Training Series: Ankle Mobility

Last week we discussed Longevity and how important movement is to our longevity and well-being along with controlling inflammation and proper recovery. We are excited to begin a new series this week which will be our Training Series! During this series we will focus on different areas that we at ChiroFitt focus on with our training programs. We previously discussed our Functional Movement Screen and why we screen our fitness clients prior to beginning any fitness program. This screening process helps to guide us to better focus our training to meet our client’s needs and help them to reach their fitness goals more safely and effectively.

We believe that the body functions as a whole and not separate parts. One of our main slogans here at ChiroFitt is “If We Train Movement, Muscles Will Never Be Forgotten; If We Train Muscles, Movement is Sure to be Forgotten”. In saying this, we also understand that there are primary roles for different regions of our body, which we discussed previously in our Joint-by-Joint Approach blog post. As a result, there are regions of the body that have a more dominant mobility role. These regions include the ankle, hips, thoracic spine (mid back), and shoulders. These areas of predominant mobility are separated by regions of predominant stability including the foot, knee, low back (core) and shoulder blades (scapula). In review:

In this part of our training series, we are going to be focusing on our corrective strategies for the regions that have a predominant mobility function. In the next part of this series, we will focus on the regions that have a predominant stability function and then we will finally go into strength and power. Our hope with this series is to help give you a better insight of how we train here at ChiroFitt with a focus on functional training starting from the ground up and building a solid foundation prior to building strength and power. In other words, we do not want to build strength and power on top of a dysfunctional foundation as this is often where injury has a significantly higher risk as a result of compensation and overload to our body.

This week we will focus on our strategies for improving ankle mobility. It is important to realize that not everybody requires improvement to their ankle mobility or mobility to any region of the body for that matter. This is why we perform the Functional Movement Screen prior to considering a training plan for our clients as we determine your specific functional needs prior to writing your program. With that being said, we are going to show you some of our favorite methods and exercises to help those who would be considered candidates for improvement in these areas.

We are going to start with the ankle because it is literally the bottom block and so vital to many of our daily activities and proper ability to maintain good form through many exercises routinely performed, including squats and lunges. Good ankle function is also vital to one’s ability to maintain good balance. For further review of the ankle and how we test ankle mobility, revisit our ankle mobility screen post.

Here are some of our favorite ways to help improve your ankle mobility:

Many times, the first step to improving ankle mobility is making sure that your calf muscles have good flexibility to allow your ankle joint to move properly. We accomplish this through rolling our calves either with a foam roll or more preferably, a stick. Once we improve the elasticity of our calves through rolling, we follow it by calf stretches, as demonstrated below:

Rolling Calves/Stick Calves

(Foam Roller and Stick to roll calves)

Stretching Calves

(Prostretch used to stretch calves followed by modified version without prostretch)

Once we have rolled and stretched the calves to improve flexibility of the muscles around the ankle joint, the next step would be to do mobilization-based exercises to help with joint mobility of the ankle.

Half Kneeling Ankle Mobility w/ Dowel

Half Kneeling Ankle Mobility w/ Kettlebell

(Ensure the knee is tracking over the toes while keeping the heel on the ground)

Standing Ankle Mobility w/ band

(Ensure the knee is tracking over the toes while keeping the front heel on the ground)

The next step in helping to maintain the flexibility and mobility that we have worked on through stretching and mobilization is to improve stability in the ankle joint. We do this through some balance-based exercises, as shown below:

Single Leg Core Activation

(Pull bands and hold at side, raise leg and hold for four seconds)

Staggered Toe Touches with Soft Knees

(Inhale on the reach, exhale on the decline and keeping the knees soft)

The above sequence of exercises are just examples of some of the strategies that we utilize here at ChiroFitt for our clients with ankle mobility restrictions to help them unlock the lost mobility in their ankles. In making changes to mobility, we also need a way to confirm the change and determine if we are actually seeing the changes in improving ankle mobility. This is precisely the reason we do the Functional Movement Screen, not just so we have a baseline to program from, but even more so that we have a baseline to retest to hold ourselves accountable to making true change in our clients. Once we have reached a satisfactory level of ankle mobility, we are then ready to move forward in functional training and compound exercises that require adequate mobility of the ankle, such as the squat and lunge where we can start to build functional strength.

Squat variations

Squat with Pressout
(Press out kettlebell as you lower)
Racked Kettlebell Squat

Lunge Variations

(Reverse Lunge w/ Racked Sandbag)
(Max Lunge)

In seeing the videos above, it is obvious that these movements require good hip and knee mobility along with good core and trunk stability (which we will review in the coming weeks).

The next phase of training beyond strength would be power, which we achieve through activities that involve more speed and acceleration, such as:

Box Jumps

Lateral Bounds

You can see how we have come full circle from regaining ankle mobility through stretching and mobilization to maintaining those changes through improved stability, and finally getting to functional strength and power exercises that require good ankle mobility to be accomplished without compensation and a potential increased risk of injury. In seeing this example, some key points here are that squatting and lunging along with jumping based exercises are not bad and should not be entirely avoided, however in order to limit our ability to injury with these exercises we want to meet the minimum functional requirements of our body to achieve this movements safely and effectively allowing our body to receive the maximum benefit of the exercise with minimal risk of injury.

We hope that this discussion and the videos presented helped to provide you with some insight into how we train here at ChiroFitt. Our programs are designed specifically for you and your needs, helping you to reach your goals in the safest and most effective ways possible. If this sounds like something that you would be interested in learning more about, our No Stress Fitness Strategy Session makes this simple for you to do. Who’s ready to live a longer, healthier, more vibrant, and active life? We are ready to show you how to make that happen. Next week will move from ankle mobility into hip mobility. In the meantime, if you want to get a jump start on hip mobility, check out our previous blog post on the Active Straight Leg Raise Test, which discusses some of the importance of good hip mobility.

Till Next Time…

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