For the fitness athlete, ankle mobility may be the most critical joint in the body. Without adequate ankle dorsiflexion, many functional movements like squats, push presses, and running will have altered form. The following article will outline what we believe to be the five best drills to improve ankle mobility.
As an illustration of how vital ankle motion can be for the fitness athlete, watch the following video. Notice how much limiting ankle motion changes torso and shoulder position!
While the following exercises are all great, your best option for rapidly improving your mobility is to follow a proven plan that has helped hundreds unlock their stiff ankles. For that, check out our Ankle Mobility Overhaul program and get started improving your movement today!
The Best Ankle Mobility Drills
Lateral Tibial Glide
When working ankle mobility to try and improve squat depth, one crucial thing to consider when working ankle mobility is that our knees are pushed forward and OUT as we squat. This lateral movement is commonly ignored in ankle mobility work. My favorite exercise to address this component is to work on lateral tibial glide with the following movement.
An even more aggressive stretch to address both ankle dorsiflexion and the lateral component just addressed is an exercise I call “The Wedge”. A resistance band wraps around the athlete’s hips, pulling their knees forward. The athlete puts their elbows inside of the knees and presses out to work lateral ankle motion simultaneously.
When working on driving the knees forward, my most common exercise prescribed is dorsiflexion PAILs/RAILs. The combination of static stretching plus active muscle isometric contractions does a great job of improving ankle motion.
For athletes who feel primarily limited in their ankles are limited by tightness in the calf muscles, I tend to use many eccentric contractions. For the ankle, we do that with a slow lower into a stretch with the knee straight, then bend the knee to hit the soleus muscle of the calf.
For athletes who feel more ankle mobility limitations in the front of the joint, I tend to lean more towards using the following band mobilization to address any joint stiffness.
Ready to unlock your stiff ankles? Join Performance Plus Programming and get started on our Ankle Overhaul today!