3 Simple Exercises to Improve Ankle Function

On Tuesday’s podcast we spent a full hour on how to start “building a base” for your fitness. By the end we agreed on a theoretical continuum for the concept that basically amounted to the following:

Great Movement Quality  —> Strength —-> Aerobic Capacity

Today I want to start focusing on how to build a base for great movement quality. One of the most common mobility issues we see in the gym is a lack of dorsiflexion at the ankle. In common terms, the dorsiflexion is the ability pull the top of your foot closer to your shin.

Lack of dorsiflexion affects several movements. It primarily affects our ability to squat and run efficiently, and to a lesser extent our ability to get into a strong set position for a clean, snatch, or deadlift. Why is this problematic? Simply put, when you lack health appropriate range of motion (ROM) in a joint your body will try and find that ROM elsewhere.  That can be anything from the low back, knees, or shoulders depending on the movement.

So that raises the question, what can we do? For starters be patient! Immobile ankles aren’t a quick fix.  Go into the journey to supple ankles knowing that consistent effort over the long haul is going to yield the best results. Also, to improve make sure you’re wearing the appropriate foot wear. A discussion on proper footwear is outside the scope of this article, but know that high heels, flip flops, vibrams, and cushiony running/basketball shoes aren’t your friends when it comes to proper foot and ankle function. Go for a combination of a low profile cross trainers, like the Reebok Nano or the Nike Free, and a good set of weightlifting shoes.

In terms or exercises for the ankle, we want to take a 3 pronged attack:

  1. Self myofascial release (lacrosse/soft ball rolling and foam rolling)

  2. Flexibility exercises for the calves

  3. Direct mobility work for the ankle joint

Here are simple videos for each category of attacking you ankle ROM. Doing these 3 simple things daily will dramatically improve your ankle function. Enjoy!

  1. Self myofascial release

  2. Flexibility

  3. Mobility


-Coach Wes