Improving ankle mobility is good for:
Basketball Athlete looking to reduce their injury risk and optimize landing stabilization and force absorption
The weightlifter struggling with their movements and keeping an upright torso.
The squatter having hip pain and pinching in their hips.
The problem with most ankle mobility exercises is that they don’t place enough demand on stabilizing the foot alongside improving your ankle mobility. The changes are typically very short lived with very little improvements over time. Your ankles should not require countless hours of mobility drills to create the desired change you are looking for.
Low level minimal load preparation efforts will not adequately prepare you for high level high load complex movement. Now don’t get me wrong, a low level ankle mobility exercise or stretch may be useful for some depending on someone’s current pain level and capabilities. Which is why I will give you a few examples of my favorite. The problem is that many people can QUICKLY move past these simple activities to others that provide a higher rate of return and TRAIN multiple qualities at once!
1/2 Kneeling Assessment
Goal: To be able to place the foot one hand’s width away from the wall and glide knee over the mid-lateral foot without letting your heel rise.
The Good: This can be both an assessment to compare bilaterally or for testing and retesting to see if our ankle mobility is improving with our interventions. This is also a great modification for those with weight bearing limitations or pain in full weight bearing that limits joint loading.
The Bad: Low load AND intensity so won’t do much for you in preparing you for bigger movements like jumping, squatting, lunging, and a host of others.
1/2 Kneeling Loaded KB Dorsiflexion
Goal: To use the load of the KB to create more joint compression which may decrease joint stiffness by increasing sensory receptor stimulation that assist in creating those desired changes in the joint and with your mobility.
The Good: Low barrier to entry for those with significant ankle restrictions because of pain, injury, or movement pattern limitations.
The Bad: Again, low load and low intensity. No stability demand from the foot and other key regions to create coordinated and efficient movement.
Banded Distraction with Calf Stretch
Goal: To use the band to separate or distract the ankle joint to assist in creating more joint mobility while also stretching the calf musculature which plays a role in limiting dorsiflexion.
The Good: I actually really love this one and you will always feel immediate changes in your perception and range of motion. Great resource for those with significant ankle pain and other restrictions.
The Bad: Zero joint compression and loading so it does not adequately prepare you for true movements that you need ankle mobility for.
Here are THREE effective exercises that i guarantee you start adding to your efforts from time to time will create big time changes. As well as still allow you to train or get into your training routine QUICKLY without spending hours before or after your workouts doing silly low level ankle mobility mobility exercises that are a dime a dozen on the internet.
Standing Anterior Step Down
Front Foot Elevated Forward Lunge
The Goal: Since most people use a heel lift for movements in training to create more ankle dorsiflexion mobility we can reverse that by elevating the forefoot. This is the exact opposite of the heel lift. By trying to encourage pushing the knee forward (not hips back) we can target loading of the ankle joint with bodyweight forces and beyond.
So give these three variations and try and watch your ankle mobility start to improve! Let us know how they work for you. Be sure to share these with your STIFF ANKLE’D training partner!