The overlooked ankle

If your big guys can’t get low when it comes to squatting chances are their ankles and calves may be balled up like shotputs.  The ankle is the most overlooked joint in the human body when it comes to sports performance.  Ankle mobility has huge implications on not only squat depth but especially knee pain and can even affect the low back, and shoulders.   One of the reasons we see Elite Olympic weightlifters wear special heeled weighlifting shoes

Ankle mobility at its finest!

 is they compensate the need for less ankle mobililty to drop into the bottom of a full squat clean or snatch.  So what steps can your half squatters take to cure their ails?

First, get them rolling!  Have them perform soft tissue work up

and down the calf complex on a foam roller.  Generally, we hit the achilles tendon for 10 reps, the gastroc for 10 reps, then all the way up and down for 10 reps.  Foam rollers are a poor man’s massage.  They’re one of the most important aspects to an athletes training in my opinion.  Another great alternative or even progression is to use a tennis ball.  Using a ball for soft tissue work will really get at those knots and tight spots like you’ve never seen. 

Second, get them mobilizing the ankle with wall touches.  Have the athlete start 1-2″ away from the wall and try to touch it with the knee.  Don’t let the heel come up off the floor.  If they can touch back them up by 1″ until they can no longer hold the heel down while touching.  When they find this distance we move back up 1″ and touch for 10 reps with a 2-3 sec. hold on each. 
Third, after they’ve loosened up the calf complex, now get them squatting in the proper range of motion or newly gained range of motion. 

We want to create mobility in the joint first, then have them go through proper movement patterns.  Too often athletes ingrain poor motor patterns because of tightness, when all we have to do is eliminate the tightness then ingrain a the proper pattern.  Eventually, the pattern will become second nature and now you have a deep squatter.

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