I had a history of ankle sprains as a kid, but never cared about my ankles until I tore all the lateral ligaments in my left ankle landing a standing backflip wrong when I was 18.
Even then, I wasn’t worried about loss of function. I was just incredibly annoyed that I couldn’t do nearly as much in the gym. I blew off physical therapy (not smart) and subsequently experienced chronic foot, low back, and hip pain that all tied back to my ankle injury.
To this day, I still have less strength, muscular development, and control in my left leg.
So let’s just say that I completely understand how until it hurts, you don’t tend to worry about ankle alignment. After all, working your butt or abs is a lot more exciting.
However, ankles matter! If your ankles are unstable or don’t move well, it can affect how well your knees, hips and back move.
This can be the difference between an effortless stride when walking and running or having your hip feel weird after the first mile. It can also be the difference between solid squat and lunge form where you can easily progress how much weight you can push or having to spend most of your time troubleshooting your form, because you can’t quite get the alignment quite right.
Aaaa-aaaand, it’s really hard to build a better butt when your ankles don’t move well, because they’re (relatively speaking) at the bottom of your kinetic chain, so poor push off = compromised movement and muscular firing patterns all the way up. #justsaying
How do you know if you have weak or stiff ankles?
First, if you life in the modern world, the answer is probably just “Yes. Your ankles are stiff and don’t track as well as they could.” Shoes and daily life just doesn’t set us up to move well in this area and it’s not something that gets a lot of focus in traditional fitness.
Some telltale signs of stiff or weak ankles include:
- Heels that pop off the floor when you squat
- Feet that turn out and collapse in when you walk or squat (this is the body’s cute way of getting around a lack of dorsiflexion, which is the movement where you pull your toes towards your nose)
- Your tendency is to roll onto the outsides of your feel when you do a heel raise
- You seem to roll to twist your ankle(s) all the time
And if you read those and thought “Hmmm, that sounds like me.” Don’t feel bad. Me too friend, Me too.
The good news is that even if you have some ankle “stuff,” it’s hardly a crisis. With a little attention to that area, mobility and strength can be improved!
With that in mind, I created a video with a few of my favorite ankle mobility exercises. I also included one for ankle tracking and strength at the end.
These exercises are perfect to include in a warm up before strength training #legday or running, because even that little bit of extra ankle mobility can make your form and your workout better.
Or you can do them while watching Netflix if you wanna multitask 😉