Bad Ankle MobilityGood Ankle Mobility
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 ankle strengthening exercises you can use to help you achieve better ankle mobility 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 ankle 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.

Ankle Mobility Exercises

1. Toes to the wall

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.

Coach Cat demonstrating ankle mobility at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

2. Sit at the Bottom of a Squat

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.

Coach Bryce demonstrating ankle mobility at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

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.

Coach Bryce demonstrating ankle mobility at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

3. Floss Your 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.

Coach Bryce demonstrating ankle mobility at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

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.

Coach Bryce demonstrating ankle mobility at CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

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!

Still looking to improve your ankle mobility as a CrossFit athlete? Check out our Invictus Athlete Online Program.

Are you over 35? Check out Invictus Masters.

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Justin SmithJamesChris MurphyDrew Cook, DPTAdam Hyland Recent comment authors
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James
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James

Michael so how do you stretch the back side?

Michal Surdej
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Michal Surdej

Guys, can you tell me why do you attach the band this way?

Adam Hyland
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Adam Hyland

“Non-professional comment since nobody else has replied”
It pulls the shin bones back to their farthest point within the joint capsule to hopefully increase range of motion within and make the point of impingement at a little bit steeper angle. It can help stretch out the tendons that are holding back its ROM also.

Michal Surdej
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Michal Surdej

Ok, but according to the joint movement rules, during the ankle dorsiflexion tibia is sliding forward over the talus. So if we want to improve the ROM we should assist bones movement by either pulling the tibia forward or pushing back the talus (which in self-mobilization is pretty difficult). By pulling tibia back as shown in the photo, you will create more impingement and stretch the front part of joint capsule (and we want to stretch the back side). I’ve seen a lot of people mobilizing that way and I would love to hear reasoning behind that. Thanks for your… Read more »

Drew Cook, DPT
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Drew Cook, DPT

Hey Michal, you are right but different Guru’s have different techniques. This is most likely taken from Kelly Starrett who is Maitlin based trained and has instructed it this way on one of his videos. Maitlin at times mobilizes opposite of arthrokinematics, roll/glide mechanics. I agree that this promotes increased impingement, but to be honest this is much too in depth for the mob above as it is simply unknowingly done this way. Drew Cook DPT http://www.mobilityfitpt.com

Michal Surdej
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Michal Surdej

Thanks for a reply Drew, it’s good to hear that I was pretty much correct with my knowledge. I really like to understand the drill or exercise before I’ll apply it to my athletes and clients. I think more people should do it that way instead of just copying stuff from other coaches. Best regards guys.

Murph99
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Murph99

could the band be placed low enough to pull back the talus instead of the tibia and therefore, make the technique more effective?

Michal Surdej
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Michal Surdej

from my personal experience Chris it’s very hard or almost impossible to place the band on the talus like you want to.

Justin Smith
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Justin Smith

You can do it but to get the correct line of pull elevate your front foot so the band is pulling down as well as back and really try to get the band underneath the ankle bones (malleoli). It will feel like the band is more on top of the foot than the leg. Honestly just be safe, but you can play around with it (don’t be dumb about it) and if it works for you, do it. If it doesn’t, try a different techniques because your joint may not be the problem anyway. But this won’t make it worse