Hi Friends of Oompf, it’s Alvan here. Today I will be talking about ankle mobility, its importance and ways to improve it.
Ankle Mobility And Its Importance
Ankle mobility refers to the flexibility of the ankle joint and its surrounding muscles and tendons. When your ankle is flexible, you have a greater range of motion during your activities. Tight ankles however, is usually a result of tight muscles in your calf or the back of your lower leg. It could also be due to a prior injury or frequent use of high heels.
Basic movements like walking, sitting, squatting and lunging require the mobility of the ankle but more often than not, it is an aspect that is overlooked when it comes to training. When doing any exercise that involves the lower body, your ankles play a part in performing those movements. Hence if your ankle mobility is poor, your body will need to compensate in other joints in order to move due to the loss of ankle mobility.
While poor ankle mobility may not be extremely detrimental to your training, it can result in compromised form when performing certain exercises; and may result in injury to your lower back, hips and knees over the long run. Poor ankle mobility also means that you may not be able to achieve a full range of motion when performing certain exercises.
One way you can assess your mobility in your lower body is by performing a half kneeling dorsiflexion test. This screen will tell you if you have full mobility or if your movement problems are a result of a problem somewhere else in your body. You may ask your personal trainer to assess this for you.
The next question is, how to improve ankle mobility?
With any part of your body, improving flexibility and mobility takes time and consistency. These are muscles that have tightened overtime due to bad habits and will need time to correct.
Here are some ways you can improve your ankle mobility:
1. Self Myofascial Drills
One of the more simple self-myofascial release techniques for ankle mobility is foam rolling the calf. How to perform it?
- Roll up and down the entire length of the muscle for ~10 reps or up to 30 seconds
- If they hit a tender spot or trigger point, pause at the spot for ~8-10 seconds
- Add active ankle range of motion movements during rolling, such as actively dorsiflexing the foot or performing ankle circles
2. Stretches for Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility
Another way to improve mobility in the ankle is by stretching out the tight calf muscles. You can do this by facing a wall standing with one leg forward and one leg back. Put the heel of the forward leg on the ground while flexing the foot up, using the wall to hold the stretch. Below is an example.
3. Exercises for Ankle Mobility
Finally, you can incorporate some of these exercises in the beginning of your routine to help warm up the muscles around your ankles.
- Reverse bear crawl (Get down on your hands and knees, begin crawling backwards, moving with the opposite hand and foot.)
- Dorsiflexion with resistance band (secure your resistance band to a low anchor point. While sitting down with both legs stretched out and toes pointing up, loop the end of the band over the top of one side of your foot. Make sure there is already resistance while you flex your foot upwards.)
- Calf raises (stand on an elevated surface to do these raises, allow the heel to move through the full range of motion)
One of the main exercises that clients usually have trouble with when they have ankle mobility issues are squats. A great way to modify the exercise to make it more comfortable, allowing for a greater range of motion would be to put a small weight plate of 1.5-2kg under the toes of each foot before performing your squats.
I hope this article has shed some light on the importance of ankle mobility and how if left unattended, an injured or tight ankle could develop into a bigger issue.
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