The squat is a complex movement asking for motion from the entire body. In our culture, from an early age, we are introduced to chairs, cars and desks and our squatting ability is slowly taking away from us. Much of what is lost is the range of motion/mobility, especially in the ankles.

• Do you notice in your squat that your feet want to point outward more than 5 degrees?
• Does taking a wider squat stance just feel better in your lower legs/ankles?
• Do your ankles feel stiff?

These are all possible signs that ankle mobility is an issue and limiting your ultimate performance in your squat.

But there is one definitive test that tells us whether you truly have what it takes in the way of ankle mobility to perform a proper squat. The test is sitting in the bottom of a pistol squat (seen in the image up top). You should be able to sit there for five seconds without feeling as though you’re falling backwards and with proper spinal posture (relatively upright).

What if you can’t do this? Then just give up…

Just kidding! Assuming you can hang down there without any knee or hip pain, take a hold of a pole to help you with spinal posture and feel a deep ankle stretch in this position. Hold for 5 -10 seconds, rest and repeat 5 -10 times, 1 time a day. Have patience, you’re changing ankle stiffness that probably started when you were about 6 years old! (What age do we start sitting in desks at school?) Change should be seen in four to six weeks.

Why do I need this range of motion in my ankle?

Ultimately, we want to squat past 90 degrees to get the best glut activation. Movement compensation occurs when there’s not enough ankle mobility and this lowers our ability to fire our gluts. Ultimately, this means you cannot push as much weight. So ankle mobility is vital if you’re looking to improve your performance in the squat.

In the clinic, we can determine if the loss of mobility is from muscle or joint. And then we can apply proper manual physical therapy to the limiting tissue. If it’s muscle, and we use Active Release and special stainless steel tools that quickly loosen up fascia & muscle.

If it’s the ankle joint itself, we use joint mobilization to increase movement in the joint. These treatments are relatively quick and quite effective and can be done in conjunction with self-treatment like the stretch mentioned above.

Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

Founder at IdealRun
Doctor of Physical Therapy, author, professor, runner and triathlete – has practiced physical therapy for more than 15 years.He runs a successful physical therapy practice, Premier Physical Therapy, located in Clearwater, Florida and is the founder of IdealRun a personalized online running gait analysis.
Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

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