Improve Your Ankle Mobility
Written by Cat Blatner
To achieve the perfect squat, we must first be able to achieve proper range of motion in our ankles.
The foundation of most of our movement is in our feet, so if your chest is dumping forward drastically when you air squat, take a closer look at your ankle flexibility. How well are you able to achieve flexion? If the answer is that you have a 90 degree angle happening at your ankles, then you may need to spend more time on mobility in that area. Here are a few tools you can use to help you achieve mobile ankles and improve your squat position.
First start by rolling the surrounding areas. Tight calves and fascia can really restrict the ankle joint. Start by breaking up the tissue in that area by rolling the bottom of your heel and the meat of your calves. You want to have direct pressure on these areas so the best mobility tools are going to be a lacrosse ball or a barbell. Sit on your butt, cross one leg over the other and start by placing your calf on a lacrosse ball. Apply pressure to the ball as you roll it up, down, forward and back over the muscles of your calves. After spending about 2 minutes on this area, switch legs and do the same thing to your other leg.
With a similar strategy, do the same thing on the heel of your foot. Stand with one foot firmly planted on the ground and the other on top of a lacrosse ball. Apply pressure and move your foot all about. If you feel extra tight at any point, sit and breath holding pressure over that spot.
After rolling, the next step would be to stretch the ankles into a flexed position. An easy option would be putting your toes up on a wall or some vertical surface with your heel on the floor. Shift your hips forward to force the ankle into a flexed position.
If you are able, sit at the bottom of a squat. Keep both heels planted on the ground as you shift your weight from side to side forcing the ankle into deeper dorsiflexion as seen below.
If you are not comfortable in the bottom of a squat, try lunging your weight forward to accomplish the same goal of creating good flexion in the ankle.
A third thing you can do is floss the ankle with a band. Attach the band to a low post and sling it through the ankle. Pull your foot forward until you feel tension pulling the band into the ankle. Floss the joint by bending and extending it multiple times.
To make this stretch more passive, find a slam ball or kb and set it on the knee of the ankle you are flossing. This will force the ankle into a more aggressive stretch.
Practice these mobility exercises daily for best results. As long as you stay persistent and committed, you will reap the benefits of great ankle mobility and feel way more comfortable at the bottom of your squat!