How Are Your Ankles?

by Paul Britt on March 23, 2016

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Paul Britt Ankle Mobility

Have you played a lot of sports?

Do you wear high heels?

If so, how do you think your ankles are doing?

I have found that most of the people who I train tend to lack ankle mobility. This can be the first kink in the movement chain, and lead to further issues within the whole body. Ankle mobility issues can lead to knee, hip, and even shoulder mobility issues. These issues can also travel down that same path from shoulder to ankle. To find out what is ultimately causing the use, see your doctor and/or be screened by someone who is FMS certified. If you have pain, see your doctor first to be cleared.

The following is a quick ankle mobility series that we use in our gym. Everyone who trains with me has been screened with the FMS/SFMA and if they have pain have been evaluated by their doctor.

I don’t show it in the video below, but everything starts with diaphragmatic breathing. We will typically breathe for a couple minutes to transition from work/life stress so we can train mindfully.

We start out by foam rolling the shin area. We work the anterior tibialis, the band of muscle on the outside of the shin. We are using small strokes to locate areas that are tender or tight. We then will make several passes over that area.

Next, we roll out our calves. While it is possible to do that with the foam roller, I like The Stick for this. It allows for adjustable tension on the calf, and requires less force to work on any trigger points/tender areas. I tell my students to only use about 7-10lb of force while rolling. If The Stick looks like a horseshoe, you are using too much force.

Then, we move onto direct ankle work. There are two different versions on the video. The first version—the field expedient manner—requires no equipment. It is performed in a half-kneeling stance. If the right knee is up, take your right hand and cup the right heel. The left hand will cover the toes. The goal is to keep your heel planted as you progress through the motion. Utilizing diaphragmatic breathing, apply some pressure on your right knee with the right elbow as you move back and forth through the movement. I find the normal rep range for the best results is about 10 reps per side. Perform this on both sides.

The second version is very similar except that you are using a stick and moving the knee to the outside of it. You only go as far as you can while still keeping your heel flat on the ground.

The last movement is the heel sit. Sit back on your heels with a little bit of a backwards lean. Tighten your thighs and think about driving your shins into the ground, then relax. You should feel your feet flatten out as you perform 3-5 reps of this sequence.

This quick and easy series is beneficial for restoring mobility to your ankles and improving your kettlebell training.

Senior RKC Paul Britt has been an RKC kettlebell instructor since 2006. He trains clients at Britt’s Training Systems, his award-winning Hardstyle Kettlebell Training Facility in Rockwall, Texas. Paul has served as an assistant instructor at many RKC and HKC Courses, is a Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Specialist (CK-FMS) and works with some of the top Chiroprators in North Texas. Please visit his website for more information.

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  • Matt Schifferle

    Thanks for the interesting perspective Paul. I never really thought too much about ankle mobility and strength but you’re right. It really is the first link up the kinetic chain and therefor ground zero for a lot of potential for both good and bad.

    • Paul Britt

      I am glad that it made you think from a different angle. It is a common issue I have come across

  • Chris Garcia

    This is great stuff, Paul! I am going to start implementing this sequence
    immediately as a warm up for my track, soccer, and tennis athletes.

    • Paul Britt

      Please let me know how it goes. Feedback is always good to make sure I am on the right track.

  • Lance Watson

    Great video, thanks for the information Paul.

    • Paul Britt

      Thank you

  • A lack of ankle mobility can really keep people from doing great squats and can prevent them progressing to the pistol! This is great stuff, Paul. REALLY like the video!!! And these kinds of mobility exercises are helpful for balance activities like slackline too!

    • Paul Britt

      Thank you. I am glad it has been well received.

  • Great article and vide Paul! I always have to mobilize my ankles before squatting, and most of my clients do as well. I’m going to add these to my repertoire!

    • Paul Britt

      Thank you

  • Paul Britt

    Thank You

  • Ben Swarts

    Excellent stuff! I’ve been looking more into ankle mobility lately (definitely useful) and will incorporate this as well. Thank you for your wisdom!

    • Paul Britt

      It is just hard won experience…

  • Thank you! We have been working on this in classes. I love having proven methods to share. Keep up the great work Paul.

    • Paul Britt

      Thank you. the shoulder series is coming up next.

  • Pingback: Elevating Heel in Squat()

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