Is Ankle Mobility Limiting Your Performance?
If you're a regular in the gym and haven't had your ankle mobility screened, this post is for you.
If you're a CrossFit box owner or coach who cares about your members but do not incorporate ankle mobility screening for each one of your new members, this post is also for you.
Ankle mobility (or lack thereof) is often times the culprit for sub-par performance during overhead squatting, lunging, jumping, and other tasks that involve dynamic movement of the ankle. Rather than continuing to smash on your lats and pecs with a lacrosse ball in hopes of improving your overhead mobility, save yourself some time and screen out your ankle mobility first.
What's the big deal with ankle mobility?
Simply put, if your ankle can't get into position during a movement, yet you still demand your body to perform that movement (i.e. squat), other joints/tissues have to compensate! This is why putting blocks under your heels when squatting makes it so much easier to keep your trunk upright; your hips don't have to compensate for the lack of motion in your ankles!
In addition to forcing compensatory movement during squatting, lunging, etc., limited ankle range of motion has also been linked to injury.
Limited ankle range of motion:
How do you screen your ankle mobility?
Here is a short video filmed for The Exchange Fitness blog that walks you through how to screen your ankle mobility:
Now, a quick note about a "screen" vs. an "assessment." A screen simply means "to check risk" whereas an assessment is to "determine why you can't do something." I mention this because the video above is considered a "screen;" you either have symmetrical range of motion of 4" or more, or you don't. The "assessment" portion of this comes into play when trying to figure out why someone doesn't have that 4" of ankle range of motion. While I would prefer myself (or another qualified provider) to perform a further assessment on someone with limited ankle range of motion (to rule out other potential factors or red flags), I'm all about empowering people to take care of their own body.
As you gathered from the video above, we most often see limitations when performing the ankle range of motion screen as a feeling of "tightness" in the back of your calf, or a "pinch" in the front of the ankle. We would attack these restrictions differently, so it's important to note which feeling you have when testing, and then perform the corresponding exercise for it.
1) Feeling "tightness" in the back
If when performing the ankle mobility screening test above you feel a tightness sensation in the back of your leg, here is the approach I recommend:
2) Feeling a "pinch" in the front
If when performing the ankle mobility screening test you feel a pinch sensation in the front of your ankle, here is the approach I recommend:
Again, I feel strongly about seeking professional care whenever pain is involved with movement. Therefore, if pain is involved with testing or either of these exercises, please seek help! These videos are designed to assist folks who simply feel restricted, not for those in pain!
With both of these exercises, I HIGHLY recommend to screen your ankle mobility, do a few sets of the exercise depending on what you feel, then RE-TEST your ankle mobility right away. Test then re-test allows you to see changes instantly when they occur!
As always, please reach out to myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Catherine (email@example.com) if:
- You have any questions regarding the above info
- Feel pain when performing testing or the exercises
- Do not see improvement in your range of motion
Or comment below if you agree or disagree with anything above so we can have a discussion (and I can learn something new!).
Thanks for reading.
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