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Is ankle stiffness killing your squat?

You can tell a lot about a person’s mobility by watching them squat.

When I assess a squat, I watch spine position, core stability, hip mobility, and much more. Each factor plays a role in the quality of a squat. However, despite the importance of a solid base of support, ankle mobility is frequently overlooked when people think about their squat.

Unfortunately, instead of addressing ankle mobility deficits, we frequently resort to lifting shoes or blocks under the heels as assistive devices. While these are effective methods of improving squat performance, they do nothing to address underlying mobility concerns.

Greater freedom in dorsiflexion (the movement of your foot toward your shin) allows you to maintain a more upright torso while in a squat. This will have an enormous impact on your squat, especially your front and overhead squats, clean, snatch, thruster, wall ball, etc. You get the idea.

Restricted ankle mobility impacts far more than squats. It has been linked to achilles tendinopathy, knee pain, plantar fasciopathy, and shin splints. If you suffer from one of these, or you have in the past, odds are you would benefit from working on your ankle mobility.

So, take off the lifters and get that block out from under your heels. We’re going to fix your ankles!

The Lunge Test is a simple DIY test to assess your ankle dorsiflexion:

  • Stand facing a wall with your feet staggered as if lunging

  • Keep the heel of your lead foot flat on the floor

  • Move your knee forward to touch the wall

  • If you touch, move your foot further from the wall and repeat until you find the distance where you can no longer touch your knee to the wall with your heel on the floor

  • Measure the distance from the wall to your toes

  • >10 cm is a pass.

  • Less than 10 cm and we have some work to do.

Ankle Mobility Exercises

If you scored less than 10 cm in the lunge test, here are some exercises you can do to improve your ankle mobility:

1. Banded ankle lunge

1. Banded ankle lunge

Keep your heel pressed to the floor while the band pulls back on the lower shin just above your ankle. Hold for 30 seconds on each side before each WOD.

2. Squat in band
2. Squat in band

2. Squat in band

Sit in a deep squat, using the band to support your weight. Keep your heels flat on the floor and shift your weight making large circles with your ankles for 30 seconds in each direction before each WOD.

3. Roll the soles of your feet - Do this daily. Who doesn’t like a good foot massage?

Contact Dr. Dwayne if you would like more information about ankle mobility:

  • Visit our clinics at CrossFit Connection and/or CrossFit Streets

  • Email

  • Follow us on facebook, Instagram or Twitter

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