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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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