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3 Ankle Mobility Drills to Improve Your Squat

Overall ankle mobility and stability is important (see countless athletes injured every day with sprained ankles). This piece will primarily focus on ankle dorsiflexion, the deemed "most functionally important" of the ankle's motions. Ankle dorsiflexion, or the "pulling your toes to your nose" motion, is something many take for granted. Multiple injuries to the structures surrounding the ankle joint is 1) not uncommon and 2) can lead to a build up of scar tissue leading to a gradual decrease in joint mobility, especially dorsiflexion. Those limited in this motion may see deficits in their ability to squat deeply or properly, walk or run with a normal gait pattern, or see decreased performance in their respective activities. The goal of this blog is to give you a toolbox of exercises to focus on to improve your ankle dorsiflexion.

Test Your Mobility with your iPhone:

App: "Level" in the "Measure" generic app on your iPhone

Position: 1/2 kneeling with measuring ankle in front (preferably no shoes and on a firm surface)

Instructions: Place your iPhone along your shin so that it reads 0 degrees. Then, keeping your front foot flat, reach as far forward as you can with the front knee. Go until your heel lifts, you feel restriction, or pain is felt. Note the measurement on your iPhone. 45 degrees is considered "normal".

Drill #1:

Mobilize It: 1/2 Kneeling Self-Mobilization with Movement

Goal: Mobilize the ankle joint

  1. Anchor a 1/2"-1" band behind you and assume a 1/2 kneeling lunge position with the target ankle in front.

  2. Loop the band just below the 2 large ankle bones in the front so that it pulls backwards

  3. Maintaining heel contact and a stable foot (don't let arch collapse), drive your front knee forward in line or just outside of the foot. Avoid your knee caving in. Push the knee as far forward as possible without losing heel contact with the ground. 

  4. Perform this about 2-3 sets x 8-15 reps with a 2-3 second pause at end range

Drill #2:

Mobilize It: Standing Step Through

Goal: Mobilize musculature surrounding the ankle (calf muscles)

  1. Lean forward against a wall with your feet further back until you feel a stretch in the back of target leg

  2. Maintaining heel contact and a stable foot of the target ankle and with the opposite foot, step forward and in front of the target leg.

  3. Perform this about 2-3 sets x 8-15 reps with a 2-3 second pause at end range

Drill #3:

Load It: Goblet Squat Self-Mobilization with Movement

Goal: Get the ankle used to moving in increased ranges of motion with weight

  1. Keeping the band anchored behind you and looped below the two large ankle bones of the target ankle, step away so the band is tight and your feet are even and shoulder width apart or your typical squat stance

  2. Hold a moderately heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in the goblet position and perform squats with a good upright posture 

  3. Perform this about 2-3 sets x 5-7 reps with a heavy weight (can also perform with front squats or barbell variations)

Want to develop a more individualized program to work on your ankle mobility? Email Dr. Trent Napp at or schedule online today!

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