How to Test and Improve Your Ankle Mobility
Having full ankle mobility is one of the best things you can do to prevent injury. The ankle plays a major role in injury prevention and if mobility is limited, your body can start to compensate in other areas causing pain and injury. The ankle is the first major joint that absorbs shock when your foot hits the ground, which is why having full mobility is so important. If ankle mobility is lacking, that shock will be absorbed somewhere further up the chain and may contribute to pain at the knee, hip or even low back.
Why is ankle mobility important for athletes?
For athletes, especially power lifters, body builders, and cross fitters, ankle mobility has a lot to do with how deep you can get into a squat. To get into a stable and strong squat position you need your ankle to bend or flex. The ankle is one of several joints involved in squatting and is important because its ability to flex will allow for deeper and more stable squatting.
How to Test Your Ankle Mobility
You may have no idea how mobile or immobile your ankle joint and tendons are, so let’s get a benchmark. In this video, Dr. Mitchell shows you how to test your ankle mobility. All you need is a wall. Make a fist with your hand and then stick your thumb out. Use your thumb and your fist to measure out from the wall and place your toe at the base of your fist. Drive the knee forward while keeping the heel down. How close to the wall can you get? Good ankle mobility will be able to almost touch the wall. If you are three or more fingers away from the wall, you need to work on your mobility on that side.
Three Stretches to Improve Your Ankle Mobility
Banded Talus Stretch for Increased Ankle Mobility
If you test your ankle mobility and find that it could use some improvement, the banded talus stretch is a great exercise to increase your range of motion. You need a stool or slightly elevated surface and a resistance band. Place the band over the talus bone (which is right where the ankle meets the foot on top) and pull back to create some resistance, then drive the knee forward and hold for two to three seconds and reset.
Ankle Stretch Using Body Weight
If your ankle mobility is limited, doing an ankle stretch with your body weight can really help increase your flexibility and range of motion. All you need is a stool or elevated surface. Place your foot flat on the stool and then press your chest into your thigh to drive your knee forward. Remember to keep your heel down and your foot flat. Hold for a few seconds and then reset.
Deep Squat with Weight for Increased Ankle Mobility
Adding a weight will help you counter the movement of this exercise as you stretch and lengthen the muscles in your ankle. Get a five-to-ten-pound weight – this can be a medicine ball, a kettle bell, a sack of flower even. Hold the weight out straight from your chest and get into a deep squat. Rest your elbows on your knees and then slide back and forth over each of your ankles, making sure each time that your knees drive straight out and don’t collapse in.