The Importance of Ankle Mobility

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The Importance of Ankle Mobility

Written on May 5th 2021, By Ben Jenkins[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]Whether you are a surfer, a team sports athlete or someone who enjoys training, ankle range of motion is going to be an important factor for good movement. In its most basic form, the amount of ankle mobility we possess will influence the ability to produce and absorb force with the lower body.

When referring to ankle mobility I am specifically speaking about dorsiflexion. This is essentially how far the knees can go over the toes whilst keeping the heel on the floor and we typically assess this with a knee to wall assessment.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”730″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

How Ankle Mobility Can Effect Training

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]From a training perspective, our level of ankle dorsiflexion will determine how effective we are when it comes to squat, lunge and landing patterns. In order to perform an effective squat, we need the knees to pass the toes. Without this ability, the body will find the range elsewhere, typically at the expense of the lumbar spine. If we lock up a joint that is meant to be mobile (the ankle), the body will use other structures to find range of motion. This will cause loading of a faulty movement pattern and will result in injury at some stage – especially when it comes to compressive loading of the lumbar spine.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

How Ankle Mobility Can Effect Performance

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]From a performance perspective, limited ankle range will affect a great deal of positions we typically see. Using surfing as an example, general capabilities of speed generation, force absorption, compression and the pop-up all require good ankle range to be successful. For those who surf regularly, surfing alone might be sufficient to maintain a good level of dorsiflexion. For most of us, this is not the case and is an issue. When it comes to it, we don’t want our body to be the limiting factor to why we aren’t progressing in the water.

With the athletes I work with, monitoring ankle range is a regular occurrence. We know the implications of limited range in both training and performance settings so we make sure each athlete has an appropriate amount of prep work to complete each week.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”732″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]

Strategies to Improve Ankle Mobility

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]When it comes to improving ankle range, we first need to decide what is causing any limitation. Is it a joint or soft tissue restriction? For joint restrictions, we can use banded joint mobilisations where we are using the band to assist us with any pinching or blocking at the front of the ankle. For soft tissue restrictions we can use foam rolling and stretching strategies to increase range of motion. Working on these correctives 5-10 minutes per day and pre-training will make meaningful changes to mobility and allow us to get into better positions during training sessions. One additional strategy I like to use is developing strength at end range of motion through appropriate lunging/squat variations with a specific emphasis on slow eccentric movement.

For those who have limited dorsiflexion, that doesn’t mean we can’t squat or lunge, we just need to make appropriate exercise choices. Utilising hip dominant squat movements, single leg work and additional deadlifting variations allows us to continue training without compromising movement and loading faulty patterns.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Wrapping it Up!

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]So to quickly recap what we have covered:

  1. Limited ankle range will have implications of both training and performance;
  2. Limited range will increase risk of injury due to compensatory movements and higher peak forces during landing;
  3. Corrective work + loading the ankle at its end range will create meaningful changes to mobility;
  4. Stay on top of your ankle mobility if you are not surfing regularly.

If you have found this post useful, please share it so that others may also benefit from it. If you would like any further help with improving your ankle mobility, please get in touch via the contact form on the website.

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