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Mobility Exercise of the Week: Wall Ankle Mobilizations with Adduction/Abduction

Written on April 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm, by Eric Cressey

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve surely learned that ankle mobility is imperative to long-term lower-extremity health in strength and conditioning programs and actual sport participation.  If you need to learn why, check out this old post of mine: The Importance of Ankle Mobility.

While I think the industry has done a great job of highlighting the need for incorporating ankle mobility drills in one’s warm-up, I’m not convinced that we’ve done a good job of “exhausting” our creativity when it comes to those drills, as most of them occur purely in the sagittal plane.  While poor dorsiflexion is definitely the biggest issue at the ankle – and dorsiflexion does occur in the sagittal plane – I think we miss the boat when we only work on getting dorsiflexion in isolation.  In reality, you need multi-planar ankle mobility to be prepared for life’s events, so it’s advantageous to train it a bit in your warm-ups.

So, I bring to you the wall ankle mobilization with adduction/abduction.  It’s just like a regular wall ankle mobilization, but when you get to end range, you gently rock back and forth between adduction and abduction (and internal rotation and external rotation, in the process) to make it more of a multi-directional movement that also challenges hip mobility a bit. A special thanks goes out to Kansas City Royals pitcher Tim Collins for helping with the demonstration here:

A few important coaching cues/notes:

1. Everyone always asks whether or not I care what the back foot/leg is doing, and I don’t.  Just focus on the front side.

2. The individual should feel a stretch in the posterior lower leg, not a pinching in the front.  If there is pinching in the front, it’s a good idea to refer out to a good manual therapist.  In the meantime, you can train ankle mobility more conservatively with a rocking ankle mobilization:

3. If the individual’s heel comes up off the ground, slide the foot closer to the wall to regress the exercise.

4. The drill should be performed barefoot or in minimalist footwear.

5. We usually perform this as three reps per leg, and each rep has a few glides toward adduction and abduction. You can use it during the warm-up, or as a filler between sets of compound movements.  I like it between sets of deadlifts, since you’re already barefoot or in minimalist sneaker.

6. If you’re a heavy pronator (really flat feet and knock-knees), you probably don’t need to do the adduction (rock in) portion of each rep.

For more drills like this, be sure to check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

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9 Responses to “Mobility Exercise of the Week: Wall Ankle Mobilizations with Adduction/Abduction”

  1. Chris Johnson Says:

    Eric,

    Have Mike Reinold send you the vids that I just emailed him last week. You are going to have multiple light bulbs go off. Will be a nice compliment to what you posted which I really like. Keep up the great work

  2. Christian Says:

    Love that you are mobilising ankle joint with straight and bent knee to target 1&2 joint plantarflexors of posterior leg compartment (often overlooked for some reason).
    Love your posts, learning heaps as always.
    Will def give the ankle/hip mob a test run before next session

  3. Chuck Says:

    Eric can you work on mobility multiple times a day? I pitch professionally and some days i train in the morning then go to the field get my work in and then come back out for the game. Should I be incorporating these drills twice a day on lifting days?

  4. Cole Ellis Says:

    Good exercise for improving ankle mobility. A lot of runners/tri-athletes with pain at the bottom of foot or calf issues will benefit from this. Especially the adduction/abduction movements at the end (works well with rigid feet).

    Thx for sharing…

    Cole

  5. Conor Says:

    Great post! I’m definitely going to be more aware of incorporating this into my programs. Soccer is big here in the summer, so ankle mobility is important. Thanks

  6. DrSeth Says:

    Eric,

    Maybe it was just me but I was more drawn to the lumbar spine shearing and hip motions than the foot in the first vid. Ankle and foot muscles are innervated by lower lumbar and sacral roots, which if dysfunction is occurring, may be driving a facilitated segment. Plus the shape of the talus is such that it has less abd/add when dorsiflexed. Just my random thoughts. Thanks for the brain candy.

  7. Ron Says:

    Nice post Eric, but 1 question came to mind. If you perform these barefoot (or in minimalist shoes)you allow the foot to pronate more and may actually get much of your dorsiflexion from the mid tarsal joint, especially if they have a tight Achilles. So, do you think it would be better to roll a small towel under your arch (if done barefoot) to encourage more supination to limit motion at the mid tarsal joint and force the mobility to come from the talocrural joint? Just a thought, let me know what you think. Thanks

  8. Meaghan Says:

    Chris,

    I was just about to send you the link to this post because it reminded me of when you were simultaneously mobilizing my ankle and hip. Figured you’d like it… and then I saw your comment :).

  9. Kevin Says:

    Ron:

    My thoughts exactly. Right on. I don’t understand the emphasis on barefoot training for this drill either. Seems counter-productive to me.

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