Without proper mobility in the hips and ankles, squatting exercises can be challenging, and uncomfortable.
Today, we’re going to show you a simple test to determine whether or not your ankles are the limiting factor in your squat and 3 easy exercises to fix your squat if they are.
The Ankle Dorisflexion Test
The first step in the test is to lay out a ruler perpendicular to a wall and lay your foot on the ruler. Keeping your heel planted, you’re going to try and drive your knee to the wall keeping your femur in line with the foot.
If you’re able to touch the wall with your knee, you’re going to move your foot slightly back and rest again.
Continue this process until your heel starts to lift up off the ground as your knee approaches the wall and take your measurement.
It’s important to take note of where you’re feeling tension during the test. You’re either going to feel it in the front or back of the ankle.
Interpreting the Results
Average Result for males: 5 1/2 inches.
Average Result for females: 4 1/2 inches.
If you’re above that average, your ankles are good to go. However, if you find yourself below the average result, your squat will greatly benefit from some added ankle mobility exercises in your routine.
The exercises prescribed below depend on where you felt that tension during the test, so keep that in mind when planning out your mobility routine.
Ankle Mobility Exercises
These first three exercises are going to be for the folks who felt the tension in the front of their ankle when they came up short during the dorsiflexion test.
1. Toe Squat
Contrary to what you may believe, squatting on your toes is actually a great way to build awareness for squatting with a vertical spine.
We aren’t telling you to load up a barbell with 90% of your one-rep max. That’s just silly. Start by adding a couple of sets with just your bodyweight into your warm-ups and reap the rewards.
2. Squat Hold
The second exercise you can add is to simply accumulate time in the bottom of the squat. You can start by accumulating 30 seconds and eventually build up to 2 minutes.
Once you find yourself holding that position for 2+ minutes, add an empty barbell to your back.
This is going to elongate the ligaments in the back of your ankles and loosen up and un-impinge the front of your ankle.
3. Foot Drills
These foot drills are great to increase proprioception and strength across the ankle. You’re going to measure out a 25-meter distance and walk in the following foot positions:
- Outside blade of the foot
- Inside of the foot w/outside off the ground
- Pigeon toed
- Duck footed (Click here for another great ankle mobility drill specific to weightlifting)
- Backward on the balls of feet
- Heels of feet
This final exercise to be added in addition to the previous 3 if you felt the tension in the back of your ankle during the dorsiflexion test.
4. Eccentric Dorsiflexion
Hop up onto the edge of a 3.5 – 4″ thick bumper plate and come all the way up to your full range of plantar flexion. Then, you’re going to lift one foot up and slowly let the supported foot down as far as it will go. Once you get to the end range, drive that same supported knee forward and hold for another second.
The key to this drill is to really focus on the eccentric portion or the lower of the exercise in order to pull apart those muscles and tendons that are stuck together at the back of the calf.
A beginner’s prescription for this drill is 3 sets of 10 reps per side. If you feel soreness a couple of days after the drill, that’s perfectly normal. This will get better over time as you start to adapt. If the soreness lingers around for over a week, you’re going to want to scale back the total volume.
Now that you know whether your ankle is limiting your squat, it’s time to put in some work and add a few hard-earned pounds to your lifts.
If you’re looking for more exercises, skills and drills for increasing strength and mobility in your ligaments and tendons, check out our unmatched Gymnastics Program.