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Ankle Flexibility at the Bottom of a Squat

Ankle Flexibility at the Bottom of a Squat

As fellow CrossFitter’s, we are always working on improving our squat. Most of us want to increase our squat depth, but don’t quite understand the mechanics that may need to be addressed. When it comes to squat depth, the first culprit people tend to place blame is in the hips. The hips are an easy target, as most of the mobility seen is in the movement of the hip joint. Being a chiropractor, we assess movements of every joint in the body, not excluding the flexion of the ankle during the squat. Inability to flex at the ankle joint will not only cause an immature squat, but functionally the CrossFitter many not even be able to reach below parallel without the heels coming up off the ground.

Picture this following scenario:  You are an athlete with pain in your wrists, primarily extension hurts.  Today’s WOD contains max effort HRPU.  How do you compensate? You turn your wrist out laterally to decrease the torsion in your wrist joints.  Most athletes do not even realize this compensation pattern. This same thing occurs at the bottom of a squat when you do not have good ankle flexion. You will see toes tracking out more than they should.

Want to test to see if you have good ankle flexibility? Kelly Starrett says to perform a pistol squat. Squat down, knees go slightly outside toes, and hold the position. Nothing we do in our daily lives will force our ankles forward like this position does. You may have the strength and the motor control to perform the pistol, but if you find yourself falling out of the position, it’s time to work on those ankles.

In order to obtain that excellent ankle position in the bottom of your Oly lift, you must mobilize the ankle joint by tweaking it’s range of motion (ROM). You can do this by utilizing resistance bands. Research for ways to mobilize the ankle and the talus joint. Also check out Voodoo Floss, as the compression is key in increasing blood flow to the injured area. Increased blood flow brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissue which in turn speeds healing/recovery time.

You may be quick to turn to Oly shoes or placing a 5 pound plate under your ankles to keep from falling forward in your squat. I’d highly recommend Oly shoes, but only until you have developed your ankle mobility. The shoes have a solid, flat base that will give your heel a stable surface. If you already have poor ankle flextion, your body will compensate by rocking forward during the squat, which consequently increases ankle ROM. The same thing applies with tight calf muscles. You don’t sit in a squat all day. When our calf muscles are tight (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles), the tightness travels (kinetic chain) to the achilles and ankle joint. Our body changes it’s mecanics to compensate for this tight kinetic chain. Our body will utilize more quads in a squat than glutes as it should, for example.

In summation, you should be mobilizing every day. If this does not fix the problem, consult with a professional. Seek out a recommended sports chiropractor or physical therapist that deal with CrossFit related injuries. Chiropractic adjustments, massage, soft tissue protocols (Graston, IASTM), ultrasound, Voodoo floss, compression boots, and/or RockTape will all maximize healing leading to a shorter recovery time. If all else fails, be sure the professional refers you for an x-ray, as bony impingement could be possible.

If you have any questions about anything mentioned in the article above, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Mandy Zimmerman, DC, CCSP, FMT is the owner/operator of Sports Performance+Spine, LLC and co-owner of CrossFit Tantrum. Since graduating Palmer Florida in 2007, she has since obtained her Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) certificate through the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (ACPSP), CrossFit Level 1 Trainer certificate, Fascial Movement Taping certificate from RockTape, and is also concussion certified by the ACBSP.