture.
Action: Complete 2 Sets of 10 Air Squats (video second set from side angle and compare to pre-test video).
IF you’ve been neglecting the ankle joint for a good amount of time, you might want to put this 30-minute routine into your regular schedule 2-3x/week to kickstart the process. Once you’ve created some real change, keep it in the routine 1-2x/week for maintenance. It’s important to understand that if we want something, we have to workout for it, AND work to keep it.
- Pre-Test: Complete 2 Sets of 10 Air Squats (video second set from side angle)
- Four-Step Mobility Routine: Complete 2 minutes of work on each leg for each of the mobility exercises above.
- Activate New ROM: complete either SL Box Squat or Hover Hold activation routine.
- Post-Test: Complete 2 Sets of 10 Air Squats (video second set from side angle and compare to pre-test video).
Got get em!