Debunking your squat: From the ground up, why ankle mobility is important

A common phase I hear as an Athletic Therapist and Trainer is “I can’t squat, it hurts” or “this is as low as I can go”, these statements always lead me to say, “well let’s take a look.”

Squat form is very important for not only exercise but also life. The squat is one of our functional movement patterns, it’s how we strengthen our thighs, butt, and how we pick up our kids. Squat form has many variables that will affect why we feel pain or when asked to do it a certain way, we feel like we are going to fall backwards. Through this series we are going to look at the many areas of our body that are major players in squatting.

Starting from the ground up: the ankle.

“The ankle?” you ask? “Stretch it for squatting, but it’s nowhere near my butt.”

Here’s the scoop, your ankle needs to be able to go through its full range of motion, particularly the dorsi flexion (toes towards your shin) to achieve your full squat depth. Having a tight Achilles tendon, calf, or restriction in the ankle joint will affect your squat. Often when assessing patients with knee, hip, or lower back issues I will see changes in the squat form. Common occurrences are feelings of instability, or a weight shift to one leg, or their knees collapsing in. Among other tests, I go to see what the ankles are doing. If there is limited range of motion at the ankle then our body is going to find a path of least resistance to achieve the movement demanded. To get squat depth, our weight may shift to the more mobile ankle, the knee may collapse in to gain more range at the ankle or it will hit the joint barrier and our weight will shift back and we will feel unstable. This is just one example of the many players in squatting, we will get to the others throughout this series.

A quick check:

Place your foot against a wall (depending on how wide your foot is, approximately 5 inches) and make a little measure mark with tape. Now turn around and place your big toe at the inside edge of the tape, kneel down into a short lunge position (cushion under the knee if you have issues kneeling), keeping the heel of the front foot in contact with the ground. Now shift your weight forward in a straight line and try to touch the wall. Ideally, (everyone is different) you should be able to touch your knee to the wall or come fairly close. Compare side to side – if there is a big difference or you’re more the 1-2 fingers from the wall, then working on your ankle mobility would be a great venture.


 Wall Test

Wall Test

 Proper Squat Form

Proper Squat Form

 Knee Collapse

Knee Collapse

 Weight Shift

Weight Shift


Stay tuned for the next Step, Tricks and Tips to improve your ankle mobility.

 

Learn • Move • Live

Chelsea

Certified Athletic Therapist