Despite the best of efforts, your squats are not nearly as low as you’d like — and when they do get low enough, the result is crippling pain. The culprit could be poor ankle mobility, a common problem that limits range of motion for fitness novices and experienced athletes alike. If your ultimate goal is a parallel squat, you’ll have no hope of achieving it if your ankles lack sufficient strength and flexibility.
Killer Squats: How to Improve Ankle Mobility
Testing for Ankle Mobility
Ankle mobility is a chief problem among those who struggle to achieve low, painless squats. However, a variety of other factors can also impact your squatting ability. Before addressing ankle mobility, it is important to ensure that it is actually a problem.
Use a ruler or tape measure to locate a spot five inches away from the wall and mark that spot with a piece of masking tape. Place your front toe on the tape while executing a lunge position. While keeping your heel on the ground, press your knee forward, bringing it as close to the wall as possible. If your knee is unable to reach the wall, a mobility regimen may be necessary before you achieve your full squatting potential.
Exercises to Improve Ankle Mobility
It is surprisingly easy to improve ankle mobility. The most effective methods involve simple tools, such as foam rollers and lacrosse balls. Consider incorporating the following exercises into your workout regimen:
An increasingly popular solution for those with mobility issues, the foam roller should be your go-to tool whenever your ankles feel tight. Simply place the foam roller at your ankle bone and roll it halfway up your calf.
Lacrosse Ball Exercises
While standing, place a lacrosse or tennis ball under the arch of your foot. Press your weight into the ball and roll it up and down the length of your foot.
A standard ankle mobility stretch involves placing the ball of your foot against the wall and your heel on the floor. Lean your body in towards the wall for a more intense stretch. For a more relaxing take on the wall stretch, lie on the ground with your legs stretched out and your feet flat against the wall. Press your toes towards your body while attempting to keep your heels against the wall.
If the aforementioned wall stretch is a bit too easy, attach an exercise band to the top of your foot, tie it to the leg of a chair, and pull your toes towards your body while sitting with your legs stretched in front of you.
The more of an emphasis you place on developing ankle mobility, the sooner you will be able to sit comfortably at the bottom of your squat. Perform the above exercises at least twice a week — you’ll be squatting like a champ in no time!