Ahhhh, the good ol’ neglected ankle! Like your wrist, the ankle is often a forgotten joint that doesn’t get enough credit and respect for its role in everyday health and performance. Let's just take a second to remember that our ankle and foot often have that first, initial contact with the ground and therefore dictate how the rest of your muscles and joints function after each step, squat, lunge, or press! It is really crazy to think about the way your ankles functions or not dictates if certain powerhouse muscles like your glutes and lat’s function optimally. What can we do on a daily basis to ensure that our ankles and feet are healthy and able to feed into the potential of the rest of your kinetic chain? A good place to start is with these three simple ankle mobility drills.
FRC Ankle Circles
Now the first rule about joints is that they do not receive any direct blood flow which means that we must find ways to extrapolate the waste and byproducts of local metabolism and feed the joint with nutrients to ensure the longevity and performance of our joint. One of the most simplest ways to ensure your joints are able to recycle and rejuvenate is movement, and more specifically, global rotation about a certain joint. That is exactly what we are trying to do here with the FRC ankle circle, re-establish our normal joints’ range of motion to ensure that our ankle joint is able to communicate with the brain and the brain is able to communicate with the muscles surrounding our ankle. If you are just starting this drill for the first time, I would recommend 5 reps in each direction. Let’s remember that in order for us to set ourselves up with the most potential for efficient movement, we must have communication between our joints and brain about what information our receptors are sensing.
This next drill is one of my absolute favorite ankle mobility drills! Probably because it is placing your ankle is a multitude of uncomfortable ranges of motion and giving it a safe environment to sense the information and communicate with your brain. Remember, the more information we receive from our joints about how we move, especially in ranges that are near our end-range, ultimately give our surrounding ankle muscles to react and activate more optimally. We understand that this drill may be very uncomfortable for some people and that is why we highly recommend people using the wall to begin with and the slower tempo of movement, the better off you will be. I recommend for people just starting off, complete 10 reps in each direction.
Ankle Inverted Sit Down
This last drill really came to us through play and exploration of movement. If we understand the principle in life that everything needs balance, then it would make sense that we must activate and move our joints in both North + South, East + West and everything in between. Specifically for our ankle, we spend the majority of time walking around on our feet in the same manner, so why not be able to expose your ankle in the opposite orientation? From a professional athletes perspective, regardless of what sport you play, ankle injury and dysfunction are very common. I remember Dr. Ospina during the FRCms course explaining how ultimately, we injure ourselves in ranges of motion that we don’t explore and ultimately because we don’t spend time in these ranges, we cannot train in these positions. In the case of the inverted ankle circle, because it is an outer range of motion and uncomfortable, I would highly recommend using the wall for assistance. If it is your first time trying this technique, complete 5 reps on each side.
Insert the Inverted Ankle Squat
For all beginners and individuals who are trying to add this into their movement routine, I would highly recommend working through these drills consistently, and not necessarily long in duration. You are better off doing these drills 3 times throughout your day rather than 3 rounds with all 3 movements as this would require more time in one place. Find small breaks throughout your day to communicate with your brain through movement.
It is very important to remember that simply re-enacting a movement you see on a video is tough because you don’t necessarily understand the true intention of that technique. Specifically, you do not know the amount of “intrinsic activation” which basically translates into how much tension and muscle activation someone is putting into movements. I would argue that this is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor when it comes to moving through not only this series of drills but all movements. What good are movements like a shinbox or hip circles if they are not done with the right intention? This is exactly why we created our “DURABLE ATHLETES FOUNDATION COURSE” because we needed people to understand what our context of movement and exercise feels like.