Squatting is one of the most functional movements we do: we use it throughout our daily life, and learning how to squat correctly will help keep us safe and healthy as we age. Squatting is also pretty complex - when we squat, we’re recruiting muscle groups throughout our entire body to properly proceed and stabilize through the movement. Today we’re going to talk about something you don’t always think about while squatting: your ankles.
Fun fact: ankle mobility is essential to a correctly executed squat. Ankle mobility, along with hip mobility, is what allows us to get into an optimal squatting position. Limited range of motion at the ankles compromises our form, which can lead to injury, especially once we start lifting heavier loads.
Does that mean that people with limited ankle mobility should avoid squatting? Of course not! There are short term and long term solutions that we can use to assist in moving into a more optimal squatting position. In the short term, consider raising the heels slightly by placing small weight plates underneath your heels - this will allow you to increase the depth of your squat without compromising your form.
Of course, we don’t want to get into the habit of relying on modifications forever, which is why we also suggest pairing them with mobility and stretching. To target ankle mobility, make sure you’re foam rolling your calves, and adding in static stretching that targets both the gastroc and soleus calf muscles (tip: you hit your soleus by stretching your calves with a slight bend in your knee.) Depending on your limitations, banded mobilizations, manual therapy, or other types of mobility work may be prescribed, per your PT.
Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance specializes in helping active individuals in Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, and San Francisco get back to exercising and working out pain free without having to take time off or relying on injections/pain medication. Pro+Kinetix offers physical therapy and performance services to all populations, with specialties in Sports Rehabilitation, Active Release Techniques, and Manual Therapy Techniques plus Personal and Small Group Training, Sport Clinics and Wellness Services.