Most of our movement begins with the feet, and a restricted ankle joint with cause a chain of compensations throughout the body. When you began training at the Better Body Group, its highly likely your trainer performed a series of dynamic tests with you on your first session, and if they only performed one test, it would have been the over-head squat.
This is primarily due to the squat being such a fundamental movement, but also because it clearly highlights existing issues of the hip and ankle. If during the a squat your chest is coming forward, its probably due to restricted ankles.
Often trainers will elevate your heels, reducing the need for greater mobility of the ankle in order to perform the squat. While this should be a short term solution, you should strive to perform all movements properly without assists.
The ankle differs from the hip and shoulder joint discussed in previous articles, in that it is not a ball and socket joint and as such, does not allow such a large range of motion. The ankle joint is actually made up of two joints, the talocrural joint allowing up and down movement, and the subtalar joint allowing side to side movement. These joints can be manipulated simultaneously, allowing rotation of the ankle.
The first step to improving the ankle joint is foam rolling the surrounding areas. While many of you may already be doing this before exercising, the sole of your foot and calf area is often overlooked or not given enough attention. Softer rollers are usually not appropriate to really break up the tissue as requires, so opt for more sturdy lacrosse ball, or some of the more gruelling tools found near the rollers.
After rolling, perform a few repetitions of Controller Articular Rotations. Place your foot on the roller so your foot is elevated, slowly and purposefully rotate the foot in as big a circle as possible in each direction. This drill will not be as effective are those performed on the hip and shoulder and as such, I suggest 2 additional drills to promote increased mobility.
- Deep Squat Sitting
Feed a thick resistance band around a secure structure like the squat rack at hip height and then back through itself providing a strong anchor. Face the anchor and fit the band around your hips and assume a standard squat position, with feet just outside shoulder width and feet flared slightly outwards.
Squat down into a deep squat position, the band should prevent you from losing your balance and sit relatively comfortably in this deep position. (As you can see in the picture I have a long way to go.) You may feel a tightness in your hips, if so spend a few moments pushing your knees outwards with your elbows to open the hips up. I recommend you also see my previous article on hip mobility to help with this tightness. To attack the ankle complex, gently shift your weight onto one foot, pushing your knee forward over your toes. Keep your heel flat on the ground in order to gain the most out of this exercise. Gently rock back and forth over one foot before shifting your weight onto the other and repeat.
- Ankle Joint Flossing
Anchor a resistance band as the previous drill, albeit at ankle height, fit the band around one ankle and face away from the anchor. Pull away putting quite a bit of tension on the band. Keep your heel on the floor, push your knee forward and backwards, flexing the knee and ankle. The band should essentially floss the front of the ankle helping breaking up the tissue and remove any restrictions.
These drills should be performed daily if possible, before exercising, and especially on days you may be squatting. If you are unsure if you are squatting in your 1-to-1 session with your trainer, simply ask beforehand and get there a little earlier if possible.
Your Exercise Prescription Specialist