Before answering the question “What drills can I use to improve ankle dorsiflexion ?” let’s talk about ankle dorsiflexion?
Ankle dorsiflexion is the ability of the tip of the foot to pass closer to the shin. There are two distinct motions in this plane ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexion. The ankle is a pivot joint that allows for sagittal plane movement of the foot.
What Is the Importance of Dorsiflexion?
Dorsiflexion is critical since it permits the tibia (shin bone) to pass easily forward. When the tibia is immobile in a vertical position, the top of our body can lean forward to compensate for the ankle’s loss of mobility when squatting. It is most noticeable throughout front squats and overhead squats.
If we have a loss of stability in the front squat and overhead squat, this would directly affect our ability to move into a decent spot for the clean and squat. So it’s an escalating downward spiral.
When our tibia is upright, and our chest is forward, our capacity to generate force from the hips to move heavy loads is reduced. In essence, we cannot use our lifts to their full extent since the path of force is not implemented effectively. If you observe the world’s greatest squatters, you can note that they have incredible ankle dorsiflexion and that their torso is almost always upright over their hips. Straight up and downforce is far more potent than the force applied downwards, forwards, and finally up.
Sprinters often need ankle dorsiflexion. The power to rapidly lift the foot off the ground and exert force as it hits the ground will also help improve running pace and performance.
Numerous studies have been performed to demonstrate that restricted ankle movement has a significant effect on various hip and knee injuries over dorsiflexion. An individual with limited ankle dorsiflexion is more likely to sustain a torn ACL than someone with normal dorsiflexion.
As with everything else, a variety of factors may contribute to weak dorsiflexion. Several of the more prevalent ones are mentioned below:
A loss of endurance of the calf muscles may have shrunk in length over time due to the elevated heel seen on some sneakers. (Ladies – there is a legitimate excuse to stop always wearing pumps! For further information on this, see A Tale of Two Feet.)
For certain retired field players, prior ankle problems may have contributed to their lack of ankle agility over dorsiflexion. If you ever rolled your ankle? Is it sprained? These injuries can result in constricted joint capsules or scar tissue formation.
Some leg fractures that result in a temporary improvement in the way we walk will often result in ankle movement problems in dorsiflexion. In addition, limping, or preferring one leg over the other due to a knee or hip injury, may often exacerbate ankle problems.
In any event, including any exposure to this region into the warm-up routine or post-workout stretching will only benefit. Keep an eye out for any assessments to see whether you have low dorsiflexion and any exercises to assist you in determining what to do with it.
Drills to Improve Ankle Dorsiflexion
I previously discussed the effectiveness of ankle dorsiflexion for squatting, sprinting, power growth, and injury prevention.
But how can you determine whether there is a place where you are deficient and, if so, what should you do about it?
There are a few basic checks you may do to determine whether your ankle mobility is adequate over .
1. Do a few air squats. If you’re having difficulty sticking out in the bottom of a squat because it’s impossible to sit there with your feet planted on the concrete, this may be a sign of restricted ankle mobility.
2. Standing with your feet close, attempt to raise your feet’ balls off the ground without falling back. If you are unable to, you most definitely have any space to strengthen your dorsiflexion.
3. Bend your leg in front of a stone. Position the non-kneeling leg’s foot approximately five inches away from the wall. Lean over on the front thigh. Try to reach your knee to the wall without lifting your foot. If it makes contact, the ankle dorsiflexion is appropriate. If it falls short, this might be a solid place to work on.
Congratulations on passing both of the tests….
Now you will redirect your versatility efforts! If you struggled with all of these, here are seven basic drills and stretches to strengthen your dorsiflexion:
1. Apply self-myofascial release to this region using a foam roller or kettlebell. Next, arrange your Achilles on top of the foam roller or kettlebell handle and rock your foot side to side. To increase the pressure on the region, put one foot on top of the other. Next, work your way up the calf gradually, moving the foot and leg from side to side to target both the lateral and medial calf. It would help if you gave each leg between one and two minutes.
2. Then, with your legs straight, sit on the ground and flex your toes back toward your hips. Repeat this procedure approximately thirty times.
3. Alternatively, you can place the ball of your foot on small five-pound plates while keeping your heel on the ground. Forward bend your knees and hold for approximately five to ten seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat this movement approximately thirty times.
4. Get down on one knee and put a PVC pipe vertically near the outside pinky toe of your remaining foot on the ground. Flex your ankle so that your knee reaches the PVC pipe’s exterior and holds for three to five seconds. It would help if you repeated it twenty times on each leg.
5. To add some spice to the final drill, you can place the same kettlebell that you used for the myofascial release on top of the raised knee. Carrying the knee over the toes or outside the vertical PVC pipe with the added kettlebell weight will assist you in increasing ankle dorsiflexion due to the added pressure from the kettlebell. If taking both the PVC pipe and the kettlebell becomes too difficult, turn them off and concentrate on one item at a time.
6. Wrap a monster band around a post and step into it so that the band is at the ankle crease. Next, place the ball of your foot on a 25 or 45-pound plate, facing away from the post, while keeping your heel on the ground. That knee should be flexed and extended. You can also perform the kneeling kettlebell drill (#5) with the monster band wrapped around your ankle for added distraction.
7. Begin in the bear crawl position and walk your hands behind your body until you reach the crab walking position. Once there, re-enter the bear crawl. Ten times, repeat this entire movement.
Try one or all of these drills to help you increase your ankle’s range of motion and improve your squat or sprinting ability. And Kindly tell us which one is your favorite.