One of the most important biomechanical movements of the human body, but also one of the most overlooked.
Ankle dorsiflexion is defined by the action of bending your foot backwards towards your shin (Flexing your foot in an upwards, dorsal position).
Limited ankle dorsiflexion has shown to increase risk of injury on the lower extremities on the body, including but not limited to; the foot, ankle, knee and hips. Having a lack of dorsiflexion will effect the simplest movements from your walking gait to lifts in the gym, such as lunging and squatting. When limited mobility in the ankle is shown, compensations within the lower extremities (especially the knee) will occur. This causes a disruption on your kinetic chain through your body, leading to other compensations at different joints, which in turn will create improper movement patterns, leading to poor posture and injury. Often when people have pain around the knees, the actually cause originates from your ankles.
Limited ankle mobility often occurs from genetics, injuries at the ankle, joint restrictions and tightness (shortened/overactive) calf muscles. There are a few tests you can do to see if you have a limited dorsiflexion within the ankle. Firstly, do you find you struggle to keep an upright position as you go deeper into a squat (Excessive forward lean)? Do your heels tend to raise? Does putting a 1-2 inch step under your heel resolve the issue? Do you feet turn out or flatten as you squat? These are all common signs of limited mobility.
Try this simple but effective mobility test:
Perform this mobility test without shoes/socks on so you can see any compensations that may occur.
One you perform the test on one foot, remember to switch over to do it on the other foot.
To address this, we are going to be looking at myofascial releasing the muscles in the calf, known as the gastroc/soleus complex, then lengthen the muscles through stretching and mobility exercises.
Phase 1: Myofascial release (foam roll) the calf muscles
To do this, slowly roll up and down the calf musculature (1inch per second) until you find a spot of tightness within the muscle, then hold the weight on this spot for 20-30 seconds, till you start to feel the tightness release. Then repeat on the other leg.
Phase 2: Lengthening/stretching
For this stretch were going to place the foam roller just above your ankle, then use a strap to pull your calf into dorsiflexion, hold this position for 20 seconds, repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
Finally we are going to perform a banded lunge variation
To note, if you don't have access to a band that's fine, this exercise can be performed without one.
- Steady, slow , controlled movement
- 5 second hold (You can hold longer if its post training, or as a separate session)
- 10 reps, 3 sets