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Undo the Office & Improve Pitch Performance #3: Ankle Mobility

Get better ankle mobility and improve training and pitch performance with Aoife MacNeill from FFS Gyms.

Do your tight ankles stop you getting low enough in a squat?  

Do you spend more time at a desk than you do walking and moving around?

Sometimes we get caught up with other injury areas like calves, ACLs, hamstrings and back problems that we forget about our ankles. If you’ve ever had or known a team mate with an ankle injury you’ll likely know how long it can take to get back to 100%.

Our feet and ankles influence how everything else is supported when walking, running and tackling so staying on top of sufficient ankle movement is, to put it mildly, really really important.

Maintaining good ankle mobility can help to:

  • Prevent injuries like ligament strains and tears

  • Improve the quality of squat, deadlift and lunge patterns and therefore do each safely with load to increase strength

  • Improve agility on the pitch where rapidly and unexpectedly changing direction safely is key

Try 2 rounds of each of these 3-4 times a week. The best time is a couple of hours after training or on non-training evenings and at weekends. You could also use one round of each as part of your gym warm up.

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1. Knee to Wall Test 

Testing and retesting ankle mobility is really useful here. Do this before and after the exercises below the first time and then check in weekly to assess progress.

Put one foot flat on the ground facing a wall. You should be able to just fit your hand sideways between your toes and the wall. Keeping your heel on the ground, reach your knee forward to touch the wall.

If you can touch the wall, move your foot back very slightly and try again. Repeat with the other foot to determine from how far each knee can touch the wall.

Reps: Test each knee initially, then weekly

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2. Ankle Rolls

This one goes back to my childhood gymnastic days, and if you’ve ever seen gymnasts you can imagine how much strain they put their ankles under. If it’s already in your warm up, keep it there and do not underestimate it.

  • Sitting on the ground, lift one calf into your arm with the knee dropped out to the side

  • Use the other hand to roll the foot clockwise and anti-clockwise

  • Swap sides and repeat

Reps: 3 each direction, each side.

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3. Kneeling Hold

As simple as it sounds.

  • Sit kneeling with your hips resting on your heels (or as close to your heels as is comfortable)

Reps: Hold for 10-20 seconds.

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4. Squat Stretch

This one can take a minute to get right the first time but once you find the right spot, it really helps to work out tight achilles tendon and lower calf muscle.

  • Drop down into a squat and use your bodyweight to lean as much as possible onto one knee, allowing the heel to lift a little off the ground.

  • Repeat on the other side

Reps: 5-10 secs each side,

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5. Standing Anterior Flexi

This stretch is included because it feels downright awesome. I have yet to find a physio or physical therapist who swears by it but if stretching calves is so important, then working out the front of our ankles cannot be ignored.

  • Without shoes, stand tall and balance against wall with right hand

  • Lift right foot, point toes and gently press front of foot against the ground behind you

  • Repeat on the other side.

Reps: 5-10 secs each side

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Summary of the exercises and reps for each:

Check out the previous posts in this series on hip mobility and t-spine mobility and keep an eye our for the next post on neck and shoulders.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.