A variety of barbell exercises requires good ankle mobility. Many exercisers perform compound exercises incorrectly due to poor ankle mobility. Poor ankle mobility is very common, but individuals do not know how to tell if they have poor ankle mobility. Ankle mobility is
needed in everyday activities, whether it is getting in and out of a chair, or bending over to pick something up. The ankle is a stable joint that often loses mobility over time and becomes stiff.
Individuals with injured ankles due to poor ankle mobility often turn to anti-inflammatory meds or ankle braces to fix the problem, but this does not fix the problem. Medication and braces are only a temporary solution to injured ankles. Once the ankle becomes healed, over time it will become injured again due to poor mechanics and overuse of this joint restriction. A change needs to be made to prevent the problem from occurring again. The use of resistance bands, foam rollers, and stretching exercises can be used to fix poor ankle mobility. How can you figure out if you have poor ankle mobility, and if so, what can you do to fix it?
A simple assessment to test ankle mobility is the half-kneeling dosiflexion test. To perform this assessment you remove your shoes and kneel five inches away from a wall. You then push your knee forward attempting to touch the wall with your knee without the heel rising off the ground. If you are able to touch the wall then you have adequate ankle mobility, but if you are unable to touch the wall you have poor ankle mobility (Horschig, 2016). If you showed poor ankle mobility, how can you fix this?
Improving Ankle Mobility via Resistance Bands
The use of a resistance band can help strengthen the ankle joint due to the strong, elastic material it provides. Placing the band correctly on the ankle to move the talus bone backward can increase mobility. It is important not to place the resistance band too high on the ankle because it can pull backwards on the tibia. Anchor the resistance band to something that will hold it in place, then place it properly on the ankle away far enough from the attached base so that a good tension is applied to the ankle. Next, push the knee back and forth to dorsiflex the ankle, and provide tension in the position. Applying elevation to the foot being dorsiflexed can be more beneficial for this exercise.
The use of a foam roller can reduce the soft-tissue stiffness. Place a foam roller under the lower leg area (below the calf muscle, towards the ankle), moving slowly up and down for 20 repetitions. The foam roller will act as a massaging technique on the tender area, and reduce the
Stretching the ankle joint can reduce stiffness and tension of the ankle joint. An easy ankle stretch is to place the feet against a diagonal wooden box in a dorsiflexed position, so that there is slight discomfort (tension) being felt. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. (Horschig, 2016).
Too often I see poor squatting done in the gym due to a lack of ankle mobility. Immobile ankles cause an individual to have trouble keeping their feet on the ground causing them to excessively lean forward during a squat exercise. This can lead to an increased risk of injury, especially in the lower back region. Poor ankle mobility makes a variety of balance exercises difficult to properly perform as well. Poor ankle mobility can lead to an increase in ankle sprains, especially in athletes. Poor ankle mobility can lead to your knees becoming injured by trying to overcompensate for it during certain movements.
Improving your ankle mobility can lead to improved form during exercises, which can then lead to improved performance. Good ankle mobility decreases the risk of injury, and increases activities of daily living. If you have trouble with your squat form try the half-kneeling dorsiflexion assessment, and see if your ankle mobility is causing this. Ankle mobility is often overlooked, and individuals do not often attempt to fix this problem even if they do know it exists. The use of resistance bands can be very beneficial for strengthening the ankle joint and improving mobility. Foam rolling and stretching can be useful in reducing tension and stiffness of the ankle joint.