Early on in my career, I have had a handful of patients that regardless of what I did, their squat technique was always off. I would work for months and months and I could only make so much change. Banging my head against the wall, it took me way too long to start to look at the ankles during my assessment process.
The ankle joint is one of the most overlooked joints in the body when movement dysfunction or pain exists. Poor ankle mobility can cause poor movement patterns, knee pain, inability to squat to full depth and a slew of other problems.
HOW TO ASSESS ANKLE MOBILITY
Before you start randomly throwing ankle mobility exercises into your programs, first start with this simple assessment from the FMS/SFMA.
By assessing the ankles you now have an objective measure that will A) tell you if you have a deficit and B) is an objective way to retest your mobility to see if you are actually making improvements.
ANKLE MOBILITY FIXES
There are a ton of very good ankle mobility correctives out there. The following are just a few of my favorites placed into one location for your convenience.
Since the calves are always in use with walking, standing, jumping, running etc... they have the potential to develop trigger points and tightness. In order to address this there are 3 things we need to focus on.
1) Self Myofascial Release: To Your Calf and Plantar Fascia.
Using a foam roller or a lacrosse ball (any ball will do really) roll the entire length of the muscle for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If you find any tender points along the way, stop and keep pressure on this area for 5 deep breaths.
Note: The plantar fascia is part of the superficial back line. It had a direct fascial connection with the gastroc, therefore rolling both out can offer greater benefit than one alone.
2) Stretching - There is a lot of chatter going on in the field of health and fitness that stretching is overrated, and we do too much of it. As there is much merit to this, focused stretching to areas that NEED to be addressed is beneficial. Bottom line here: Don't stretch a muscle just because it feels tight. Use objective measures that assure you that what you are stretching (like our DF assessment) is actually improving your mobility and movement.
There are many ways to stretch this area of your body. Just make sure that when you stretch, you hold the stretch for 2 minutes without coming out of it. Research done from Dr. Andrea Spina and the FRC courses suggests that tissues need at least 2 minutes of constant communication to effectively make positive improvements.
3) Ankle Mobility - These are best served as movement prep for your workouts, and to help improve ankle joint mobility. Here a couple of my favorites below:
Ankle Mobs to Wall
Mulligan Mobs with Movement
Calf Rock Backs
Whether or not you feel your technique is good or not, take 2 minutes to assess your ankle mobility. It can potentially help you find limitations that can help improve your technique and performance.
Hope this was helpful, please leave your comments and feed back below.