You probably already know that weak knees or tight hips can hinder you from achieving a perfect squat. But stiff ankles can sabotage your squat goals too.
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If your heels lift off the ground while doing a squat, or you feel like you're falling backward as you get close to the bottom, you likely lack ankle mobility, says Matt Cheng, CSCS, co-creator of Beyond the Movements.
Luckily, there's a simple solution to your squat setbacks. "Ankle mobility [exercises] can improve the range of motion of your squat, help you get lower and give you a stronger base for support to put less pressure on your knees," Cheng says.
Try This 10-Minute Ankle Mobility Routine
Designed by Cheng, this mobility routine requires a foam roller and resistance band to help stretch and strengthen your stiff ankles and raise your squat game to the next level.
1. Calf Massage 1
- Sit on the floor and rest one calf on top of a foam roller.
- Flex your toes toward your chin, then point them away.
- You should feel some pressure in the calf or tendon as you go through the movement.
- Repeat for 1 minute on each side to release tight calf muscles, which affects ankle mobility.
2. Calf Massage 2
- Sit on the side of your hip, extending the lower leg out and bending the top leg for support.
- Place the roller on the outer side of your lower leg’s calf (called your peroneal muscle).
- Move your ankle side to side to release this muscle.
- Repeat 1 minute on each leg.
3. Dosiflexion Drill
- Lie down on your back and loop a mini resistance band around the arches of your shoes.
- Flex your toes toward your chin and drive one knee toward your chest.
- Alternate legs for 1 minute.
4. Wall Stretch
- Stand facing a wall and place your front foot about a fist-size distance away.
- While bracing yourself against the wall, shift your body weight forward to allow your knee to get close to the wall and keep your heel touching the floor.
- As you get more range of motion, you can challenge yourself by stepping further back.
- Hold for 1 minute, then repeat on the opposite leg.
5. Heels-Elevated Squat
- Set your heels on two 5-pound weight plates (or a book or other object of similar height), keeping your toes on the ground.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly out.
- Push your hips back and bend your knees, keeping your back flat and chest out.
- Lower down, trying to get your thighs parallel to the ground.
- Pause for a moment, then press into your heels and push your hips forward to return to standing.
- Repeat for 8 to 12 reps.