How to Improve Ankle Mobility When Squatting
During these difficult times, it can be gratifying to know that there are simple answers to some problems. If you are having trouble getting depth in squats, sometimes you just need a little flexibility in the ankle. And that’s something you can work on even if you’re not in the gym.
Ankle mobility is important for squats because when your hips and knees bend, your ankles must bend as well. The taller you are and the longer your limbs, the more often you notice this. If your ankles are stiff, you are likely to have the most problems with squats with a bar and high bar, and you will be better able to handle squats with a low bar (when the bar is just below the top of the shoulders).
Thanks to the good mobility of the ankle, it will be easy for you to squat deep enough and keep your legs stable. If your ankles don’t bend easily, you may not be able to fully descend, leaving your heels on the floor.
So how can you solve this problem? There are a few easy fixes, some quick and some a little time consuming. While the next time you’re in the gym you might be looking forward to doing your heavy barbell squats, all of the following tips apply to bodyweight squats as well. Try them and see if your air squats improve.
How to instantly improve ankle mobility
First, remember that muscles stretch more easily when you are warmed up. So instead of squatting right away, warm up with a jog or other exercise of your choice to get your legs moving.
Then consider raising your heels. Weightlifting shoes, also called squat shoes, raise your heels slightly above the floor so you don’t have to bend your ankles so much to get into the same body positions. They are a godsend if you have problems with depth or balance in squats.
How to improve ankle mobility over time
The ankles, like everything else, respond to the rolling and stretching of the foam. You can do these exercises before squatting and they help a little right away, but over time, they can also help you improve your flexibility.
When we talk about the mobility of the ankle, we mean dorsiflexion, that is, the movement of the toes towards the lower legs. The parts of the body that need to be stretched here are actually located on the back of your leg and include the Achilles tendon (which attaches to the back of the heel bone) and the soleus, which runs up the inside of your lower leg.
This ankle stretch , shown in the video below, specifically targets these areas. You should stretch your calves without straightening your knees, but bent at the knees. The stretch shown below is a lunge performed against a wall, but instead of focusing on the back leg, you press the weight against the front foot with the knee bent. (Watch out for the second bonus exercise.)
You can also use a foam roller on your calf before lifting. Take a look at this and other ankle mobility exercises here . If you have a cramp while squatting or doing these exercises, roll a lacrosse ball under your foot.
After you’ve tried all of these, try squatting again and see if you can get your depth more comfortable.