The ankle is quite a fragile structure, especially when you consider its job. A small joint, that bears a lot of weight, and dissipates large forces on a regular basis. That said, it’s more than capable of performing this role, if it is operating at its best! Whether you plan on getting the most out of your ankle’s range of motion, with a pistol for example, using it explosively to run, jump or skip, or whether you struggle with tightness and just need it to support your movement, you need to spend some time unlocking its potential! Here are a few ways I recommend targeting the joint and the connective tissue to optimise performance.
This two sided approach ensures the joint is mobilised with the hinge resisted from both directions by the band. This can be used prior to running and jumping workouts, with a dynamic focus, or after such sessions with a more static approach. For the dynamic version, simply ease in and out of your end range of motion for 45-90 second in each position, per leg. For post-workout relief, try holding your end range of motion for 2-3 minutes per side. Look to gradually deepen the position throughout the hold.
2. Banded dorsiflexion with block:
Using the same method, we can block the ball of the foot to create a more acute ankle angle, and therefore load a more extreme range of motion. Again, the band can be used as distraction at the joint from both aspects, to add further loading. This is far more effective used dynamically, in the same manner discussed above. A small roller, block, or even the edge of a plate can be used to block the ball of the foot.
3. Ankle rocks:
Whereas the previous two mobilisations have focused on dorsiflexion, this one is geared towards plantarflexion. Whilst this naturally provides greater range of motion for the majority of us, it is also more tender to target, and can provide more challenges. This version of the movement is progressive and can be scaled accordingly. Shown below is the version with hands supporting from the floor. This can be advanced by removing the hands, or regressed by using stacks of plates or blocks to make the hands higher, for greater support. Whichever level works for you, rock up from knees on the floor, to knees raised, 15-20 times, 2-3 times through. Ideally, these sets can be broken up by one of the previous movements, to work both directions of ankle flexion.
To monitor your progress, we have a simple range of motion test, which we can conduct periodically. Simply lay a ruler or tape running away from a wall. With your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees forward to touch the wall. The further your toes are from the wall, the greater your mobility in this position.
Simply put, a little bit of prep time, and recovery time on your ankles will enable them to better support you through a challenging training programme. Remember, prior to a workout, stay dynamic, and after a workout, hold those positions for a little longer, adding an external load to gradually improve range of motion over a period of time. For more like this, and many different areas of the body, our weekly mobility classes dive into all the details, with demonstrations and a chance to ask questions. These can be booked via www.gtfit.co.uk/timetable each Tuesday at 6pm.